National Safety Month- Week 3 Safety Awareness of your surroundings

June 2014 National Safety Month Tips Week 3


Where did that come from? I didn’t expect that! Didn’t see that coming! How did that happen? Sound familiar? After an injury caused by an incident, these are the types of comments often expressed by the victim — sometimes the witnesses. Witnesses as well as those involved often exclaim that they had no idea what happened. This is an expression of frustration. They thought they were working safely and had probably performed the job hundreds of times. The worker could probably do the task blindfolded. Perhaps they did?


A common factor in injury incidents is a lack of awareness.

A thorough pre-operational inspection of workplaces and equipment is one of the most important acts that anyone can do to ensure his or her own safety each day. But a pre-operational inspection is only a start. Each worker must constantly be aware of changes in his or her environment throughout the shift and be prepared to react appropriately to changes that occur. These differences may occur because of a change in location, or a natural change in the immediate environment. They may be changes that are forced from outside sources, or they may be changes that we create by the work we perform.

An air hose is normally a safe tool. One could consider it a tripping hazard if it crosses a walkway, or it could represent a strain hazard when lifting or pulling. But normally, if in good condition, an air hose is rather innocuous. But, suppose someone begins to disconnect the hose. Fittings may be difficult to break. Pinch points may be encountered using tools to break the connection. But what if the hose is pressurized? The valve was shut off and the pressure was bled off. But what if the valve leaks and pressure is re-built? What if the wrong hose was bled off? Each of these hazards is easily controlled if the worker is alert.


A worker is preparing to splice a section of conveyor belt. It must be cut square. There are machines to help do this, but we don’t make that many splices and the razor knife does a good job. The belt material is designed to resist cutting and abrasion, so the cable resists the action of cutting and requires effort, even with the sharpest knife. The worker may be cutting away from his body, but his leg is under the edge of the belt. The line-of-fire hazard is easily controlled.

Debris takes on many forms, but normally has one common characteristic. It’s disorderly. This fact raises a number of new potential hazards — pointed objects, sharp edges, unbalanced pieces, heavy loads, slippery surfaces, tangles, tension, awkward shapes and sizes, and others. It may be necessary to move smaller quantities (more trips) and/or it may require cutting pieces into manageable sections. These types of hazards are easily controlled if the worker is alert.

You are in the break room and have just finished eating. Time to clean up and go back to work. You go to the sink to wash your containers and silverware. While washing some of the water splashes on the floor. Not too much, it will be fine. Someone else will clean it up and you leave. A couple of minutes later someone, comes to the sink to wash their lunch containers, but they don’t recognize the hazard. They slip on the wet water on sprain their wrist as they fall down. If the previous person had just wiped up the floor this could have been prevented. Now the injured employee will miss a few days of work, have to get medical treatment and physical therapy for a few weeks. Be restricted in their work responsibilities, so other people in the department have to do more work, they might have to get a temp employee or pay overtime. Additional expenses from the profits earned, because someone did not take the time to remove the hazard.


Your safety and the safety of your coworkers are dependent on your awareness of potentially hazardous conditions in the workplace. Take off the blindfold. There are a thousand things to see, hear, feel and smell in the workplace. Learn to observe and notice changes. If you do not recognize the hazard, you cannot control the hazard. If you cannot control the hazard, you cannot prevent the injury.

It all starts with awareness.

Accidents can occur when working in unfamiliar surroundings or areas because employees unfamiliar of the hazards in the area:

Survey your work area before you do anything

 Ensure that you have enough space to do your work.

 Meet with the building engineer to discuss your work.

 Identify if lockout/tag out needs to be performed energy sources.

 Check the condition of the flooring and lighting.

 In mechanical spaces and tunnels, look for: low overhead hazards, sharp edges or surfaces, standing water, non-insulated pipes, exposed wiring, and unguarded equipment.

Walk to the route you will be following when transporting materials

 Look for uneven surfaces, trip hazards, objects you need to maneuver around, foot traffic, or any other obstacle.

 Pay attention before entering elevators: the floor of the elevator may not be even with the floor of the corridor.

 Check the stairways: condition of the steps and landings, uneven stair heights, and obstacles an uneven surfaces around both sides of the door to stairway.

Do not create new hazards

 Avoid running extension cords through high foot traffic areas.

 Do not block emergency exits or routes of egress.

 Clean up when you are done: remove all of your tools, clean up debris, replace machine guards and electrical covers (junction boxes, outlets, switches), etc.

 Consider the building occupants when scheduling your work: sometimes waiting until there are less people around is better.

 Put up barriers and signage to warn building occupants to avoid hazards and stay clear of your work area.

 Report hazards you observe to the Safety Committee or me – just because it’s not your building doesn’t mean you should ignore the hazard!

The vast majority of injuries are due to the unsafe actions of people.

Here are Safety 10 reminders for individuals to help prevent injuries:

1. Be aware. Being aware of your surroundings, potential hazards and your fellow colleagues is one of the best ways to prevent injuries. Distractions cause accidents. Anticipating versus reacting will help keep you safe and bring you home to your family.

2. Think it through. Before you start a task take a couple of minutes to think through what you’re about to do. Do you know the correct procedure, the protective equipment required, and the potential hazards to you and to others?

3. Address unsafe actions and conditions when you see them, for your safety and the safety of others. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see something unsafe – you could be preventing an injury.

4. Use personal protective equipment as prescribed. The proper gloves, glasses, clothing, shoes and respirators are an important part of keeping you safe, but only if they are used and worn as intended. And they are your last line of defense, not a substitute for removing a hazard.

5. Be aware of your body position. Move your body in the right way. Keep out of the way of hazards, such as moving equipment and sharp objects. Using the right gloves is important, but gloves do not protect hands from being crushed or punctured. And don’t forget that repetitive motions can cause injuries.

6. Use the right tool for the right job. The proper tools and equipment help you avoid hazards and prevent risk. For example, when you’re using a ladder, make sure the ladder is set properly to prevent it from tipping. Be careful not to overreach. And have another person assist you when necessary.

7. Follow procedures for safe work. It may take a little extra time, but shortcuts put you at risk. Locking-out machinery and using guards helps keep you safe from moving parts. Don’t cut corners and by-pass these important safeguards.

8. Stay in shape. Keeping your core muscles in shape – whether you have a desk or physical job — is important to prevent injuries. Core muscle strength helps maintain balance, flexibility and strength. Take a few moments to stretch, make sure you know the limitations of your body and maintain good posture.

9. Watch your step. Ice, water, and spills are the most common causes of slips, trips and falls. And steps can be particularly dangerous, so make sure you always use a handrail.

10. Practice safe driving. Many people get hurt driving on the job by not obeying traffic laws. And distractions such as cell phones are responsible for the rising number of automobile accidents. Take a Defensive Driving Course. My next class is Jun 20, 2014.

Near Miss Reporting- ‘A near miss is an event or situation that could have resulted in injury, damage or loss but did not do so due to chance, corrective action and/or timely intervention’

Luckily nothing happened – this time

Some say that in a near miss nothing actually happened. They argue that a near miss provides a glimpse into the future – a suggestion of something more serious that might happen on another occasion. The message is that, correctly understood, a near miss is an opportunity to learn. Apply that knowledge to take action to prevent possibly more serious consequences another time. Using this argument, near misses are taken as leading indicators that can be used to help create safety.

But it was an incident

“Near misses describe incidents where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred” (OSHA definition). The clear message is that, despite no physical harm, something undesirable happened. On this basis a near miss is a lagging indicator.

Is a near miss an unsafe condition?

We can make a distinction between “near miss” and “unsafe condition”. An unsafe condition can exist even when there is no incident – making it a leading indicator. Examples could be corrosion of worn/defective walkways, defective brakes, PPE not worn, poor electrical grounding.

Too late?

Classing near misses as a lagging indicator does not necessarily mean too late. True you cannot go back and prevent that particular incident. But as with all incidents up to and including fatalities, it is still possible, if not an obligation, to investigate to learn from the experience and take remedial action to prevent a recurrence. In a sense the lagging indicator generated by incidents becomes a leading indicator for prevention.

The pyramid below, demonstrates the number of ‘hidden’ incidents for each serious injury including Near misses. Tackling the base of the pyramid means injuries and property damage become less likely. Near Miss reporting is required by OSHA and can be a great tool prevent future safety injuries, damage or fatalities.

Keep in mind it’s everybody’s job to keep the work place accident free, employers and employees alike. If you see an unsafe condition, get it fixed! Do not leave an unsafe condition uncorrected because it may be the next person who suffers a serious injury. Safety First, Safety Always!

Information from National Safety Council, CDC, National Floor Safety Institute, NIOSH, OSHA and ASSE and

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