Monthly Archives: August 2015

Working Safely – By Using Consequential Thinking

Job planning is key to ensuring a productive, safe and efficient task. Decisions that people make are usually a causal factor when things go awry.  Some organizations have formalized some sort of job planning and consequential thinking process for employees. Because job conditions can and do change and unforeseen elements may pose a risk, continual re-assessment of a job or task is of critical importance.

Employees who feel hurried to complete a task may make hasty decisions that can (and do) result in injury, damage to property and more. Be sure that your organization’s culture places a strong demand on job planning.  Implement administrative controls such as process and equipment training (see our earlier post on Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) for more information). Add to that checklists and narrative forms that require the employee(s) to consider job and tasks variables such as weather, lighting, placement of tools and equipment, process hazards and proximity to other process, equipment and personnel. See also information on an Energy Control Program (usually called Lock-out Tag-out).

Employees and their supervisors need to plan for contingencies and actively employ consequential thinking as they work. Ask yourself what may change that could disrupt predicted job outcome. It may be a weather variable – for example rain that makes surfaces slick. Or it might me tool or equipment malfunction and what harm may come as a result. Consider the employee using a box end wrench trying to break loose a frozen bolt. What happens if the bolt suddenly comes free or the wrench snaps? Would the employee be caught off balance and all and possibly become impaled on nearby equipment? These are just a couple of examples of the process of consequential thinking. That is important is to plan ahead for those otherwise unexpected events.

We are often asked to investigate and remedy workplace exposures. Usually, the safety culture kicks in only after some sort of incident occurs – involving people and/or property. Far too often, we note that appropriate planning is lacking and sometimes too adequate instruction and/or equipment. By now, probably most of you have seen the internet photos of people working unsafely – such as the fellow changing a light bulb on a metal ladder while atop a swimming pool full of water.  We if he lived to tell about it, then he was lucky. But workplace exposures too often result in less fortunate outcomes.

Be sure that your employees have proper training, tools and equipment to conduct work safely and that company culture supports working safely.

Fire Protection Equipment

Broadly, fire protection equipment is designed to alarm in the event of fire and protect property and people from fire. Here are several issues we commonly encounter regarding fire protection equipment. Check this list to see if you may have similar exposures. Have defects corrected promptly and use a qualified third party as required by code and or local jurisdiction. When in doubt about your requirements, contact your local fire authority.

Portable fire extinguishers:

  1. Insufficient numbers on site.
  2. not currently inspected (required annually and done by a third party).
  3. not mounted or signed or re-located but not mounted or signed.
  4. equipment access blocked.
  5. not found on mobile equipment (such as forklifts).

Fire sprinkler systems:

  1.           not currently inspected.
  2.           data tags or plates missing from fire risers
  3.           fire sprinkler head wrench not found or located with spare heads.
  4.           storage of materials closer than 18” from ceiling-mounted heads.
  5.           fire monitoring panel not inspected or in fault mode.
  6.           fire sprinkler heads missing escutcheons.
  7.          fire riser faults such as: unchained valves (in lieu of an electronic valve monitoring).
  8.           lack of current flow testing in wet pipe systems.
  9.           automatic fire doors propped open.

What Makes an EHS Program Successful?

Here are some more thoughts on the management of environmental, health and safety programs. Back in March, I mentioned that management approval and consistent support was a key to success (See also our post for 3-19-15). That’s a good start, but only a part of a successful program. Questions to ask yourself when examining and measuring the relative success of your management system:

  1. have you set realistic goals and objectives?
  2. what are your goals and objectives based on?
  3. are program elements concise, clear and easy to comprehend?
  4. have employees and managers been adequately trained on program elements?
  5. are employees and managers following program elements?
  6. are there defined consequences for not meeting desired program outcomes?
  7. are goals and objectives regularly reviewed along with progress and outcomes, and are those program elements made according to requirements and your business reality?

As a company, there are valuable success measures besides brand recognition and customer desire for your goods and services. You are only as good as your bottom line and longevity in the marketplace. Compliance problems can interfere with operations and can even bring undesired fiscal results and/or marketplace notoriety. That’s a fancy way of saying that not meeting regulatory and/or internal requirements can be costly.

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