Hello and welcome back. There are several critical elements that comprise workplace safety. As water exists thanks to a very successful bonding between the elements hydrogen and oxygen so does training, PPE, drills and communication, make strong bonds for great safety. Training and PPE are the introduction to safety for most workers and a indication of how serious the company is on safety. Drills are done on a periodic basis to help reinforce the training and keep workers on their toes. However, communication also creates a strong bond in the safety compound since it is used every minute of every day, work and home.
You would think that in this day and age, communication would be so easy to do with so many means to choose from, smoke signals, semaphore, morse code, email, texting, cell phones and of course good old fashion, verbal. We communicate at the beginning of each shift with a quick huddle for a size-up of the day to come with the staff and plans of attack on the challenges facing your crew and a reminder on the best way to safely approach and complete. Unloading unusually sized items, wet floors on rainy days, excavating a trench or staying hydrated on hot days, all good reminders before work begins. We communicate when equipment is not operating properly and red tag it out of service until repairs can be made. We communicate possible hazards before anyone begins to weld or enters a confined space. We also communicate what chemicals are being used on site through safety data sheets and symbols so firefighters know how to safely deal with fires and emergencies. As you’ll see in the stories below, lack of communication can lead to serious accidents and death which is sad as only a few simple words could have had a totally different out come.
SD Worker Suffers Fatal Burns When Ethanol Ignites During Expansion Project – The employer of a worker, Bilfinger-Westcon didn’t bother to communicate with him that the area where welding would occur wasn’t free and clear of hazards. The refinery, Sioux River Ethanol LLC, that hired them for contract work didn’t bother to communicate that ethanol and flammable liquid was still present in the pipe to be worked on. Because of this breakdown in communication a 38 year old pipefitter of Bilfinger-Westcon suddenly found himself covered in 190 proof ethanol when he opened the pipe and before he could do anything else, it was ignited by the near by welding, making him a human torch. He agonized in pain from the burns for a day before succumbing to his injuries. If a few minutes of communication had taken place between all three parties before work began this whole incident could have been avoided. Ignorance is not bliss and you should ask questions before beginning work like this in any location. Don’t assume your boss or the company that hired you has taken all the precautions for your safety.
Transit Worker Fatally Struck by Subway Train in Brooklyn – Again, a simple pre-shift huddle, to communicate potential hazards could have helped save this workers life. Three workers were on the southbound tracks near the Fort Hamilton Parkway station to set up warning lights for a construction zone when a G train hit two of the workers as the train was traveling around a curve. One of the workers, Louis Gray, 53, of Brooklyn, was pronounced dead at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn while the other employee, Jeffrey Fleming, 49, was injured and taken to New York Methodist Hospital, where he was listed in serious but stable condition. All the train engineers on that route should have been communicated to and alerted that there were people on the track in that area. Horns should have been sounded by the oncoming trains at the beginning of the area and slowed down to a crawl. A very similar accident happened on BART in the San Francisco bay area when trains were not alerted to maintenance workers on the tracks. This type of accident can be avoided when all parties are on the same page and simple communication can help.
Aer Lingus faces charges over man who died at Dublin Airport warehouse in 2014 – Have you successfully communicated the rules of the road at your facility? Do drivers delivering or picking up know how to properly enter your facility and where to wait until their truck is ready to move? It is extremely important to control the flow of traffic on your loading dock and keeping people not familiar with your facility out of harms way. Unfortunately, Aer Lingus didn’t and is charged with failing to ensure so far as reasonably practicable that individuals who were not employees were not exposed to risks to their safety, health or welfare at a cargo warehouse at Dublin Airport. They regularly permitted or required drivers to access the building via the loading bay itself. I can’t tell you how many times I found drivers doing this even though at our warehouses we had several doors they could come through. Even with broadcasting our rules of the road, via fax, emails and written procedures handed to drivers it still got to the point that we banned a few drivers from our facility that just wouldn’t follow procedures. Which in this age of litigation is something you must do to protect yourself, your workers and your company. Communicate your expectations and then enforce them or no one, including your employees will never take them seriously and you can avoid a senseless death.
FOX10 Investigates: Warehouse fire posed problems for firefighters – Knowing what chemicals and flammables you’re storing in your warehouse and communicating that information to others, especially firefighters is critical for the survival of all. As we have seen all to often in warehouse fires, there are no signs, placards or other information for firefighters so they know how dangerous the situation can be and most importantly, HOW to fight a fire. Depending what is fueling the fire makes a big difference on how the fire is attacked. If you have alkali metals burning in your facility, you don’t want to poor water on it as the results would be fatal to a firefighter. When firefighters arrived at Mike Hoffman’s Equipment Services they found an extremely powerful fire, due to the flammable liquids like oil, hydraulic fuel, acetylene, gasoline and diesel fuel stored inside the building. “When we arrived on scene, we had heavy fire, they tried to make an entry, but because of the amount of fire that was there, the decision was made to back out, and take an exterior attack on it.” Make sure you’re using the new Hazard communication procedures by OSHA and SDS sheets to ensure everyone remains safe in your facility by knowing what to do in an emergency.
Construction industry death: Whistleblower speaks out over safety fears at fatal fall site – Marianka Heumann, a German national backpacking her way through Australia was killed as she plummeted 13 floors through a open shaft because NO ONE thought it was important enough to communicate the dangers. Four other people died on Australian construction sites during the month of October, raising questions about workplace safety nationally and the level of training employees are receiving. Just because you know there is a hazard somewhere doesn’t mean the average person knows especially when you toss in being distracted by their smart phones. Signs, cones, flags, barriers all indicate, HEY LOOK!
Multiple Safety Issues Found At Plant Which Supplies Major Auto Brands – Workers began communicating multiple complaints of unsafe working conditions at the Fuyao Glass America Inc.facility. Since the company is apparently deaf this lead to 8 separate federal inspections and $226,937 in proposed penalties for the automotive glass supplier to plant brands such as Audi, Cadillac, Land Rover, Volvo and Volkswagen. The employees knew what they were talking about as OSHA found 23 serious safety violations from multiple machine safety violations which expose workers to amputation and other serious injuries, as well as a lack of personal protective equipment, electrical hazards, failing to train workers about hazardous chemicals in use and unmarked exits. As you can see, NO communication to it’s valuable employees. When you begin a new job and there is no training or communication about safety, then make sure your life insurance is paid up if you intend on staying there or speak up as these employees did. Never keep quiet about safety.
As you can see, communication is a critical part of safety. Even with all the training, drills and PPE without the exchange of information people’s lives hang in the balance. If you’re not doing it already, begin each shift with a quick huddle. Go over the scheduled days activities and make sure everyone is on the same page, for the life you save may be your own. Until next month, stay safe.