“Be Prepared”, the Boy Scout Motto. The start of September marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month. As a cub scout leader I try and instill the same motto in my scouts. Sometimes I wonder if they get it but that is sometimes the same case for myself and even for my co-workers as we go through trainings to be better equipped. As an Eagle Scout I do my best to be prepared in all situations in my professional career and my personal life. This comes in quite valuable in any profession especially the Safety and Health Field. When all the proper planning and preparation is taken everything just seems to fall into place.
In order to prepare for any situation you need to perform your risk assessment. We all do this even if we don’t realize it in everything we do. Some refer to it as common sense. We don’t smoke or make phone calls while pumping gas. This is done in an effort to prevent explosions at the pump. We also put on our seat belt when we get in a car. No one thinks each time they get in a car they will be in a wreck but they know that the potential is there. The chances are extremely high that you will be in a crash or collision. In fact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 3,382 fatalities for 2013. The most dangerous thing we all do is in our commute.
The first step is that you had to admit there is a problem. One main problem is that in construction with multiple disciplines on every jobsite in adverse conditions we makeup one of the most dangerous professions. Add on working next to and with the public while distracted driving occurs daily and things are not sounding good. I tell every new employee whether young, old or in between that this job can be dangerous if done improperly and I quote every football coach I had ever had with every orientation and most jobsites I visit “Keep your head on a swivel.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics in their revisions to the 2013 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries counts from April 2015 reports an increase of 32 fatal work injuries from previously anticipated, 3 percent higher than in 2012 is. Also reported is an increase of 25 cases of fatal injuries for slips, trips and falls. The total number of contractors fatally injured on the job tallied at 749 for the 2013 work year. The fatal incident rate per 100,000 full-time workers is 9.7 only surpassed by a few other industries.
My time spent in manufacturing is dramatically different than some days on the roadway jobsite. In manufacturing I had fewer variables and you can typically enact more control over your varying hazards and you usually have the same crew day after day. Typically on jobsites you can end up with the onsite team working together being exposed to all the same potential hazards performing non-routine tasks all to reach the same goal of finishing the job especially this year concerning all the rainfall. Our jobsites are daily opportunities to improve the safety culture of our crews and company.
So here are some helpful items for reaching your goal of “0”. The risk assessment earlier mentioned is one of many keys to success. You first must know what potential hazards are there. This is easily done by your SOP’s, JSA’s, VOP’s. These are your Standard Operating Procedure, Job Safety Analysis and Visual Operating Procedure. You can break down each step and identify the risks. These all work in conjunction with each other. They get better with the synergy created together. One feeds into the next. I have found they are performed best with a team of co-workers directly involved with the task and then obviously reviewed by everyone. You then have your baseline for your needs addressed. This takes a tremendous amount of effort but when done well, a new employee from the same or different industry can come in and be prepared to perform the task required safely and effectively.
During your assessment several questions to review are: What could happen while I am doing this? What is the likelihood of this actually occurring? What other potential hazards are around me in my environment.
Other preparation concerns are. How well prepared are you and your company in case of an emergency? Are first aid kits available for all employees? Do you have enough supplies in the first aid kit that could possibly be needed? Most importantly are your employees trained? Effective training, Effective training and more effective training are a core component to safety. You cannot be everywhere supervising every task so it is necessary to equip your employees to perform their work safely.
Other core components of safety are accountability and culture. Accountability is hopefully had by your employees or recognized by them and it is critical to everyone’s job to be accountable for success of their duties and their project. “Culture” is a common word that I have heard since my entry into the workforce as a laborer and a young employee and I initially did not embody the idea but after seeing it time and time again succeed with the right program in place I am a firm believer. However it does take time to establish, nurture and drive the success of culture home.
None of the items mentioned are an easy item to accomplish alone or together. They are keys to driving success and being prepared is essential to that. Sometimes safety professionals can be seen as over cautious or impinging work but usually when something goes wrong in the majority of cases I have seen through root cause analysis that once it starts going downhill it continues. I encourage you to review your policies and programs annually to make them better in utilizing them. If you don’t have some of the things I mentioned initiate them today. It seems as if there is an infinite amount of resources available today online relatively available. Our goal as an industry should always be “0” injuries. So help yourself and your co-workers to “Be Prepared”.