Safety in the Workplace, a Matter of Perspective

Four images, one of three guys standing on forklift forks up in the air, another one of a guy walking on a small board across two ladders several stories up, another of a person fixing street light with a makeshift ladder and the last one of a fork lift lifting another forklift that has some tanks on it's forklift and title Safety in the Workplace, a Matter of Perspective.

As a safety guy, I often turn to the internet for research on particular safety issues. Regardless of the issue, there is always a wide variety of material to be evaluated before I pass information onto a client. With most internet searches I often find material I cannot use for one reason or another. While the subject may be serious, the perspective of the site creator often creates hilarious results.

There are a bazillion sites on the internet that contain funny photos of everyday workers doing some really stupid things. I often wonder why someone bothered to take the photo instead of warning the worker about what is to happen. No doubt, sometimes workers leave their brains at home…

How we look at challenges often determines how safe we decide to be on the job. For example, what is “safe” for a 25 year old firefighter who climbs a thirty foot extension ladder to rescue a toddler from a burning apartment would not necessarily be “safe” for an overweight sixty year old faced with the same challenge. While the sixty year old could possibly meet the challenge of saving the toddler using other means, his perspective in evaluating the requirements to meet the challenge is markedly different than that of the firefighter.

These construction workers are riding the forks of an all-terrain hi-lifter to reach the top floor of the building. Very dangerous!

The Importance of Common Sense

Whenever I’m speaking to a group of employees about workplace safety, I always tell  them that on-the-job safety is a matter of common sense. Using common sense means thinking about the task at hand and then determining the safest way to achieve the required result.

Common sense is NOT something we are all born with. While most of us have enough common sense not to reach into a hot oven without an oven mitt to retrieve the just-baked apple pie, some people still do just that. Some of those are elected to public office…

A big forklift raising a smaller forklift which is raising the load in NOT an example of good common sense...

Lack of USING common sense when faced with a challenge at work has caused many a worker to be injured. The lucky ones live to fight another day.

Wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the type of work you’re doing is another measure of common sense. Most industrial and construction endeavors have rigid rules about what PPE must be worn when doing which task. Proper new employee orientation and training should at least make new workers aware of the dangers associated with the tasks they will be assigned.

Enforcement of safety rules by supervisors including discipline for violations is an important step toward maintaining worksite safety. A supervisor who fails to ensure that all his charges are properly outfitted with the necessary PPE is just as guilty as the worker who is injured because he is not using the prescribed PPE.

Frontline supervisors MUST lead by example in order to be effective. A “by the rules” supervisor will earn the respect of the troops much quicker than one who breaks the safety rules himself. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work with adults.

The situation depicted here warranted workers to wear chemical suits, supplied air respirators, and chemical resistant gloves. The goober in the pink shirt and shorts is no doubt the supervisor of this crew.

The screwdriver dropped from three floors up and penetrated the hard hat of the worker below - but fortunately not his head. They call it personal protective equipment for a very good reason...

Using the Right Tool for the Job in the Proper Manner

Most of us at one time or another has placed our bodies in danger of injury by using ladders. I have seen female third-grade teachers attempt to stand on a swivel chair to reach the wall above the blackboard to staple a streamer for decoration. I have seen 30 something electricians stand on the top step of a six foot step-ladder to reach into a dropped ceiling to connect a wire. I have seen THREE construction workers attempt to descend a 20 foot extension ladder at the same time! The list goes on and our workers’ compensation loss runs swell because of these incidents.

Our good friends at OSHA spend a lot of time investigating ladder accidents. Almost all of them are caused by the user doing something he shouldn’t – using the wrong type of ladder, using an extension ladder that is not properly anchored, or using a ladder that is too short for the job.

Most workers want to do a good job – either to please their boss or to get finished with the project and move onto something else. Using ladders improperly or using the wrong ladder is a sure-fire way to have an accident.

Here's a disaster waiting to happen. Home-made ladders are NEVER a good idea. No matter how sure-footed the worker is, he is taking his life in his hands every time he climbs up or down - just to change a light bulb.
I can't imagine what was going through this construction worker's mind that made him stand atop a 2x6 perched between the step ladder and the wall brace. Not only is he working overhead in a very unsafe manner, one wrong step could result in a serious injury - or worse...
Obviously, this maintenance man was in a hurry to find the source of the water leak in the ceiling. Otherwise, he would have opted for the twelve-foot ladder instead of placing his body in harm's way with the eight-foot he is using while standing on the very top step.

Be Constantly Aware of Your Surroundings

Employees with the perspective of working safely must be constantly aware of their surroundings while on the job. This is especially true for construction workers and others whose job site is populated by other workers from different companies. No amount of OSHA regulation and no company safety rules can replace the importance of being alert and aware on the job.

Quick quiz: Name two excellent conductors of electricity. Answer: Water and metal. This genius is on a metal ladder in the middle of a mall fountain using an electric drill with the cord in the water.

Heavy book trucks are dangerous on flat level ground. Put them on a slope with the bucket extended and situations like this occur. The truck has tipped into some bushes.

You would think that a forklift driver in a BOMB FACTORY would make sure that the wheels on the trailer he was attempting to load were locked and that the trucker was out of the cab while his trailer was being loaded. The driver pulled away from the dock just as the forklift driver was loading the last bomb...the forklift fell off the front of the dock with a large BOMB on his forks.

Common sense, using the right tool for the job in the proper manner, and being constantly aware of your surroundings on the job help workers formulate a safety perspective. A safe workplace is one in which the corporate culture is founded on these and other safety principles.  

At Employers Resource, our team of safety professionals assists our clients to develop and implement a culture of safety among the employees. To find out how we can help your company, visit our website or give us a call. We are ready to help!

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