As safety professionals we all know that new employees, or those performing new tasks, are the most likely to suffer injury. I can remember one incident where an operator ran one machine for nearly 40 years. Eventually he took a different job in the plant and about a month later, the operator of his old machine was out sick. Everybody knew that “John” ran the old machine forever and he could fill in. What everyone forgot and John didn’t know, was that a new activation device had been added to assist the newer operator. So when John stepped beyond the perimeter of a conveyor (which he shouldn’t have done before, but had), he did not know there was a new electric eye, which now automatically started a new machine cycle when the current product moved out.
Guess what, the electric eye did not recognize the difference between product and John’s foot moving out. Fortunately, the cycle activated upon “ejection,” so John was lucky it happened as he was leaving, not when he got in. That probably made the difference between a serious foot injury, instead of the chance of more serious injury or even fatality.
My point is that safety professionals should spend more time considering change, one-offs, what-ifs and non-routine tasks and new possibilities. That’s where a ton of our near-misses are happening. Let’s spend less time investigating near misses, and PREVENT near misses. Particularly where it involves fire. Yes we see fire safely controlled and used everywhere. Campfires, fireplaces, boilers, furnaces, torches, cutting, welding, ovens, furnaces, stove-tops, combustion engines, etc. are part of our everyday work and personal lives.
Fortunately, fires are uncommon, so there are few if any near misses to investigate and learn from. Therefore, we get lulled into a sense of complacency, and that’s an opportunity for disaster to sneak in the door.
In terms of work place safety, make no mistake, fire can be your enemy! Much more than any 4-foot 1-inch drop-off that needs a railing, any quarter-inch gap between a tool rest and abrasive grinder or guard that didn’t get put back correctly. Fires and explosions can threaten your whole building, facility, production and your entire staff all at once. Accordingly, it is imperative that new hires and persons moving to new positions involving hot work or potential fire hazards are adequately trained in fire safety.
Fire and property exposures are not something to defer to facilities, maintenance departments, engineering, vendors, insurance carriers or inspection companies. These are all resources that are glad to help and answer questions, but in-house safety pros should be exhibiting property awareness, initiative and interest daily, as much as any other loss control measure. This includes proper training for new hires and personnel in new positions involving potential fire hazard work. How much of your new employee safety training includes fire protection and property preservation? Do employees know the difference between flammable and combustible, and what that means? How about the hazards of combustible dusts if there is any?
Do you know how your fire sprinkler system works, whether it’s adequate, or what things or circumstances might make it not work?
If you’d like to be a true Safety Professional, not just a safety person, make a resolution to learn more about fire prevention, fire protection and/or property conservation. Contact Acadia’s loss control department today or visit our Virtual Loss Control site and take your safety program to the next level.
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.