An F-Word Or Two Makes For A Safer Quarry Operation
- Published: Wednesday, 01 September 2010 08:00
RANDY K. LOGSDON
The three Es for accident prevention have been around for ages. Still, engineering, education and enforcement remain a good basic approach. Sometimes we apply different labels to adapt their application to current management theory, but the basics remain the same.
Engineering covers a myriad of systems designed to create a physically safe workplace. This includes equipment design, physical safeguards, ergonomics, tool design, and even personal protective equipment. Engineering can include safe operating procedures that address specific, general and inherent hazards.
Education can be called training, instruction or even coaching. They each are aimed at improving and maintaining the knowledge and skills that a worker needs to work safely. Clearly, applying this E varies depending on the desired outcome. Understanding and applying adult learning theory and individual aptitudes plays a critical role in the success of education.
Enforcement is the quality-control strategy that brings the other two Es together. It is often the most neglected. Two alternate terms for enforcement might be follow-up and follow-through.
IN ENGINEERING, THERE have been many advances in machine guarding, electrical distribution, equipment safeguards, warnings, safe access, and other devices that offer a barrier between harmful sources of energy and personnel. Personal protective equipment is more effective, lighter, easier to use and less expensive.
But once implemented, physical safeguards immediately begin to degrade. Ladders and stairs rust and corrode. Machine guard attachments vibrate loose. Harness webbing is damaged by the sun. Electrical safeguards wear out and fail. Berms erode. Workers find shortcuts in the safe operating procedures.
Follow-up on the condition of these protective systems is critical to their continued effectiveness. A comprehensive inspection and monitoring program to identify not just failure, but potential failure on these systems is the first step in maintaining the engineered safeguards. The second and obvious step is repair and replacement. The best systems will help operators predict failure of key safeguarding systems so that repair or replacement can be scheduled and completed before failure occurs.
MOST OPERATIONS HAVE an established program for education and training, often at considerable expense. Unlike the engineering, education and training can easily be lost as soon as the employee walks out the classroom door. We rely on the worker to apply their knowledge and skills in the field.
We really cannot measure the success of our education and training efforts unless we observe. We learned, sometimes painfully, all through school that the final step in education is testing. Observation in the workplace is the ultimate test of our safety education efforts. This follow-through is not only a continuation of education, it is a continuous management activity.
Ultimately, the worker must apply that knowledge or skill in the workplace consistently. Follow-through means that the staff's work procedures must be monitored systematically through observation to ensure that the effort expended in education is properly applied in the workplace. This monitoring must be done frequently at first. Early signs of mechanical failure, such as a hydraulic leak or material spilled on equipment, would be quickly identified and repaired ó a demonstration of good follow-up.
Similarly, early signs of worker performance failure may be detected and corrected before catastrophic failure ó in other words death or injury. Follow-through on education and training may be the most important F that we can use to create a safe environment and a safety culture.