Do workers account for margin of error?

by on March 20, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

How well do your workers recognize hazards? Even if your company doesn’t do formal job-hazard analyses, it’s always a good idea to get them in the habit of asking, “How much leeway do I have if something goes wrong?”

Example: In Middletown, OH, a veteran, skilled worker was repairing a pipe while standing on a lift. He didn’t lock the lift in place, so when he leaned back to get a better look, he accidentally hit the controls to raise the lift.

But he had no margin for error: As the lift rose, he couldn’t get out. He was crushed to death between pipe and lift.

To get workers used to recognizing hazards, consider the following options:

  1. Remind workers what procedures are for. If workers don’t know why a safety step’s in place, they’re likely to consider it an opportunity for a shortcut. In the above example, the worker clearly forgot the purpose of locking controls in place.
  2. Get workers in the habit of identifying escape routes. Quiz workers on the job how they plan to react if something happens. “How do you plan to escape if the machine starts up?” “What happens if the equipment fails?” If workers know you’ll ask those types of questions, they’re more likely to think about the answers when you’re not there.
  3. Don’t let them off the hook. Habits take time to build. Continue asking workers about the reasons for procedures and their planned reactions in case something goes wrong. Consider brainstorming at safety meetings, to give the whole crew an opportunity to think more deeply about hazard recognition and margin of error.

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