Welcome. Continuing on this months theme of protecting our 5 senses, most of you agreed that you’d rather not lose any, which is a good thing and a great reason to consistently wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment on the job. So now, lets concentrate on protecting the other senses and parts of the body.
Earlier this month we had discussed that in areas where a lot of dust, dirt and other debris is created by the manufacturing process you should wear safety goggles to protect your eyes but to protect your lungs in the same type of environment you should at least be given a dust mask to wear to avoid breathing those particles into your lungs. Unlike some injuries you may incur where you know your injured immediately like a cut to the skin or a broken bone, toxins like asbestos, silica or diacetyl in your lungs may take years to develop into something serious and life threatening. Please don’t think for one minute that because you feel no ill effects now from working in that type of environment while not wearing PPE you are going to be fine.
If you are working for extended periods of time in a toxic dust filled area or with chemicals and paints, you should be given a respirator to wear to protect your lungs and in those cases of working with extremely dangerous acids, chemicals and solvents, a hazmat suit with an external oxygen supply should be required. As with safety goggles and ear plugs, all of these PPE should be provided by your employer at NO EXPENSE to you.
Work gloves come in several varieties to protect your hands and should be used accordingly with the type of job you are performing. Simple latex gloves protect your hands from contaminating the item you are producing like food products and from contaminates touching your skin and entering your body. As we get into heavier more industrial operations using knives or other sharp equipment the latest line of Kevlar gloves are excellent for protecting you from puncturing or amputating parts of your hand. They work so well I use a pair when shucking oysters for the family. It’s nice to have the confidence if I slipped I won’t need to go to the E.R. If you are working with chemicals, acids and other solvents, rubber gloves will protect you from severe irritation or burns that can be caused by working with these items. Again, most employers won’t charge you for this PPE but in some cases, due to cost, they may issue only one pair of kevlar or rubber gloves per year and if you lose them, may have to pay for additional pairs.
The same goes for work boots. When I began my career working in warehouses I had to buy a pair of steel toed work boots. Even though the company gave me money towards them, it didn’t cover the full price I had to lay out and of course I complained to myself about it until one day I got too close when a pallet of machinery parts was lowered to the floor and landed on my right foot toes. I was not injured thanks to the boots and I was forever grateful they did the job. Depending on the environment you work in, you may have to wear special rubber boots instead to protect your feet from liquids, acids and other dangerous chemicals. The styling today is much better then they were years ago and most companies will let you buy the style and pair you want as long as you follow their guidelines and get the protection you need for the job and most companies have a partial or total refund policy to get you to buy a new pair annually. Take advantage of it and keep those toes in tact.
Remember, having to wear PPE is not meant to torture you or make you look like a fashion disaster, they are there to help keep your senses in top condition while you get your job done. Choosing not to wear them while on the job is just going to help speed up your dying. Why would you want to spend one minute longer dead then you have too? Wear it! If you have questions about PPE and are not getting answers at work, you can check out the OSHA.gov website for answers.×
•In the June 1st edition, we had an article about the U.S. Postal Services’ Virginia processing center and violations that were found by OSHA after several employee complaints. Well guess what boys and girls, now a Des Moines, Iowa facility of the USPS was cited and fined $119,900 for repeated, yes repeated safety violations that exposed employees to hazards. Read-A federal workplace safety report says a Des Moines postal service facility has been cited and fined. The lack of leadership by the facilities lazy management exposed workers to slips, falls and trip hazards in the designated walking pathways in addition to emergency exit routes and doors that were inaccessible due to carts and parcels blocking them. A very important mechanical fire door was found inoperable and workers were not trained on emergency action plans. For a semi federal agency this is horrible especially when you consider that the USPS must be unaware of the 146 workers who died in a garment factory fire over 100 years ago because they couldn’t get out of the building due to locked emergency exits. It’s also disturbing that their union doesn’t seem to care about their lives either but I’m sure they’re collecting dues on a regular basis. As a supervisor or manager YOU are responsible for the safety of your employees and no matter what culture exists, safety is a priority or safety is not, you can still make a difference in your area of responsibility. It’s your realm, your turf, your hood. Keep all emergency routes and exits free and clear of obstacles and train your workers how to survive a disaster. Enforce those rules and explain to your employees why it’s in their best interest to keep aisles clear and exit doors clear. As an employee, YOU are just as responsible as management is for your safety. Don’t play the game of well, no one else cares. If management doesn’t listen, if the union doesn’t care, do as others have done before you and call the OSHA Hotline –1-800-321-6742 (OSHA). You don’t have to work under those conditions.×
•Would you know what to do in an emergency? You have merely seconds to respond to an event that can overcome and kill you but if you had only known that, that one switch or valve in the correct position could have saved you and your fellow workers. OR worse. How can it be worse you say? You do get to that switch or valve in time only to find out no one has tested it in 10-20 years and it doesn’t work. It’s happened. You can read about a Firm fined for ammonia offenses. They had a release of ammonia refrigerant but were unprepared to respond to the incident and this time no one died but in previous incidents employees have been sent to the hospital. The company lacked a through emergency response plan and also the training of workers in how to implement the plan along with no proper PPE to survive the emergency.
A few years ago there was a terrible incident at a DuPont plant in Texas where workers weren’t prepared properly and their backup emergency equipment did fail and four workers died. Saying you have a plan means absolutely nothing if you can’t back it up with training, drills and equipment maintenance. Train workers how to respond, what to do, where to go. Then have drills so you can see if they do know what to do. Listen to their feedback. Have PPE on hand and have it checked regularly to ensure it’s fully operational. The same goes for vent fans, valves, shut off switches. Anything that can go wrong and then what to do if it does go wrong. Seconds count and training and drills gives workers the chance to survive. This is something you can accomplish in your little realm with your staff. I’ve done it and yes it took a little more time and effort on my part but when IT happens and one day it may, it’s a very proud moment when you see your staff respond and deal with the emergency.×
There are no excuses acceptable when it comes to safety at your workplace. When you begin doing that, you’ll soon find it too easy to justify putting off repairs, doing training, maintenance on equipment, wearing PPE. We’ll do it tomorrow, it can wait another day, what could happen? Then tomorrow never comes. Keep the dialogue on safety going, from the top to the bottom and back. Get involved with your safety committee. If you don’t have one, start one. Discuss it with your supervisor, union rep, H.R. person and get the discussion going. Until July 1st. Remember, the life you save by speaking up, may be your own.