5 FACTORS THAT MAKE US ACCIDENT-PRONE

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In our everyday working environment we may come across employees who seem to sustain one injury after another. These employees are easily noticeable because they are the finishers of the band aids. They hardly go through a period without sustaining some sort of injury. We usually refer to these employees as people with ‘accident prone’ personality or accident-prone for short.

Accident proneness is a controversial subject with some safety experts associating it with certain individual traits like chronic anger, over confidence, aggressiveness etc. This, notwithstanding, there are some factors that make all of us prone to accidents in our working environment;

1. Misperception of risk. Many employees either underestimate risky situations or overestimate their ability to confront risk so much so that they disregard safety procedures at work. These employees usually end up being overwhelmed by incidence that leads to serious injury or property loss. As long as certain employees feel invulnerable to risk, they would continue to take most risk that would endanger their working conditions

2. Fatigue. Some workers due to their nature of duties have to work longer period than others. Also, increasing workloads usually force workers to work lots of overtime that make them exhausted. Employees working under exhaustion are likely to be injury prone than their counterparts who are working a normal schedule

3. Working without Complete instruction. Before an employee set off to begin a task, they should be armed with all the necessary instructions needed to complete the task safely. Employees who are not well informed and not well trained for a particular job should not be made to take on a task since it exposes them to all the dangers associated with such job. The likelihood of such employee being injured becomes very high.

4. Alcohol usage whiles at work. Employees who work whiles under the influence of alcohol are highly prone to falls, cuts and burns. Alcohol affects our balance and sense of judgement and should be avoided at all cost in our working environment.

5. Unsafe working environment. Employers are to ensure that a safe working environment is provided at all times for employees. All hazards in our working environment should properly be identified and removed. As employees, not all factors are directly in our control. It is the duty of employers to provide safe working machinery and run a proper safety programmes to ensure employees are well informed for their respective works

Accidents can be prevented from occurring if we put in place the right measures. When the measures to prevent accidents are in place but you still experience a repetition of accidents, then it‘s about time you begin to assess yourself considering the factors discussed above.

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNT FROM WORKPLACE ACCIDENTS

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In our daily routine works, accident may occur that may results in fatality, injury or property loss. Many a time when accidents occur, the question we usually ask ourselves is; “How did it happen?” To answer such question and more, accident investigation team is assembled as soon as possible and it’s tasked with finding the major cause(s) that may have led to the accident.

Having the opportunity to work with different accident investigation teams, I’ve found these characteristics very common in most accident cases. These are;

1. Every Accident is caused, they don’t just happen. We often see accident as occurrences that happen unexpectedly but fail to add that it happens through our own cause, our own faults and through the cause of the surrounding condition which we ourselves have allowed. An employee who loses a tooth due to tripping and falling might have tripped on an object which should not have been placed where it was. In such situation, it is due to the carelessness of the employee that has caused him to lose a tooth. Like Shakespeare will put it; “The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves” that we are careless.

2. Somewhere, someone decided to take shortcut. During the cause of our work, we decide it is better we complete the schedules faster and as such disregard safety procedures. This exposes us to injuries or increases our chances of getting injured. Shortcuts are very tempting. Mostly we take shortcuts that do not result in injury and as such keep repeating it till one day we run out of luck. However tempting shortcuts may look, it is a sure way of opening the doorway to accidents and as such should be avoided.

3. Failure to Read the signs. Most accidents that happen on our sites usually happen after giving indications and signs. These signs come in the form of near miss. Near miss is very easy to disregard because of their nature. They are small and often insignificant and above all don’t result in injury or property damage. Due to this, we often let them go without investing energy and time to investigate and resolve it just like we would have done if it resulted in a major accident. Every near miss is a sign post to an impending disaster and most disasters happen because we failed to read the message the near miss brought.

4. Complacency. We are mostly opened to risk not because we are not aware of safety procedures but rather our complacent attitude towards work. We think it cannot happen to us because we have more ‘experience’. Immediately we begin to believe we are immune to certain accident, we begin to disregard procedures and cut corners to complete jobs.

5. Distractions. Most often, the happenings around our working environment may cause us to be distracted. Either a colleague talking to us and the same time operating a machine or even allowing personal issues at home interfere our focus on the work at hand. Such distractions make us drop our guard and make us susceptible to risk and dangers associated with the work we are doing.

There is no one single cause of accident. Accidents on our site may be caused by combination of factors which may include some of those discussed above or even outside the realm of what has been discussed here. No matter the nature of an accident, there’s the need for an investigation that can bring out the various causes so that mitigation measures could be build to avoid future recurrence.

6 Reasons Safety Programs Fail

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Safety has always been a major concern for many organisations that wish to get more from their employees. These organisations usually come up with very great safety programs that seek to consolidate their vision of where safety should be. These safety programs usually are very rich in content and touch every aspect of work in the organisation yet after a short while, the program loses momentum and eventually dies out. The question then becomes; “what really happened?” Everything was going smoothly at first, so what actually made the program fail?

1. Lack of Clarity of Direction. Every safety program should have a direction and this direction should not be ambiguous to those it is applicable to. The targeted employees should be made aware and clearly communicated to what requires of them for the program to be successful. Many a time, a safety program is set rolling without the employees knowing what is expected of them. On some occasions too, employees are unaware of the problem the program actually seeks to solve. When this happens, employees become disinterested in the program and feel reluctant to contribute.

2. Lack of leadership. For a safety program to remain significant, the involvement of top management should be clearly seen by all employees. Management should also show commitment by offering leadership. In a situation whereby management are only interested in directing other employees and fail to show involvement, employees lose trust in the program. If it is required by the program for everyone to wear hardhats at a specific location, people in top management should also be seen using the hardhat in those locations. If managers lead, employees have little option than to follow.

3. Responsibilities have to be defined. Every employee should know what is required of them to make the program a success. Responsibilities have to be clearly assigned and line of reporting duly indicated. At any point in time, every employee should know and be ready to act the way it is expected of them.

4. No preferential treatment when an employee goes against the rules. When a rule is broken, punitive actions should follow. This should go for every employee no matter the position. It is when we become soft to certain sections of employees that order is broken.

5. Training of employees should not lack. Employees should be adequately armed to shine under the safety program. This should be in the form of giving them the required training to be able to understand and act safely at any given time. The right safety equipment should be provided at all times and be trained on how to properly use those safety equipments.

6. Encourage employees to report every incidence. Incidence reporting is the bases of accident prevention. When incidence, whether big or small, go unreported, it affects how proactive the safety program can be. Employees should not be made to feel scared to report incidence. They should be made to understand the importance of incidence reporting and how it makes it easy to prevent potential accident.

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7 WAYS OF GETTING EMPLOYEES INVOLVED WITH HEALTH AND SAFETY

Every organisOccupational_Safety_Equipmentation that has the welfare of its employees at heart has programs put in place to ensure workers are always safe as they go about with their everyday duties. These programs are usually put together by top management and push down to the floor to be followed by the employees. Most often than not, these programs fail not because it was not well structured or well instituted but rather, the employees who these programs were made for consciously or unconsciously refused to follow or be involved with these safety programs.

The question then is, “how do we get employees to be part or involved with safety programs?” There are no one answer to such question. What really works depend on a lot of factors which some are discussed below.

  1. Employees Must Be Given Health and Safety Responsibilities. Employees must know what is expected of them when it comes to safety. Just as their responsibilities are spelt out in the contract letters, safety responsibilities must also be included there in. This way, employees are always aware about the commitment they have with health and safety and the need to treat safety issues with the urgency it deserves just as they do with their duties and responsibilities.
  2. Make Employees Owners of the Safety Process. Employees must be well motivated to take part of the safety processes of the organisation and the most powerful source of motivation comes from their being able to own the process. To do this, employees must be adequately trained and given the appropriate tools and resources to be able to take charge of the process. It is only when employees are made owners of the process will the process itself survive in the long run.
  3. Encourage Employees to Report Workplace Hazards. Hazard identification and reporting is one of the backbone of every successful safety programs. Getting employees to report on workplace hazards helps them to be an input of the program. To sustain employees enthusiasm in reporting hazards, hazards reported must be duly worked on and the feedback given to the employees. When reported hazards are not rectified, employees lose interest in reporting hazards and that goes a long way to hurt safety processes.
  4. Get Workers Involved in Making safety Decisions. When workers are consulted in making safety decisions, they feel part and parcel of the whole safety programs. Their enthusiasm is sustained in the program when they realise their inputs are well respected and incorporated into safety systems. Consulting employees on issues such as PPE selection, safe systems of work and other decisions affecting their wellbeing is very essential. This can be done through safety representations, selecting delegate or volunteers from employees to give opinion on matters of health and safety
  5. Constant Marketing of Health and Safety Programs. At every opportunity and in every discussion, employees must be made aware of the ongoing health and safety programs. Every meeting can be started with a “safety share” and through that safety programs will be made known to employees. Constant selling of safety programs is essential in getting workers on their toe about health and safety issues. In every corner and in every place where workers usually gather, safety slogans can be pasted there to sensitize workers on ongoing safety campaign.
  6. Promote Health and Safety Day. A day should be chosen where employees are allowed to bring their grievances on safety on board to be discussed. On this day, majority of employees should be given the chance to talk about their observations and the way forward. This day can be the opportunity to discuss health and safety records and the improvement needed.
  7. Give Employees Safety Task. Identify leaders from the workers rank and involve them in various safety activities such safety observations, workplace inspections, and in training. Give these leaders the platform to communicate their findings to the entire workforce. Encourage others who might also want to be involved to take part in the safety task.

I’m Just Not That Into Safety Anymore

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By Rob Sams, Owner and Principal Consultant at Dolphin Safety Systems

I have spoken with a number of Managers over the past few months who have argued with me that ‘safety’ in our workplaces means that we must do everything we can to control people so that they do not hurt themselves at work. These people have said to me, “we can’t let dangerous things go untouched”; “we can’t let people make choices that may lead to them being injured” and “doing everything that is reasonably practical means that we have to have systems, and people have to follow them”.

These conversations typically end with something like “the law says that we need to provide a safe workplace, I’m not going to jail and risking my house just because someone doesn’t follow a rule. All your fluffy stuff about motivation and decision making sounds fine, but I’ve got to follow the law, so I’ll stick with implementing procedures, thanks anyway.”

If this is what ‘safety’ is all about, I’m just not that into it anymore.
If being ‘safe’ is all about controlling people in our workplaces, we need to be aware of the trade-off for controlling people’s behaviour and actions. We need to be aware that this stifles learning, and is demotivating for people who no longer have control over the decisions they make.

The need to control and fix people also creates relationships that are rigid, yet we want flexibility and mature judgement. The more we seek to control others the less we create ownership, and the more we create co-dependence and as we know co-dependence is a mental health disorder. The truth is that as we become rule focused, we shift away from empathy and become focused on compliance. Those who are attracted to compliance, rigidity and control tend not to be able to create wholesome relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. Instead, controllers ‘command’ others, ‘dictate’ to others and rarely listen. Anyone who treats another as an object will only use and abuse others and will never be respected in a mutual way.

So why is it that ‘safety’ has turned into an industry that is about control, rules, and process and less about people?

When I started in ‘safety’ in 1993, my motivation was pretty clear, I wanted to work in an industry that was all about people. But ‘safety’ seems to have changed over the years. Being in ‘safety’ now is often seen as being the ‘fun police’. So often people in safety are forced into policing and inspection roles, asked to report to management on violations and non-conformances. They are often asked to report on ‘safety numbers’ and trends. Then, when they provide this information, there is usually much debate and discussion about definitions of things like incidents and frequency rates. I know that these things frustrate many of my friends and colleagues in ‘safety’.

So many of the people I know that work in ‘safety’ got into it because they care about people, they are nurturing and kind people, they are engaging and passionate. Yet, the realities of their role mean that they rarely get to work with people and share this passion and kindness. They become known in their organisations as internal regulators, and people take a different view of them. For example, a friend wrote to me recently and shared this story:

When I introduce myself to people they usually ask the standard question; “so what do you do?” When I tell them I’m a Safety Advisor, it’s really not often that I get a positive response. Most of the time people’s faces change, and not in a good way. Their eyes scan me as though I am a different breed of a person. Sometimes they even step back slightly as if I’ve got some sort of highly communicable disease. Often they’ll say something like “oh, you’re one of those people”. Or “and you seriously enjoy that?” Or “that has got to be one of the worst jobs in the world” or “how do you enjoy all of that paperwork?”
-Safety Advisor from an International Organisation, 2014

I find this sad and disappointing, but I’m not surprised. It is hard when you are in a traditional ‘safety’ role to get away from the rigour of systems, process and control. It is expected of you, and even when you second-guess the value of this approach, it’s often easier to continue, than to try to break the nexus and change thinking. So how do people in ‘safety’ deal with these frustrations and concerns?

My friend who wrote to me, enjoys our regular catch up’s every few months where we share ideas, experiences and feelings. When they express frustrations and concerns, I don’t feel the urge or need to ‘fix them’, I don’t have to provide solutions. I just listen and ask questions that help them think through options, they need to decide what works best. For me, this is what being a friend is about, I demonstrate that I care without having to solve their problem. So sharing your thoughts with a friend who will listen, rather than solve, can be a great way to work through frustrations and concerns.

Another thing I have found to help is that, along with a number of other friends and colleagues, we’ve formed what we call a ‘Thinking Group’. A small group of us get together every 6-8 weeks and allow ourselves time to ‘think’. During these catch up’s we don’t solve problems, we don’t develop new procedures and we don’t review trends. We just pick a topic or two, and without any specific agenda, we share our thinking. This is a great way to step outside the busyness of everyday life, and away from the constant control and process of our ‘day jobs’, and use our imaginations.
I find that these are two great ways that help with deal with frustrations and concerns.

So if you can ways to work through your frustrations, what might you be able to do differently to change the way that your organisation sees ‘safety’ and limit your frustrations and concerns?

For a start, one of the methods that I have adopted is that I no longer tell people that I work in ‘safety’. I don’t want people to think that I’m interested in controlling people, policing people and reporting violations. I don’t want people to conjure up an image that I like to walk around with a check-list telling people what they are doing wrong. I don’t believe this is how you improve safety.

Instead, I tell people that I enjoy learning about how people make decisions & judgements. My work is to share this learning and help people to discern risk themselves, not for me to do it for them. My work is to coach people and ask questions, not to control them, so that they can realise themselves that they may be in danger. My job is to motivate people by providing good information in a way that helps them learn, not just nod and understand, which is typical of how ‘safety’ training is often done.

My job is to value people, their views and opinions. This often involves me helping them to think clearly. Sure there are procedures, risk assessments, investigations, however all this is done thinking first about the people who are going to be involved, not just what the law says.

My jobs is let to people have control of their own decisions.
I wonder, if you are one of those people like my friend, who are frustrated with how ‘safety’ is viewed, whether you might be able to change the way that you go about your job? If you switched controlling to supporting, would people view you differently? I’d love it if the next time my friend goes to a party that people would appreciate what they do and, even thank them, rather than alienate them.

The Use of First Aid Kits and Fire Extinguishers on Our Roads

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In Ghana, it is a requirement that all drivers (both private and commercial) should keep first aid kits in their vehicle. Also, it is a requirement for drivers to keep and maintain a fire extinguisher in their vehicles in case of fire. For these reasons, The Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (M.T.T.U) of the Ghana Police Service usually inspect these equipments in the various random check points or barriers so as to ensure that drivers are complying with these orders. People who flout the rule are usually fined or receive a warning of a certain kind.

Keeping first aid kits in a vehicle is not the problem. The problem here is; do these drivers know the reason why the first aid kits have to be kept in the car? I once had a conversation with a driver who about the use of first aid and the answers he gave me were very dangerous to say the least. I asked; why do you keep first aids in your cars?” he answered; “usually on a long journey, a passenger will complain of a headache or stomach ache. In such situations, when you have first aid, you just give the passenger some of the drugs so they can be healed.” I then asked again; “have you been trained to administer first aid?” He answered; “must one be trained before they can dispense paracetamol to someone complaining of headache? This is just an easy everyday job? These answers nearly knocked me out unconscious.

Administration of first aid is highly a trained job. When we are injured or suddenly unwell, what we want and need is someone to help us – someone who knows what to do. First aid is an emergency treatment administered to an injured or sick person before professional medical care is available. This should not be done anyhow. No untrained person has the right to attend or administer first aid to a casualty. Also, some people react badly or are allergic to certain medications as a result, one cannot administer drugs to someone without knowing their medical histories. A first aider cannot by their initiative administer drugs to a casualty. So the question is, why do we allow these drivers to administer drugs to passengers whiles on the road? Who takes care of the passenger in case the drug rather escalate the sickness or they develop a severe side effect?

In my profession as a safety officer, we are always advised not to keep oral medications in a first aid kit so as to avoid the temptation of administering it. Authorities therefore must come out clear to tell us what those first aids in our cars are for? Who is supposed to administer the first aid? What should be the content and when and how it should be administered and on whom. Until these issues are clarified and our drivers are properly informed, many people will continue to die on our roads due to mishandling and improper administration of first aid.

Fire extinguishers are also a major safety concern on our roads. Drivers keep these equipment with the view that when fire immediately erupts, they can fight it. Fire extinguishers look very simple but one has to be properly trained in its use or else risk their lives in trying to use the equipment.

Today, most drivers keep fire extinguishers in their cars for the sake of conformance. Knowledge on its use is very little. Even most of our enforcement officers have very little or no knowledge on the use of fire extinguishers. I once observed a police officer inspecting a fire extinguisher that has been out of service for a very long time but did not even realise it.

The use of fire extinguishers have to be part of the trainings the drivers go through before they are issued driver’s license. Among other things, the drivers should exhibit competency in all areas of firefighting before their licences are issued out to them. By so doing, drivers will know how and when to fight fires and when not to risk their lives trying to put fire off.

Achieving zero incidence on our roads should always be the target of the National Road Safety. To achieve such feat will not come on a silver platter. Both road users and enforcement agencies will have to be committed to working towards the achievement of zero incidence.

COMMON SAFETY MISTAKES

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Many of the injuries that occur on our various sites are caused by workers making common safety mistakes that could have been prevented.

Common Safety Mistakes:

Lack of housekeeping: It may seem simple, but a messy work area makes a work environment unsafe. Pallet banding lying on the ground, spilled oil and obstructed walkways all result in injuries.

Not using Lockout / Tag out on equipment needing repair: A lot of injuries are caused by the failure to lockout /tag out equipment and machinery needing repair. It is imperative to disable the equipment as soon as someone knows it is not functioning properly. This will ensure the equipment does not cause injury or create an unsafe work environment.

Improper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): It is a common, yet incorrect, practice to wear goggles around the neck, or to put hearing protection in improperly. A walk around the shop might find face shields that are scratched to the point where visibility is poor.

All of these are examples of failures in the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment. PPE is the last line of defence in protecting the employee. Therefore, the improper use of PPE, or failure to maintain and replace defective PPE, increases the likelihood of injury.

Not having a process or plan: Most workplace injuries occur when work being done is not part of a normal process. It is important to have a work plan for non-process work. No matter how it is done, planning the work and asking “What if?” questions will help identify hazards and implement controls to prevent injuries.

Failure to communicate: One of the easiest things to prevent unsafe conditions is to discuss what hazards or unsafe acts have been noticed. Communicating the hazards and failures in processes is an essential element of protecting ourselves and our co-workers from the hazards that potentially exist in the workplace.