Learning Curves: Safety Topics - April 2019 Week 4


Monday, April 22

If You Do Something New Make Sure to Review

Every day can present a new challenge. That challenge may not directly affect you personally, but it may affect someone on your team and become your indirect responsibility. When it comes to a new challenge, most often we think about a change in our work tasks. That “learning curve” can be a dangerous time, as we have to think harder and focus more on the task at hand, which may open us up to new safety hazards. That may be true, but other new challenges can affect our safety as well: new employees, new environments, new equipment, new training and even new weeks. This week we’ll talk about how to remind ourselves, “If you do something new make sure to review.”

New Employees

New employees are commonly viewed as a liability to a company or jobsite when it comes to safe working. One study found that new employees are three times more likely to suffer a lost time injury than employees with at least a year of on the job experience. While new employees are at higher risk at getting injured, much of that depends on the other employees and the work site itself.

A new employee often wants to follow all the safety rules especially if they see other do the same. They may be able to recognize hazards onsite that go unnoticed and share unique lessons learned from previous jobs. That being said, measures should still be taken to ensure new employees perform work safely.

  • Training- Even if a new employee has many years of experience at another company, a new job means new training.
  • Mentoring- Many companies use some type of mentoring program to ensure that new employees have someone to go to for guidance. This makes a new employee more comfortable in approaching an experienced employee with any questions.
  • Supervision- Newer employees or employees in new roles need supervision; however, it does not always need to come from the employee’s immediate supervisor. Depending on the task, a senior employee may be more beneficial in supervising newer employees. Just like mentoring, a newer employee may feel more comfortable being supervised by someone else other than their immediate supervisor.

While new employees can be a short-term liability to a company, they also can serve as a great asset to everyone around them. The odds of a new employee avoiding an injury greatly depend on those around them. Everyone starts somewhere and needs guidance in the beginning. Watch out for those around you and never hesitate to help out a new employee.

Tuesday, April 23

New Equipment

Every single day new technologies and equipment are introduced into the marketplace. These technologies and equipment eventually make it to our workplaces. It is important to fully understand new tools before working with them. New equipment is often a source for injury on the job. The complexity of the equipment and what it is used for dictates what needs to be addressed before it is put into service. We will discuss a few basic guidelines of what needs to happen before a new piece of equipment or process is put into place.

Have a representative from the supplier or distributor work with an internal employee who is familiar with the process so you have both an equipment expert and a process expert. Involving these important perspectives before purchasing the equipment better ensures that all aspects are thought about and helps determine if the new equipment fits the company’s needs.

Review all the relevant paperwork for the piece of equipment. These include the operator’s manual, safety guidelines, and technical sheets which are good tools to have in the development of the Job Hazard Analysis.  Having a checklist for new equipment implementation is a great practice.  It should include the guarding, electrical, preventative maintenance, training, and troubleshooting protocols being established as well as basic functionality of any safety controls such as E-stops and interlocks.

Remember “If you do something new make sure to review.”

Wednesday, April 24

Questions to Ask Before a New Work Task

There are many steps involved in getting a job accomplished safely. There are also many different questions we should ask ourselves and those involved in a work task to ensure we are safely working.

Prior to starting a work task, run through physical or mental checklists. There are often questions that need answering to ensure that everything is in line prior to work beginning. Some examples of questions that can be asked:

  • Do I understand the work task?
  • Do I understand the associated hazards?
  • Do I understand how to respond to equipment malfunction?
  • Do I have the necessary training needed for the task?
  • Are necessary equipment checklists complete?
  • Do I have all the tools needed to do the job?

There are also other questions you can ask yourself regarding your state of mind prior to a task beginning. It is important to do a self-check to ensure you are able to complete your work to the best of your ability and as safely as possible. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I stressed?
  • Is my focus on the work task?
  • Is fatigue, medication, or illness affecting my work?

Asking these questions is not enough on its own; you must take action. If you find a deficiency in the paperwork needed to complete a work task, stop and get the necessary paperwork completed before proceeding. When completing a self-check, if you find that your focus is not on the task, find out how to fix it. Is it a simple phone call home? Is it changing the work area for better focus? Regardless of the issue, find a solution prior to beginning work. Don’t settle for distractions or unsafe conditions in the name of production.

Discussion point: What other questions are important to help us work safely?

Thursday, April 25

Long Breaks

One risk factor for an increased likelihood of injury is working after an extended break. Statistics show that workplace injuries are more common on a Monday than any other day of the week. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that since 2007, Mondays have had the highest number of workplace injuries.

Why is the First Day of Work Back More Dangerous?

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides injury data where we can see that more injuries occur on Mondays, they do not give an explanation why. A multitude of possibilities can cause more injuries occur on the first day back to work. Lack of focus or attention is an obvious reason but here are other possibilities to consider:

  • Mondays are commonly lower energy days for many individuals. Sometimes this can lead to lower worker morale which can cause employee carelessness while performing a task.
  • Issues in an employee’s personal life create stress and become a distraction. Recent issues can remove an employee’s focus off important tasks.
  • Especially in the first few hours of the shift, Mondays are hectic and busier than other times of the week.

Before you get to work, check in with yourself to make sure you are fit to start your shift. Ensure your head is in the game and your focus is on your work. Inspect your work area and any tools and equipment before using them. Take the time and energy to ensure all the necessary safeguards are in place for your work tasks and look out for your coworkers.

Discussion point: Why might the first day back to work here create more hazards?

Friday, April 26

Continual Learning

Continual learning and improvement is critical for success in any area of our lives. Having a mindset that aims towards growth separates stagnant employees from those who make create opportunities for themselves. Continually learning new things and expanding your knowledge shapes you into a safer and more efficient worker. A fixed mindset not only holds an individual back from better opportunities but can lead to injuries on the job.

Change is inevitable. Many workers stay in the same field for many years, but think how different the same workplace was just a decade ago. Workers who want to hold on to the old days and fight change at every single turn get left behind. Not only does your career suffer from not embracing change, but you can also be more at risk for injury. With more emphasis on workplace safety, most companies have transitioned into using safer equipment and implementing safer work practices. When individuals do not embrace these changes, they put themselves and everyone around them at risk for injury.  Ultimately, these changes are to move the company forward and make it safer.  The employees should be grateful for that.

The workplace is always evolving. Most changes are made for the greater good of everyone involved. There are times when new changes can lead to unnecessary risk, but the majority of changes do not as long as proper training is done. Be a worker who is open to continually learning and embracing change. “If you do something new make sure to review.”

Tags: safety topics , behavior based safety , osha training basics ,

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