Conditions that make alarms useless

by on January 12, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

How well do your workers respond to safety (not security) alarms? The answer could make the difference between a minor incident and a tragedy.

Here are some reasons people don’t respond quickly to alarms:

  1. Background noise
    In a recent case, a worker was killed when she didn’t hear a truck backing up toward her. She was working on a noisy loading dock at the time, and the alarm didn’t rise above the noise of other vehicles and heavy equipment in the area.Solution: Remind workers not to rely too heavily on sound alarms – they need to remain aware of their surroundings at all times.
  2. 2. Too common
    If alarms sound too often, workers may ignore them, just as the villagers started to ignore the boy who cried wolf. In one plant, alarms indicating materials were misaligned went off frequently, causing some workers to tune them out. That was because the alarms were too sensitive to misalignment. Workers didn’t believe they were really at risk, or thought they could handle it with a slight adjustment.Solution: Talk to your safety director if workers have too many alarms to respond to. Not all equipment alarms may be necessary or calibrated properly.
  3. 3. ‘Not my responsibility’
    Workers may ignore alarms if they think “someone else” will handle the situation.
    Solution: Training. Make sure workers know who is responsible for responding to each alarm, and how they should respond (e.g., shut down the machine, replace the machine guard).

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