Friday, August 2, 2013

Preventive Safety versus the Human Factor - Fighting For a Safer Workplace

Safety First. Always wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
"Safety is trench warfare"
As safety professionals, we are entrusted with the single task of returning an unharmed labor force home to their families at the end of each shift. We bear this burden because we believe we are making a difference. We are protecting life and improving the quality of life of others. I wanted to share a story of an incident that happened at a company I was consulting for. Hopefully, other safety professionals can relate.

I was consulting for a small drywall company that was expanding. They were willing to learn but new to the safety practices of larger more established companies. We implemented a training program to include a new Safety Manuel, IIPP, Fall Protection Plan, Heat Illness Prevention Plan and Hazard Communication Plan.  We proceed to train and issue OSHA 10 Hour Cards ( to the work force. We had the scissor lift, laser and powder actuated tool manufactures come out and train and issue cards for use on various products. We purchased and issued all necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the work force. We were essentially creating a safety culture that would set the tone for company’s future. I was proud. Then one day, one of the framers fell off a 2’ scaffold and broke his arm. He was in the ER for 2 days and out of work for 2 months. The insurance company had to pay over $52,000 when the incident was done and expenses tabulated.

The worker had an OSHA 10 card, was fall protection trained, sat through a scaffold tailgate meeting that morning, had all PPE to include boots, hard hat, safety vest, ear protection and eye protection, was using a powder actuated tool that he had been trained to operate, and was standing on a 2’ scaffold constructed and inspected by a competent person that morning. His fellow workers were first aid trained and action plan briefed. They knew where the hospital was and how to stop the bleeding.

We did everything we were supposed to do to prevent this and protect from this, yet this happened. Safety is not easy. Safety is trench warfare. Safety is a constant fight against the unknown and known elements consumer demand places on the front line of our work force. Given a long enough time domain, safety incidents are a statistical inevitability. Keep fighting and never make the same mistake twice.