Take Off The Blindfold, Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
- Published: Sunday, 01 June 2008 08:00
Where did that come from? I didn't expect that! Didn't see that coming! How did that happen? Sound familiar? After an injury caused by an incident, these
RANDY K. LOGSDON
Where did that come from? I didn't expect that! Didn't see that coming! How did that happen? Sound familiar? After an injury caused by an incident, these are the types of comments often expressed by the victim ó sometimes the witnesses.
Witnesses as well as those involved often exclaim that they had no idea what happened. This is an expression of frustration. They thought they were working safely and had probably performed the job hundreds of times. The worker could probably do the task blindfolded. Perhaps he did?
TOTAL AWARENESS IS THE KEY
A common factor in injury incidents is a lack of awareness. A thorough pre-operational inspection of workplaces and equipment is one of the most important acts that anyone can do to ensure his or her own safety each day. But a pre-operational inspection is only a start.
Each worker must constantly be aware of changes in his or her environment throughout the shift and be prepared to react appropriately to changes that occur. These differences may occur because of a change in location, or a natural change in the immediate environment. They may be changes that are forced from outside sources, or they may be changes that we create by the work we perform.
An air hose is normally a safe tool. One could consider it a tripping hazard if it crosses a walkway, or it could represent a strain hazard when lifting or pulling. But normally, if in good condition, an air hose is rather innocuous.
But, suppose someone begins to disconnect the hose. Fittings may be difficult to break. Pinch points may be encountered using tools to break the connection. But what if the hose is pressurized? The valve was shut off and the pressure was bled off. But what if the valve leaks and pressure is re-built? What if the wrong hose was bled off? Each of these hazards is easily controlled if the worker is alert.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
A worker is preparing to splice a section of conveyor belt. It must be cut square. There are machines to help do this, but we don't make that many splices and the razor knife does a good job. The belt material is designed to resist cutting and abrasion, so the cable resists the action of cutting and requires effort, even with the sharpest knife. The worker may be cutting away from his body, but his leg is under the edge of the belt. The line-of-fire hazard is easily controlled.
Debris takes on many forms, but normally has one common characteristic. It's disorderly. This fact raises a number of new potential hazards ó pointed objects, sharp edges, unbalanced pieces, heavy loads, slippery surfaces, tangles, tension, awkward shapes and sizes, and others. It may be necessary to move smaller quantities (more trips) and/or it may require cutting pieces into manageable sections. These types of hazards are easily controlled if the worker is alert.
A bell-shaped horn is mounted at the mouth of a surge tunnel. It serves as a start-up alarm. Mounted up and away from the walkway, it is generally ignored on a daily basis. Something changes. A spill of material on the walkway has decreased the space between the surface and the horn. The worker hears a noise that sounds like a broken idler in the tunnel. He accepts the risk of walking over the spill and strikes his head against the horn, jamming and injuring his neck. The obstruction could easily have been avoided by cleaning up the spill.
A THOUSAND THINGS TO SEE
Your safety and the safety of your coworkers is dependent on your awareness of potentially hazardous conditions in the workplace. Take off the blindfold. There are a thousand things to see, hear, feel and smell in the workplace. Learn to observe and notice changes. If you do not recognize the hazard, you cannot control the hazard. If you cannot control the hazard, you cannot prevent the injury.
It all starts with awareness.
Randy K. Logsdon, CMSP, is manager of safety for Intrepid Potash New Mexico operations. He has practiced safety on both the coal and metal/non-metal side of mining for 32 years. He is a Certified Mine Safety Professional. He can be reached at