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!