It’s not the fall that hurts. It’s the sudden stop!

Falls are one of the most common causes of injuries. And approximately one in five falls are fatal. Your employer has safeguards in place, such as guardrails and fall protection supplies and procedures, but there is a lot you can to do to reduce the chance of an incident. Here are some things to consider:

HOUSEKEEPING: Keep floors in work areas as clean and dry as possible. Good housekeeping habits are the best way to ensure good footing, which is essential to preventing falls. Scrap lumber, trash, wire, and slippery areas caused by water, grease, or oil can cause falls. Housekeeping is especially important in high traffic areas like hallways where pedestrians may not be paying close attention to where they put their feet.

LADDERS: Select a ladder that suits the purpose. Many workers believe that they can use any ladder for any job. Make sure your ladder is in good condition and that the foundation is secure. Use both hands when climbing and always face the ladder when going up or down. Do not carry tools with you.

SCAFFOLDS: Scaffolds need to be inspected daily by a competent person. Use a tagging system:

  • green – scaffold safe to use
  • yellow – use caution when using scaffolding. The tag should list the precautions needed for safe use.
  • red – do not use scaffold

Even if it will be used for only a short time, scaffolding should be constructed like a permanent structure. Provide guardrails and toe boards to help prevent falls. Whenever you’re on a single-point or a two-point suspended scaffold, wear appropriate fall protection. Be sure it’s tied to a secure independent life line.

FLOOR AND WALL OPENINGS: Cover floor openings or protect them with standard guardrails and toe boards. Protect wall openings, except for doorways and stairways through which persons could fall. This protection should be secured and substantial enough to prevent displacement.

STAIRS: Falls on stairways are usually caused by running, carrying objects that block your line of sight, failure to use handrails, or just not paying attention. Watch your step and pay attention to what you are doing.

Defensive Driving

Let’s face it. We all could improve our driving. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for humans under the age of 30, and only drops to second and third cause of death up to age 65. The top three causes of vehicle accidents are speeding, driving under influence, and distracted driving. With all the drunks and careless others texting and driving, it pays to have skills in your toolbox to get home safely. The most effective tool is Defensive Driving.

 

Defensive Driving is operating your vehicle in a manner to prevent accidents in spite of the actions of others or in the presence of adverse driving conditions. It requires a constant vigilance! You watch for the illegal acts and errors of other drivers, and make timely adjustments in your own actions so that the actions of other drivers will not involve you in an accident.

 

Driving defensively is a skill I mostly developed after I started riding motorcycles. Riding a motorcycle changed my perspective on driving. The dangers are too hard to ignore when you get out of the bubble of a car or truck. The pavement is RIGHT THERE! And, it looks like it would be painful to land on.

 

SEE (SEARCH, EVALUATE, EXECUTE) is a driving strategy that I learned at a class I attended with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.  This strategy has helped me reduce factors that contribute to accidents, and is applicable to operating any vehicle.  Below you will find a summarization of the process. We strongly encourage you to learn more, and to apply the strategy in your life.

 

The first stage is SEARCH. This means to actively scan and identify factors that could increase the chance of an accident. Scan the area directly in your path, not just directly in front of you, but far ahead of you as well. Look for the three primary categories of information that should be monitored:

  1. Traffic control devices and signs
  2. Road characteristics and surface conditions
  3. Other road users

Good searching technique applies to all directions. Yes, watch where you are going, but also frequently check your mirrors.

 

The next stage is EVALUATE. This means consider potential problems arising from the interaction of the factors discovered while SEARCHing. Put simply, you try to anticipate where problems could arise, and form a plan in the event the problems… well, cause a problem.

Consider the hazards that could arise from searching for traffic control devices and signs. Think about the big picture as you evaluate, and think about other people’s perspective and what they see. Understand that other drivers may not see control devices like stop signs and traffic lights, etc. Also evaluate other road users, not just other wheeled vehicles travelling at (potentially) high rates of speed, but also pedestrians and animals. Know the limitations of your abilities (did you forget to put your contacts in this morning?), and the limits of your vehicle. Compare these limitations to the traffic and road conditions.

EVALUATING is mostly about forming potential plans of action, based on the information you collected while SEARCHing your environment. This stage is a form of risk management; try to read the information discovered while SEARCHing to create a “cushion of safety.”

 

The last E is for EXECUTE. This refers to the motor skills used to prevent or avoid the hazards, and is the stage used when a hazard presents that could cause an accident. After EVALUATING or reading a situation, you decide on a course of action and EXECUTE it. Ideally, you decide on the best course of action, but try not to second guess or pause. In the event of a problem arising, time and space are typically at a premium.

Decisions are executed in a few different ways. The most passive is communication. Communicate your intentions as time allows. Use lights, horns, hands, eye contact, etc. You can also change your speed or position. The degree to which you adjust your speed or position depends mostly on the hazard that has arisen, so try to keep as much space as possible to react.

 

Driving defensively is about taking steps to actively manage your situation and attempting to prevent other driver’s actions from causing an accident. Driving defensively requires a serious commitment. A driver must commit their constant attention to the road. Also, SEE is a process. Ideally, you are constantly searching and evaluating your options to create a “cushion.” Then, you are prepared to execute quickly.

Unsafe Conditions and Actions

How many times have you burnt yourself on a kitchen stove or nicked your finger with a knife because you had grown complacent, or were not paying attention? Or perhaps you burned yourself because you were in a hurry, tired, or thought you would get away with it because you had “been cooking for years without incident.” These accidents can be prevented by identifying unsafe conditions and then choosing safe actions.

First, let’s address: what are unsafe conditions? Conditions are the existing state of the environment around you, and the circumstances affecting the way you live or work. An unsafe condition is a condition where something exists that varies from a normal accepted safe condition. If not acknowledged, unsafe conditions can result in injury, death, or property damage.

Our kitchens have sources of heat and sharpened objects. The existence of these conditions put us at risk of an accident. Most of the time, we recognize the hazardous conditions and can adjust our actions to complete our tasks safely.

An unsafe act is the performance of a task that is conducted in a manner that may threaten the safety of yourself or those around you.

Some unsafe acts are a result of flagrant disregard of established rules, and should be reported and handled with appropriate disciplinary action. However, the majority of the unsafe acts are unintentional, and directly related to our behavior. The causes generally fall into one of the following categories:  rushing to complete a task (the most common), complacency, fatigue, and frustration.

In the workplace, unsafe acts are often attributed to perceptions of pressure for production. Have you ever heard someone say they “ignore safety rules to get the job done?” What about “bending the rules that involve little or no risk?”

We all know that there must be a cause for an incident to happen. Causes of incidents are tied to both unsafe conditions and acts. Returning to the example in our kitchen, how many of us have stood on a narrow stool or chair to reach the top shelf in our cabinets, rather than take the time to get a step ladder? The unsafe act of standing on an unsteady chair would not exist if the condition (the height of the top shelf, or the lack of go-go-gadget human arms) did not exist.

Learning to properly identify unsafe conditions and adjusting our actions appropriately helps us safely navigate our homes and workplaces.

As always, talking about the safety of the conditions surrounding us reduces the chances for incidents. Work with your coworkers to identify unsafe conditions. And if you see an unsafe act performed, or about to be executed, please speak up!

Hazards of Acetylene

Acetylene is the most commonly used gas for fueling cutting and welding torches.  The very molecular structure of acetylene is what makes the gas both ideally useful and hazardous. Each molecule consists of two carbon atoms and two hydrogen atoms that are held together by a triple carbon bond. This unstable bond stores a lot of energy. When acetylene is mixed with oxygen and the bond is broken, the result is the high temperatures needed to melt metal alloys. The temperature of the flame from the mixture can reach over 5700°F!

Generally, the men and women who use acetylene torches are familiar with the fire hazards associated hot flames and the production of hot slag. However, there are many unique characteristics of acetylene itself that create special hazards compared to other fuel gases. This gas has the widest explosive range of any commonly used gas. When mixed with air, the explosive range is from 2.5% to 82%. Acetylene leaks, no matter how small, can have serious consequences.

Some tips for safely using and storing acetylene:

  • Always use acetylene in a well vented area, and never in a confined space.
  • When using around electrical equipment, research the National Electric Code’s special designation for using electrical equipment around acetylene.
  • Acetylene should never be allowed to come into contact with certain metals such as unalloyed copper.
  • Do not store or use acetylene at pressures greater than 15 psi. Cylinder pressures are rated for 250 psi but this is acceptable because the gas is dissolved in acetone.)
  • Bleed the gas from the regulator by closing the cylinder valve before shutting off the regulator, to permit gas to bleed from the regulator.
  • Always cap and secure stored cylinders upright to prevent them from falling over and damaging the valve or cylinder.
  • Acetylene cylinders are not hollow. They are packed with porous rock that is saturated with acetone. Acetylene is dissolved in the acetone. As a result, cylinders should only be used or stored in an upright position. This prevents possibility of the acetone leaking from the cylinder. If this is not possible, rest the cylinder upright for one-half hour before using. This prevents liquid acetone from running through your regulator during use.
  • Do not store cylinders near open flames or electrical equipment. Never store acetylene, or any other fuel gas, within 25 feet of oxygen cylinders. If this separation is not possible, erect a noncombustible (1/2-hour fire rated) partition, at least five feet high, between the two gases in storage.

Remember, improperly handling compressed gases can lead to serious fires, explosions, or releases due to pressure buildup in cylinders or reactions with other materials. Always use correct procedures for handling and using acetylene gas. Talking about the hazards and proper handling and storing procedures with your coworkers reduces the risk of an incident.

Exerpts on Line Breaks from OSHA’s Guidelines for Process Safety Management

OSHA published a pamphlet to help employers understand Process Safety Management regulations. OSHA Pamphlet #3133 covers the employer responsibility on the hazards and technology of process systems. It also reviews operating procedures, employee training, and written procedures, among many other topics. Below are a few “generic, non-exhaustive” excerpts that could apply directly to the regulations for a line break on a functioning pipe system.

To read the full pamphlet, follow this link: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3133.html.

“The major objective of process safety management (PSM) of highly hazardous chemicals is to prevent unwanted releases of hazardous chemicals especially into locations that could expose employees and others to serious hazards.’

“Operating procedures provide specific instructions or details on what steps are to be taken or followed in carrying out the stated procedures. The specific instructions should include the applicable safety precautions and appropriate information on safety implications. For example… using operating instructions to properly implement operating procedures is in starting up or shutting down the process. In these cases, different parameters will be required from those of normal operation. These operating instructions need to clearly indicate the distinctions between startup and normal operations, such as the appropriate allowances for heating up a unit to reach the normal operating parameters. Also, the operating instructions need to describe the proper method for increasing the temperature of the unit until the normal operating temperatures are reached.’

“Hands-on training, where employees actually apply lessons learned in simulated or real situations, will enhance learning. For example, operating personnel, who will work in a control room or at control panels, would benefit by being trained at a simulated control panel. Upset conditions of various types could be displayed on the simulator, and then the employee could go through the proper operating procedures to bring the simulator panel back to the normal operating parameters. A training environment could be created to help the trainee feel the full reality of the situation but under controlled conditions. This type of realistic training can be very effective in teaching employees correct procedures while allowing them also to see the consequences of what might happen if they do not follow established operating procedures.’

“Non-routine work conducted in process areas must be controlled by the employer in a consistent manner. The hazards identified involving the work to be accomplished must be communicated to those doing the work and to those operating personnel whose work could affect the safety of the process. A work authorization notice or permit must follow a procedure that describes the steps the maintenance supervisor, contractor representative, or other person needs to follow to obtain the necessary clearance to start the job. The work authorization procedures must reference and coordinate, as applicable, lockout/tagout procedures, line breaking procedures, confined space entry procedures, and hot work authorizations. This procedure also must provide clear steps to follow once the job is completed to provide closure for those that need to know the job is now completed and that equipment can be returned to normal.’

Line Break Safety Plan and Permitting

Installing a new pipe system typically comes with certain unexpected risks. These challenges and problems must be addressed in order to ensure safety and mitigate those risks while modifying a functioning pipe system.

Because of the complexity and the hazards associated with modifying or changing a pipe system, establishing a formalized a process that will help protect each other from injury from either chemical contamination or an unexpected release of pressure.  Here are a few tips on what to cover when creating a Line Break Permitting Process:

  • Define the Scope of Work including identification of the material in the Pipe System and understand if the system is pressurized. Get the MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET (MSDS) and understand the pressure in all sections of pipe. Discuss the scope with all parties, this may include customers, engineering or maintenance departments, Project Managers… Seek out the people who understand the specifics of the pipe system you are modifying.
  • Create a Work Plan that includes a Safety Plan. In the Safety plan, discuss the PPE and boundary requirements necessary to protect your employees and the others working nearby, property, whether yours or your customers. Consider the safety items that need to be communicated with the people performing the work. For example: locate and verify working condition of nearest eye wash shower stations, plan to control or collect any residual liquid and know how to correctly dispose of it.

Before beginning work, review and communicate to everyone involved the Safety Plan, a Job Safety Analysis, and Line Break Permit followed with creation of the boundary and verification of all PPE. A few other things to consider:

  • Verify all pumps and valves are locked out. If applicable, ask the customer or “owning department” to make the first line break at a low point on each pressurized loop and release all pressure.
  • After all pressure is released, drain and flush each pipe, as required. (Flushing is not always required to make the system safe.) Verify with the MSDS sheet.
  • As work begins on the pipe system treat each pipe as if it still pressurized and contains a hazardous material. It is critical to wear all appropriate PPE based on the MSDS and potential system pressures.

Piping Systems are a part of our daily lives. They help us live and work more efficiently. People typically do not pay attention to the various piping systems around them, nor do they realize the potential hazards when disturbing them. Paying attention and creating a plan for breaking into functioning piping systems helps protect the lives of ourselves, our employees, and our coworkers.

Heat Illness: symptoms and when to seek medical attention

It’s certainly been hot in the South the last few weeks. One of the things we stress around this time of year is staying healthy in the summer heat. This week’s safety topic is heat illness. Below is information on avoiding heat stress and recognizing symptoms of heat illness.

Preventing heat illness:
1. If you can’t avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day, rest frequently in a cool spot and drink fluids. When possible, schedule exercise or labor for cooler parts of the day. Also, limiting time spent in heat until you’re conditioned to it. It can take several weeks for your body to get acclimated.
2. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. This will help replace the fluid you are losing body sweat. Sweating helps your body maintain a normal body temperature in the heat.
3. Make sure your clothing is light weight and fits loosely. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly.
4. Apply sunscreen often and liberally, because sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself. When possible, add protection with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

  Listen to your body, try to pay attention and notice when you feel overheated, weak, or irritable. These are subtle indicators that you need a break. Other, more severe symptoms of heat illness to watch for are dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps.

Use extra caution when taking medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems. Talk to employers, coworkers, family, and friends about your medications or conditions so they can help watch for signs of heat stress.

Also, keep an eye on those around you for symptoms of heat illness. If caught early, heat stress can often be treated at home or work with rest in a cool spot and drinking fluids.

Seek medical assistance for the following symptoms:
1. Nausea or vomiting that prevents rehydration. IV fluids may be necessary.
2. Severe muscle cramps that cannot be relieved with re-hydration and stretching.

Seek EMERGENCY medical attention (Call 911!) if an individual shows any of the following symptoms:
1. Stops sweating
2. Becomes confused
3. Has a seizure or heat stroke.

 These are indicators of life threatening conditions. After you call 911, carry the individual to a cool place, remove their clothing and attempt to cool their body with a combination of cold compresses, or spraying/sponging the body with cool water and fans or circulating air.

 Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion could save your life or the life of someone you care about. Share this information and talk about heat illness so that we can keep each other safe all summer.

Continue reading “Heat Illness: symptoms and when to seek medical attention”

Let’s Stay Hydrated

The typical signs of dehydration include fatigue, dry mouth, legs heavy or cramping, and often a headache. When our bodies are under physical stress we lose body fluids in the form of sweat. Dehydration and early fatigue result when we do replace fluid lost through sweat. This loss of body fluid can cause impairment of our performance up to negatively impacting cognitive skills. Therefore, it must be a priority to manage fluid intake when working or exercising in hot conditions.

Dehydration can easily be prevented when you we take the following points into consideration.
• Fluid intake frequency: Drink before starting work. Attempting to catch-up on lost fluids while working is very difficult, therefore, drink before getting thirsty. Once you realize you are thirsty dehydration is already setting in. The solution is to drink at regular intervals especially when it is hot and humid.

• The drinks of choice: Water is critical to staying hydrated. Others beverages that contain a mild flavor and small amounts of sodium are encouraged. Sports drink such as Gatorade and Powerade are also great choices for helping stay hydrated. It is recommended that intake of sports drinks be balanced with water to prevent an upset stomach.

• What not to drink: While we are working or exercising it is recommended that we avoid drinks that contain alcohol, caffeine or high levels of sugar such as soft drinks and fruit juices. These type fluids are slow to absorb and can potentially cause an upset stomach.
A very good question to ask at this point is how much should I be drinking? The answer is difficult as it depends on the person and the environment. However, a very rule of thumb is that if you are not urinating – you are not drinking enough to remain hydrated.

WELDING SCREENS – PROTECTION FROM ULTRAVIOLET RAYS

Most arc welding and cutting processes, torch welding, cutting and brazing, or soldering, produce quantities of ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation can burn the skin, and damage the lens of the eye. Flash burns to the eyes are extremely painful, and, can cause permanent damage.

Welders, other employees, and visitors near areas where arc welding is being performed, must be protected from the hazards of ultraviolet rays.  This can be done in two ways: by wearing the appropriate PPE, and by placing non-combustible or flameproof screens, curtains, or other effective barriers around the welding operation.

Welding hoods and special welding goggles with UV filters are designed to protect your eyes and face from UV exposure. Appropriate gloves and aprons must be used to protect exposed skin.

Welding screens are used to protect others in the vicinity of the welding operation, when the body of the welder or the shape of the steel cannot shield the arc.

This equipment used faithfully and correctly during every welding job will prevent UV burns.

Many serious eye injuries have taken place because workers or visitors to an area believed, as long as they weren’t looking directly at the welding arc, there was no danger.  But, ultraviolet rays into the side of the eye can cause painful burns as well. Always protect against this hazard.

Welding and cutting are safe operations, if you follow safe work practices.  If you try to take short cuts, or you don’t take the proper precautions, it will become a hazardous job.  Take time for safety and health, because you’re worth it.

 

 

HEAT ILLNESS PREVENTION

Summertime is great, if you’re in a pool or in the backyard relaxing in the shade.  But hot summer temperatures make working outside more stressful and dangerous.  This is information on how to protect yourself and co-workers from the heat and first aid measures in case someone becomes ill.  Heat-related illnesses include everything from uncomfortable heat rash to death caused by heat stroke.  In most cases, we’re most concerned with heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat Stroke is the most serious health problem when working in a hot environment.  The body is unable to regulate its core temperature.  Victims of heat stroke can die unless treated promptly.  Symptoms of heat stroke include: hot dry skin that is pale, mottled or bright red, confusion, unconsciousness, convulsions or coma. CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY—even before rendering assistance.  While waiting for emergency services, move victim to a shaded area.  Fan victim; loosen clothing and cool body down with wet compresses.

Heat Exhaustion is characterized by clammy, moist skin.  The victim may complain of headache, nausea, weakness or seem giddy. Move victim to a shaded area and have them drink water or an electrolyte solution.  If victim is not responding, call 9-1-1. Heat exhaustion may lead to heat stroke without care.

Heat Cramps are painful muscle spasms. Move victim to a cool shady area and have them drink an electrolyte solution such as Gatorade.  If victim loses consciousness, vomits or if muscle cramping is severe, seek medical assistance.

Ways to stay safe in hot weather:

  • Limit alcohol and caffeine (this includes coffee, colas and energy drinks) intake.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothing.
  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses when working in the sun.
  • Eat regular, well-balanced meals, avoiding hot or heavy food.
  • Be aware that water, concrete, and sand reflect the sun and make it stronger.
  • Where possible, perform the heaviest work during the coolest part of the day.
  • Build up tolerance to the heat and the work activity slowly. This takes about two weeks.
  • Work in pairs.
  • Drink more water – about a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes – Take special care when temperatures are above 100º F or during periods of high humidity.

Remember: Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink water, drink continuously all day long. Little or no desire to drink, fatigue and headache results from loss of fluids.

Employees who are heavier, older, taking medication (even over-the-counter drugs) are more at risk of getting sick when working in hot weather.

Stay alert for early symptoms of excessive exposure to heat and tell you supervisor if you or a co-worker are experiencing any symptoms of heat –related illness.