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January 2017 Safety Topic
According to the US Coast Guard: “Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.”
Situational awareness is taught in programs such as personal safety protection and active shooter training. But this applies just as easily to industrial and physical safety issues. Think about walking into a room that smells funny or driving a car that’s making a different noise. Your sense of smell, hearing and eyesight serve as sensory feedback that something around you has changed. Change can be good or it can be bad. You need to be aware enough to recognize the hazard and decide how to act.
Than funny smell might be a natural gas leak that can lead to a fire or explosion. You really don’t want to be around when that happens. Or that noise might be a tire about to explode which will result in very exciting consequences.
The fortunate thing is that our senses can tell us when something is not quite right and allow us to make a judgement to leave the area, call for help, shut down a machine, stop a process etc. Even if the decision to stop and evaluate turns out to be a false alarm, it’s still much better than the alternative.
I heard a story recently about an asphalt batch plant which was old but in good repair. One day a very loud noise was heard coming from the top feed bin. The foreman evacuated all of the crew from the area. Before the plant could be completely shut down a shaft holding a very large pulley broke, allowing the pulley to hit the ground and roll several hundred feet before stopping against a pile of feed material. The pulley was properly guarded but the weight and force of the failure was too great for the guard. No one was hurt because the foreman believed his situational awareness.
If something does not look, sound, feel or smell right then stop and investigate. That act may save your or someone else’s life, not to mention injuries and property damage.
Winter and Seasonal Safety
First, lets talk about cooking all that delicious holiday food! Many people don’t cook many elaborate dishes during the year but indulge this time of year. Do you remember to set a timer when you put something in the oven? An over-cooked turkey will be dry and tasteless or a burned pie is in-edible. And that usually happens when all the stores are closed or you don’t have time to thaw another bird and you have a bunch of guests waiting to be fed. So here is a handy graphic from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) that has some helpful information.
Its sure nice to have extra heat in a room or area and a popular means is to add a space heater. Did you know that more than 65,000 home fires are attributed to space heaters according to ESFi. Click here to see a space heater safety video
Heating Pads and Electric Blankets
According to ESFi “Heating pads and electric blankets cause almost 500 fires each year. Almost all of these fires involve electric blankets that are more than ten years old.” And ESFi gives some safety tips on how to safely use an electric blanket or heating pad as follows:
- Look for dark, charred, or frayed spots or one where the electric cord is cracked or frayed. Replace any worn or old heating pad or electric blanket.
- Do not allow anything on top of a heating pad or electric blanket when it is in use. When covered by anything, including other blankets or pets, electric blankets may overheat.
- Never fold electric blankets when in use. Folded or tucked in blankets could overheat and cause a fire.
- Heating appliances should never be left unattended or used while sleeping.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Again ESFi reports that “Every year, over 200 people in the United States die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Several thousand more are treated in hospital emergency rooms for treatment for CO poisoning.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is created when common fuels such as natural gas, oil, wood or coal burn incompletely. This odorless, colorless, tasteless gas is often called the “silent killer” because it is virtually undetectable without the use of detection technology like a CO alarm.”
During power outages and as temporary power for locations like hunting cabins a portable generator is a real asset. However you need to be sure to use them properly since they can be hazard sources. They can produce high levels of carbon monoxide gas which can make you sick or, worse yet, kill you.
Here are some safety statistics from ESFi on portable generators:
Facts and Statistics
- 739 carbon monoxide deaths associated with portable generators were reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the years from 1999-2012. Another 61 fatalities were associated with both a generator and another consumer product (one involved both a generator and another engine-driven tool).
- 69% of the fatalities known to have occurred in the home and involving generators occurred when a generator was placed in the living area or basement of the home. Another 24% occurred when a generator was used inside an attached garage or shed.
- Power outages, most commonly weather-related, were the single most common reason for generator usage that resulted in a non-fire CO fatality, accounting for 30% of fatalities.
50% of all portable generator-related carbon monoxide deaths occurred during the winter months (November – February).
Please see this helpful tip sheet on portable generators
Finally lets talk about electrical safety with regard to all those beautiful holiday lights. According to ESFi and the National Fire Protection Association, 860 home fires caused by holiday decorations occur each year. An additional 210 home fires are caused by Christmas trees per year. Follow these steps to ensure you decorate your home safely during the winter holidays. Here’s a checklist from ESFi and a handy tip sheet
- Make sure all extension cords and electrical decorations are marked for proper use
- Outdoor electrical lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)
- Inspect all lights, decorations, and extension cords for damage before using
- Exercise caution when decorating near power lines. Keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet from power lines
- Turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. They can overheat and cause a fire
- Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights together
- Water your Christmas tree daily
- Keep all decorations at least 3 feet away from heating equipment or an open flame
- Purchase electrical decorations from reputable retailers and that are approved by a national recognized testing lab such as UL, Intertek, or CSA
Eye Safety and Health
ISHN (Industrial Safety & Hygiene News) Update for November has several articles related to eye health and safety.
Age-related Vision Problems: “Unfortunately, the eyes, like much of the rest of the body, become more
susceptible to disease and other issues as we get older. Some problems are
serious and can lead to blindness, if left untreated.” (Read more)
“According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly half of all
serious eye injuries occur at home …
- Cleaning. Chemicals like bleach in household cleaning products cause 125,000 eye injuries each year.
- Home Improvement. Screws, nails and hand tools can become projectiles, while power tools can
propel wood chips or other substances into the air.
- Yard Work. Lawn mowers, trimmers and even shovels can throw dirt and debris into the air, and
branches, twigs and thorns can also be dangerous.” (Read more)
How to Eye Injuries Happen to Workers?
“The majority of eye injuries result from small particles or objects striking or scraping the eye, such as: dust, cement chips, metal slivers, and wood chips. These materials are often ejected by tools, windblown, or fall from above a worker.” (Read More)
In the blink of an Eye:
Even a minor injury to the cornea—like that from a small particle of dust or debris—can be painful and become a life-long issue, so take the extra precaution and always protect the eyes. If the eye is injured, seek emergency medical help immediately
Doing work that may produce particles, slivers, or dust from materials like wood, metal, plastic, cement, and drywall
Hammering, sanding, grinding, or doing masonry work
Working with power tools
Working with chemicals,including common household chemicals like ammonia, oven cleaners, and bleach
Using a lawnmower, riding mower, or other motorized gardening devices like string trimmers (also called “weed wacker” or “weed whip”) … and more
…when participating in certain sports,including:
Indoor racket sports, Paintball, Baseball, Basketball
Hockey, Cycling … and more. (Read more)
Eye Injuries at work cost more than $300 million per year:
Thousands of people are blinded each year from work-related eye injuries that
could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face
protection. Eye injuries alone cost more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and worker compensation.
OSHA requires employers to ensure the safety of all employees in the work environment. Eye and face protection must be provided whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological or mechanical irritants and hazards. (Read more)
Distracted Driving and Walking
Fire Science and Safety
What follows is a section from NFPA 921
According to NFPA 921, “A combustion reaction can be characterized by four components: the fuel, the oxidizing agent, the heat and the uninhibited chemical chain reaction… Fires can be prevented or suppressed by controlling or removing one of the sides of the tetrahedron.” Fire Triangle was the traditional diagram with Fuel, Oxidation and Ignition Sources. This diagram uses Heat in place of Ignition and adds the Chemical Reaction factor.
The following figures show the growth of a fire and eventually flash over.
Then watch this video from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) showing staged Fires in a Christmas Tree, Sofa and Office Cubical. While this is dramatic it is not graphic. These show clearly why you should crawl on your hands and knees to an exit a fire unless you have proper PPE.