Toolbox Talk: Unsafe Acts

Most of us know that accidents are caused by only two things – unsafe acts or practices, and unsafe conditions. Some of us even know that 9 out of 10 accidents are the result of unsafe acts, or things we do when we know better. This is kind of strange if you think about it:

 We have more to fear from our own actions than from any other job hazards around us.

Why do we deliberately expose ourselves to injury every day?

“It Won’t Happen To Me”

Basically, most of us are just thinking about getting the job done and we tend to rationalize the risk of getting injured. We think to ourselves that we have done this job many, many times this way and nothing bad has happened. Therefore, nothing bad will happen to us today. On an intellectual level, we realize there is a potential danger but decide that the risk of being injured is low. Because we have not been injured so far, we actually think of ourselves as being very safety conscious. We know the right way to do it, we realize that it is hazardous to do it this way, but what we are really thinking to ourselves is “it won’t happen to me.”

We Take Short Cuts

Some of us are fairly meticulous about following safe work practices, but because a job “will only take a minute” we use an unsafe method or tool. For example, not putting on our safety glasses because the job will only take a minute, or not locking out a machine because an adjustment will only take a second.

Usually we think about it just before we do something a little unsafe, or maybe quite a bit unsafe. We know better, we know the safe way to do it, but we take that little chance. In effect we are saying, “I know that this could result in an injury, but “it can’t happen to me.” Maybe it’s human nature to think that accidents always happen to someone else, but they can happen to you too. What makes you different?

Why take a chance in the first place? Only you can decide to take the time to do your job safely and correctly the first time.

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July Newsletter Now Available

The IEC-KYIN July Newsletter is here!

Click the link below to access it.

IEC Newlsetter July 2016

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Toolbox Talk: Gasoline Safety

Gasoline is the most common flammable liquid manufactured and used. Because virtually everyone uses gasoline it is often assumed that everyone is familiar with it’s dangerous properties. However, as familiarity breeds contempt (or at least carelessness) it may be a good idea to review this highly hazardous material. Here are some brief but important items to remember when dealing with gasoline.

  • Gasoline as a liquid does not burn. It is the vapors that the liquid gives off that burns.

  • Vapors usually can not be seen but frequently travel long distances to a source of ignition. Thus the gasoline can be located a great distance from an actual ignition source.

  • Gasoline gives off enough vapor to flash, when exposed to an external ignition source at temperatures as low as -45°F! In other words, hazardous vapors are almost always being released-unless you work in temperatures colder than -45°F.

  • Gasoline vapors are heavier than air. Vapors will settle to the ground and flow similar to a liquid. This is why gasoline vapors tend to find their way into drains, sewer lines, basements and other low spots.

  • Gasoline must be mixed with air before it can burn. It does not take much gasoline to make an ignitable mixture. If the gas-to-air mixture contains as little as 1.4% gasoline by volume, it can be ignited with explosive force.

  • It has been said that the potential energy in a one gallon can of gasoline is equal to numerous sticks of dynamite.

  • A gasoline/air mixture can be ignited by a hot surface, a smoldering object such as a cigarette, an open flame, or even a static spark.

  • Practice good hygiene after handling gasoline. Wash hands and other areas that may have come in contact with gasoline. Avoid prolonged inhalation of vapors as gasoline contains benzene, a known carcinogen.

What can you do to avoid a gasoline disaster? The following tips are good advice when handling or using gasoline.

  • Never use gasoline for anything other than it’s intended purpose, as a fuel. Never use it as a cleaning solvent!

  • Store gasoline in approved safety containers.

  • Never smoke when anywhere near gasoline. Shut off all equipment before refueling and allow it to cool off first. Inspect all fuel hoses, pipes and pumps frequently. Fix leaks now!

Gasoline was chosen as a fuel for the same reasons that make it so dangerous. It is easily vaporized, easy to ignite and explodes powerfully when ignited. Never let yourself become complacent around this volatile liquid that we use everyday.

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Toolbox Talk: House-Keeping is Safe-Keeping at Work

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Never has this phrase been so true as when it comes to housekeeping at work. The negative impressions and implications of poor housekeeping can affect you and co-workers for a long time to come. Morale is lowered for most people who must function every day in a messy, disorderly work environment, although they may not be aware of the cause. Safety is an even more critical issue. If your housekeeping habits are poor, the result may be employee injuries-or even death, citations by OSHA (or another regulatory agency), and even difficulty in securing future work. How can such a “minor” issue have such serious consequences?

Here are some results of poor housekeeping practices:

  • Injuries, when employees trip, fall, strike or are struck by out-of-place objects;

  • Injuries from using improper tools because the correct tool can’t be found;

  • Lowered production because of the time spent maneuvering over and around someone else’s mess, and time spent looking for proper tools and materials;

  • Time spent investigating and reporting accidents that could have been avoided;

  • Fires due to improper storage and disposal of flammable or combustible materials and wastes;

  • Substandard quality of finished products because of production schedule delays, damaged or defective finishes, ill-equipped employees, etc.;

  • Lack of future work due to a reputation for poor quality;

  • “Wall-to-wall” OSHA inspections due to the “first impression” of the compliance officer.

General housekeeping rules to remember are:

  • Clean up after yourself. Pick up your trash and debris and dispose of it properly, or place it where it will not pose a hazard to others. Institute a routine cleaning schedule.

  • Keep your work area clean throughout the day. This will minimize the amount of time needed to clean a “larger mess” at the end of the day.

  • Dispose of combustibles and flammables properly. If improperly discarded, they will increase the potential for a fire.

  • Remove protruding nails and other sharp objects or hammer them flat to prevent someone from stepping on them or snagging themselves.

  • Stack materials and supplies orderly and secure them so they won’t topple.

Do you value your health and safety, your work reputation, as well as your future employment? If you do, practice these general housekeeping rules.An uncluttered workplace shows respect for those who work there. Help keep it that way!

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Toolbox Talk: Hazard Recognition

It should go without saying that workers do not intentionally injure themselves. Unfortunately, many workers are seriously injured each year and many people still believe that accidents “just happen.” But accidents do not just happen!

What Goes Wrong?

Usually, an error that is within the control of one or more people is at the bottom of things. Often, several errors take place, at the same time, for an accident to occur. So when we analyze accidents, we should focus on which aspects of a task were controlled and which were not. Assuming that workers have been properly trained and all the proper materials and tools were available, what else can go wrong? A lot! Accidents are most frequently due to haste and poor planning.

Don’t Take Safety Shortcuts

When workers get out on the job with a supervisor monitoring their output, they are expected to achieve production goals. If they feel their job is on the line, they may take pay less attention to safety than to production, in order to look better in the eyes of the boss. This often means poor choices are made that put them and co-workers at risk. Many accidents happen in just this manner. And these incidents have a negative impact on production, because dealing with them requires valuable time and money.

Plan Ahead!

It is an employee’s responsibility to work safely, and that means taking time to review what is to be done and what could go wrong. All employees should make it a habit to check out the site and assure the work can be done without mishaps. It helps to remember the Five Ps:

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance!

Identify Hazards!

The following questions should be asked, to help predict what could go wrong and how risks might be controlled:

  • Is the site and the job the same as depicted on the prints?

  • Are the necessary materials available to perform the work?

  • Does everyone have the proper tools to perform the tasks at hand?

  • Are there enough workers to handle the job? Have they all had safety training?

  • Are environmental conditions such as light, noise and weather a factor?

  • Are there too many people in the area to work safely?

  • Have other subs on the job been notified about hazardous tasks or materials?

Don’t wait for accidents to occur! Think and plan ahead!

Anticipate, Evaluate, and Control Hazards!

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June Newsletter Now Available

The June Newsletter is here!

Click the link to access it:

IEC Newsletter June

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Toolbox Talk: Heat Stress

Summer is fast approaching, so it’s more important than ever to be knowledgeable about heat stress and heat stroke. Although summer heat is the largest cause of heat distress disorder, it may also occur when workers are exposed to confined areas such as pipelines, shipboard spaces with limited ventilation, and any confined area involving welding or cutting.

Symptoms

The symptoms of heat stress disorders are very slow to start, but increase in intensity if precautions are not taken. The onsets of the initial symptoms are mild and usually involve headaches, thirst, and tiredness.

Heat stress can move to heat stroke, a life-threatening medical emergency, quickly when the body’s natural cooling system breaks down and causes the body core temperature to rise and overheat the brain. Some of the symptoms of heat stroke are immense thirst, severe headaches, disorientation, dry/hot skin (no sweating) and possibly collapse.

Treatment/Prevention

The following ideas may aid in combating heat stress disorders:

1. Employees accustomed to working in the heat are better candidates for job assignments where heat stress disorders may occur.

2. Until employees acclimate to the high temperatures, allow them to take frequent breaks to cool down.

3. Employees should be rotated from the exposure area to a non-exposure area on a regular basis to help in avoiding heat stress symptoms.

4. Employees should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids (water, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) to replace electrolytes. Employees should not drink any carbonated beverages (Coke, Pepsi, etc.) as these only increase dehydration and give a false sense of being properly hydrated. Also, the use of alcohol the evening before the work shift, can lead to dehydration even before heat exposure.

If an employee appears to be suffering from heat stress disorder, remove him or her from the heat and provide a cool, shaded place to rest. If the employee is disoriented or non-responsive, call for medical attention immediately.

The goal is to recognize the hazards and symptoms of heat stress disorders and stop them before they occur. Remember, there is no better cure than prevention, and heat stress disorders can occur in winter as well as summer.

Learn more about heat illness from OSHA:

Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers

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Toolbox Talk: General Safety

*To wrap up National Electrical Safety Month, let’s review some general safety concerns. Remember, you can also access several new Toolbox Talks at IEC National’s website.

An effective Accident Prevention Program should include the defined responsibilities for management, supervisors, and employees. Management, by law, has responsibility for the safety and health of all employees as well as providing a safe workplace. Supervisors have responsibility for providing a safe work place as well as managing the production issues. Now we need to address employee responsibilities and what those entail.

Employers and supervisors should expect the employees to be responsible. This starts with getting to work on time, working safely through the day, and addressing concerns to their supervisor.

Suggested Areas of Responsibility

Employees are responsible to:

  • Listen and learn from any training. Be an active participant in learning a job skill or safety issue.

  • Ask for assistance if the training or instruction is not clear or you don’t feel comfortable in performing the task correctly and safely.

  • Report unsafe acts and near misses immediately. Especially if the unsafe act is on going. This will help keep the workplace safe for everyone.

  • Address problems with the supervisor ASAP. BUT always try to give solutions to every problem. (You may understand more than the supervisor about the problem and how to fix it.)

  • Re-address issues with the supervisor on un-resolved topics discussed in the past. (The supervisor may have forgotten about those topics.)

  • Be an active member in the safety of the workplace. Participate in Safety Committee Meetings, Safety Meetings, and when trained on a safety issue.

These are just a few areas employees should be responsible for. The list is endless. Try to develop other areas to assist in safety and production. Bring these areas to the supervisor’s attention and expect an answer. This input should be appreciated.

The name of this game is clear and open communication between management, supervisors and employees. The lack of communication is also one of the largest problems faced today in any workplace. Don’t let this happen to you and your company. Be responsible to see that it doesn’t.

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Toolbox Talk: Ladder Safety

Knowledge of ladder safety is extremely important for electricians. To learn the ABCs of portable ladder safety, check out IEC National’s latest toolbox talk on their National Electrical Safety page. Then, take a look at some tips from us here at IEC-KYIN:

Before setting up a ladder, inspect it for defects.

  • Make sure the latches on the extension ladders are secured before climbing.

  • Never use a ladder with split or missing rungs.

  • Never use a ladder with grease, oil or any other slippery substance on the rungs or rails.

  • Defective ladders that cannot be repaired on the spot must be tagged and removed.

  • Make sure the ladder feet move freely and are slip resistant.

The ladder should extend three feet over the top of the building and be secured.

  • If the ladder is not tall enough to extend three feet over then it must be tied off, and there must be a secure grab rail.

For every four feet of building height, the base of the ladder should be set one foot away from the building.

  • Set the ladder on firm ground and make sure that it is secure.

  • Concrete and compact soil are an ideal surfaces.

  • Avoid unstable rocks, loose sand, mud and ice.

  • If the ladder does not have slip resistant feet, dig a sma

  • ll trench and place the base of the ladder in the trench to keep it from slipping.

  • Follow safe work practices for climbing and carrying ladders.

  • Keep at least one hand on the ladder at all times when climbing up or down.

  • Face the ladder when climbing in either direction.

  • Keep ladders, especially metal ones, away from overhead power lines.

  • Get help when moving heavy ladders.

Ladder Safety Training Tip

  • When training others about ladder safety, emphasize the danger of a mistake as simple as accidentally hitting a power line with a metal ladder. Explain that electricity will cause muscles to contract so that the employee cannot let go of the ladder, and also explain that no one can help him or her because helpers will get electrocuted as well. This is often a fatal accident.

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Toolbox Talk: Understanding Electricity and Breaker Panels

The process of forcing electrons to move through a material creates electricity. A standard generator performs this process. The best material for carrying electricity is a “conductor.” Most metals are excellent conductors and the most common material used for electrical wiring is copper. In order to provide protection from direct contact with the conductor, an “insulator” is used as a cover around the conductor. Electrons will not move easily through insulators such as most plastics and rubber. Insulators and proper grounding help to prevent electrical shocks.

Typically, electricity is provided to your building or facility by way of underground or overhead power lines originating from a nearby electrical power plant. The power lines feed into your electrical breaker panel(s). Each breaker in a panel represents a circuit supplying electricity to a designated area of your building. The majority of your electrical safety considerations begin at the breaker panel. Here are some basic safety considerations for all panels:

  • The breaker panel should be readily and easily accessible at all times. Do not store any items on the floor area directly in front of the panel. Maintain an aisle in front of the panel that is at least three feet wide.

  • The panel should have a closed cover. The cover should not be locked unless work is in progress requiring that the cover be locked as part of the lock out procedure.

  • The panel should have a directory index identifying each individual circuit breaker. It is usually found secured to the inside face of the cover. The directory should identify the various receptacles, general area, or equipment serviced by each circuit breaker.

  • There should not be any missing breakers or other openings in the breaker face plate that would allow you to contact the “hot” electrical bus at the back of the panel. Openings could also allow dust or dirt to accumulate inside the panel box interior. This dust may damage the breakers to the point where they will not “trip” when needed.

  • Breakers should never be taped or otherwise secured in the “closed” (on) position. Each circuit breaker and circuit are rated for a maximum amount of amperes. An ampere is the unit for measuring the rate of flow of electricity through the circuit. If the rate of flow in the circuit exceeds the designated maximum for the breaker, the breaker “trips” and stops the flow of electricity. If the breaker is not allowed to trip, insulators could melt from excessive conductor heat caused by electricity flowing too fast! Fires or increased exposure to shock may also occur.

  • Lastly, breakers should not be taped in the “open” position as a means of de-energizing the circuit during repair or maintenance activity. Open breakers should be properly tagged or locked out.

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