Distractions Cause Accidents

As I get ready to start my week, I noticed that a Client has asked me to do a safety meeting for the employees on the subject of distractions.  Simply put, if you are doing something, ANYTHING, and your brain is somewhere else, the simplest activities can become extremely dangerous.

Even those people who are proud of the ability to multi-task will happily tell of their accomplishments, but will not tell of the increased safety risk they faced to get there.  For example, why do we need a sign at the gas pump telling us to stay outside the vehicle until the hose is returned to the pump?  Because there is a “difference of potential” (different amounts of electrical charge) between the inside of your car, and the outside of your car.   This “difference” means the electrons built up, will try to run to ground, which may cause an electrical arc in the process.

When you first exit the vehicle, you get zapped (especially on a windy day), and nothing happens.  The reason nothing happens is because there is no fuel for the arc to ignite.

We know from basic fire safety that the three things needed for a fire to take place are Oxygen, Fuel, and a Source of Ignition.   When you hop back in the car after placing the hose in your tank, the difference of potential recharges the person again.  This time when they exit the vehicle, they touch the leather arm rest instead of the metal door, which does not allow the electrons to escape.  Instead, they wait for you to remove the hose.

Now we have oxygen all around us, we have fuel vapors coming out of the open tank and the end of the hose, and we have the possibility of an arc waiting to happen.  Did I really need to get back inside to call someone, or balance the checkbook, while fueling the car?  And those of you who leave the engine running, or leave a lit cigarette in the ash tray while performing this simple task….. well that’s really asking for it.

So it’s easy to see that the distraction of being too busy, or the distraction of having to hear your radio, or smoke, while you’re simply putting gasoline in your vehicle can easily lead to serious problems you didn’t need to have.  That’s why we need the signs, and rubber insulation wrapped around the hose.  Choose your multi-tasks carefully, and remember, “Safety is NOT what we talk about, it’s about what you actually DO”.


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Have you heard about I2P2?

I2P2 is the new Federal OSHA title for the Injury and Illness Prevention Plan you have heard about since the early 1990’s. The vision seems to be that despite all the existing regulations from States and the Federal Government, too many employees are still getting injured. Meetings are being held with experts, and companies with good safety records to determine what should be in the new rules when they are crafted. I have copied and pasted from Federal OSHA’s web site some of the components which may be included in the new regulation.

They are as follows:

“Based on OSHA’s experience, the agency believes that an I2P2 rule would include the following elements:

  1. Management duties (including items such as establishing a policy, setting goals, planning and allocating resources, and assigning and communicating roles and responsibilities);
  2. Employee participation (including items such as involving employees in establishing, maintaining and evaluating the program, employee access to safety and health information, and employee role in incident investigations);
  3. Hazard identification and assessment (including items such as what hazards must be identified, information gathering, workplace inspections, incident investigations, hazards associated with changes in the workplace, emergency hazards, hazard assessment and prioritization, and hazard identification tools);
  4. Hazard prevention and control (including items such as what hazards must be controlled, hazard control priorities, and the effectiveness of the controls);
  5. Education and training (including items such as content of training, relationship to other OSHA training requirements, and periodic training); and
  6. Program evaluation and improvement (including items such as monitoring performance, correcting program deficiencies, and improving program performance).

If your Injury and Illness Prevention program is only one page long, now is a good time to do a little more….. remember, “Safety is NOT what we talk about, it’s about what you and your employees actually do”.


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Where Do I Begin?

There are literally volumes and volumes of Federal and State regulations regarding Occupational Safety and Health.  Where do you begin?

I believe the place to start is called the “General Duty Clause” which applies to every business no matter what industry it belongs to, or how many employees it has.  “General Duty Clauses” state that each employer will “provide a safe and healthful place of employment for its workers”.  The next question is “How Do You Do That”?

No matter what type of business, or how many employees work there, the way to make the workplace safe is to identify the hazards.  That means each group of workers faces things during their workday that could hurt them.  Even one office worker can have the file cabinet fall on them, or have injuries from typing all day without interrupting the work.

Some hazards are inherent.  That means those hazards always exist in that workplace.  An example would be the requirement to use a power saw or skill saw of some sort.  The saw doesn’t care what it cuts, so the user has to operate it in accordance with company policies, or the instructions from the manufacturer.  It is never acceptable for an employee to remove a protective guard from the tool, but it’s easy and common to find them missing.

Some hazards are temporary, such as water spills, or an extension cord stretched across a pathway that is normally kept clear.  Temporary hazards also include things like Winter and Summer, where employees may now have to drive through ice and snow just to get to work, or who are exposed to potential heat stress disorders from working in areas where the temperature exceeds 86 degrees.  California mandates annual heat stress training for employees potentially exposed.

The fact is, that figuring out what can hurt your employees gives you the ability to create a “Safe Work Practice” to help them avoid the hazard.  There are “Administrative Controls” (policies) that can be implemented to reduce exposures, and there are “Engineering Controls” (stuff) that can be used as well.  When employees have less exposures to hazards, they are safer.  The point is, once you know how employees can be injured, you can DO SOMETHING about it.  That’s where you start, and that’s how you comply with creating and maintaining a safe workplace.

Remember, safety is NOT what we talk about, it’s about what you and your employees actually do!


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LOTO winners or losers?

Lockout/Tagout is the process used to prevent the accidental release of hazardous energy.  Everyone seems to know about LOTO, but when OSHA comes around, can you stand the acid test to avoid fines and citations?

The facts are, many firms have generic policies about isolating equipment, placing locks and tags, releasing stored energy, and some might even have copies of Federal OSHA’s final rule 29 CFR 1910.147, but that is just not enough.

The reality is, fines will probably be issued, because although the basic process is the same, Lockout/Tagout procedures need to be specific to each machine or piece of equipment where protective guards will be removed, and employees will be exposed to a point of operation.

I heartily recommend taking the time to get specific about how your employees will perform maintenance, where locks and tags will be placed, and when it is safe for them to remove protective guards.  The efforts you make now could save your employee from a nasty injury, and save you from thousands of dollars in fines and citations.

Remember safety is not what we talk about, it’s what you and your employees actually do.


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