How to Prevent Accidents

In practice accident prevention boils down to two basic activities; (1) reducing unsafe conditions (2) reducing unsafe acts, in large facilities the chief safety officer (often called the Environmental health and safety officer) is responsible for this. In smaller firms, various other managers including those from human resources plant management and the first line managers share these responsibilities.

Reducing unsafe conditions:

Reducing unsafe conditions is always an employer’s first line of defense in accident prevention. Safety engineers should design jobs so as to remove or reduce physical hazards. In addition, supervisors and managers play a role in reducing unsafe conditions. Checklists or the self inspection checklists can help identify and remove potential hazards.

Employers increasingly use computerized tools to design safer equipment. For example Design safe (from Design safe Engineering Ann Arbor, Michigan) helps automate the tasks of hazards analysis, risk assessment and identifying safety options. First, Design safe helps the safety designer identify the job’s main processes and sub-processes and the worker behaviors associated with each of them. It then helps the designer choose the most appropriate safety control deice or keeping the worker safe, from a list of devices such as adjustable enclosures, presence sensing devices, and personal protective equipment.

Sometimes the solution for eliminating an unsafe condition is obvious and sometimes it’s more subtle. For example, slips and falls are often the result of debris or a slippery floor. Relatively obvious remedies for problem like these include slip reducing floor coatings, floor mats, better lighting and a system to quickly block off spills. But perhaps less obviously personal safety gear can also reduce the problems associated with otherwise unsafe conditions. For example, slip resistant footwear with grooved soles can reduce slips and falls. Cut resistant gloves reduce the hazards of working with sharp objects.

Personal Protective Equipment

Getting employees to wear personal protective equipment can be a famously difficult chore. Wear ability is important. In addition to providing reliable protection and durability, protective gear should be easy to care for maintain and repair, be flexible an lightweight, provide comfort and reduce heat stress; have rugged construction, be relatively easy to put on and take of, and be easy to clean, dispose of and recycle. Including the employees in planning the safety program, reinforcing appropriate behaviors and addressing comfort issues contribute to employees’ willingness to use the protective gear.

Again, however reducing unsafe conditions (such as by enclosing noisy equipment) and having managers watch for hazards is always the employer’s first line of defense. Then come administrative controls, such as job rotation to reduce long term exposure to the hazards only then would you turn to personal equipment. The New Workforce feature below addresses a related issue.

Reducing unsafe acts – by emphasizing safety and through screening training or incentive programs for example, is the second basic way to reduce accidents. Lets look at how to do this>

Reducing unsafe acts by emphasizing safety:

As mentioned above, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to set the tone so subordinates want to work safely. This involves more than talking up safety, ensuring that workers wipe up skills, or enforcing safety rules, although such things are important. It’s also necessary to show by both word and deed that’s safety is crucial. For example, supervisors should:

1) Praise employees when they choose safe behaviors:
2) Listen when employees offer safety suggestions concerns or complaints;
3) Be a good example, for instance by following every safety rule and procedure.
4) Visit plant areas regularly,
5) Maintain open safety communications – for instance by telling employees as much as possible about activities such as testing alarms.
6) Link manager’s bonuses to safety improvements.

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