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.




How often have you said or done something and then later, reflecting on your action, thought to yourself, “How could I have done that?” Here are some afterthoughts which, unfortunately, too many of us have experienced:

  • “That’s how we’ve always done it before.” (…before the accident occurred anyway.)
  • “I should have taken care of that board with the projecting rusty nails earlier.” (Now, I have to take off work to get a tetanus shot.)
  • “Wow, I never realized that a fire could get out of control so fast.” (If I’d called the fire department before trying to put it out myself, I might still have a place to work tomorrow.)
  • “I know they were always preaching that we should lift with the leg muscles instead of the back muscles.” (What the heck is a herniated disk?)
  • “My safety glasses were in the tool box, but I was just going to grind off this one little piece….” (I wonder if they’ll still let me drive with only one eye.)
  • “We were only going to use the scaffold for one day. I never thought a hammer would fall off the plank and strike someone.” (I had a hunch I should have taken the time to install the toe boards.)

Any of this sound familiar?? They say hindsight is the only perfect science-but foresight could have avoided these incidents, misfortunes and regrets.

Remember, it takes only a second to make a disaster strike; just one accident is all it takes to destroy every safety reputation you’ve gained. Be wise, take the time now to work safe and help your fellow employees to be safe.


Permit To Work Systems


The Permit to Work (PTW) system is a formal documented process used to manage workplace hazards, by ensuring all safety measures are in place before work is permitted to commence. It involves various levels of personnel, from workers, supervisors, safety assessor and authorised manager.


Some hazards, such as fire, dangerous substances, buried services, confined spaces and electrical equipment are difficult to control under normal circumstances. The Law requires that Employers provide a safe place of work, safe systems of work, evaluation of hazards and written action control measures to minimise those hazards. In these cases, formal written procedures are used to ensure that there is a safe place and system of work.  This is called a Permit to Work System.  A permit has two main purposes:-

  1. It authorises a named, trained person to carry out an activity.  That person should have the permit with him/her until it expires.
  2. It provides a mechanism of checking before the operation starts, that all the precautions and safeguards are in place.

In hazardous working operations, the lack of a permit system can lead to very serious consequences.  For example:-

  • A lift engineer was decapitated when the counterweight of a lift came down in the shaft he was working in.  His employer was found guilty and fined £10,000 and costs for failure to provide a safe system of work.
  • A ground worker suffered burns and later died of heart failure after his pneumatic breaker made contact with an 11 KV cable.
  • Two men died of suffocation when they entered an underground tank because no one had checked the atmosphere first.
  • Many fires occur on sites from uncontrolled burning operations.
  • These are real examples and were all preventable if a Permit to Work System had been in place.


Stage 1-Highlight Potential Hazards:  Workers guided by the Supervisor highlight potential hazards and implement all necessary safety measures according to the PTW requirements. But work is not permitted to commence until Stage 4.

Stage 2Application of Permit:  The Supervisor applies for permission to start work on a prescribed form and submit the application of the PTW to the Working at Height safety assessor only when all the conditions in the PTW have been fulfilled. The Supervisor has to indicate in the PTW that risk assessment was conducted for Working at Height and the safety measures to be implemented.

Stage 3-Evaluation of Permit:  The Working at Height safety assessor will evaluate and verify that all safety conditions specified in the PTW have been fulfilled and adequate. He may also recommend additional measures in the PTW when necessary. He will need to inspect the location of work where the PTW has been applied for, with the Supervisor during this process.

Only when all safety requirements stated in the PTW are fulfilled, the Working at Heightsafety assessor will then endorse the PTW form and forward to the authorised manager

Stage 4Approval of Permit: The authorised manager may approve and issue the PTW only when he is satisfied that:

1. Proper evaluation of risk and hazards for the work concerned has been conducted

2. No incompatible work will be carried out in the same time and location of the PTW, which may pose a risk to the persons at work.

3. All reasonably practicable safety measures have been taken and all persons involved in the work have been informed of the work hazards under the PTW

Work is permitted to commence upon issue/approval of the PTW.  The supervisor will then clearly post a copy of the PTW at the location of work stated in the PTW. The copy of the PTW will not be removed from the location of work until duration of PTW has expired or work stated in the PTW has been completed.


Permit to Work Systems are required for:-

  1. Work on electrical equipment that could give rise to risk of injury or death, including commissioning and work involving exposed live conductors.
  2. Welding, flame cutting and work involving a risk of fire or explosion.
  3. Work in a confined, poorly ventilated space where there may be a risk of toxic/flammable gases, fumes or vapours or oxygen deficiency.
  4. Excavations
  5. Access control to restricted areas.
  6. Any other dangerous circumstances e.g. radiography.

Your employer is aware of the Permit requirements on this site.  If in doubt about whether you need a permit, ASK.

The Permit will state:-

  1. The “authorised” person who is trained and competent for the task
  2. Limitations on the person/s and activity and the precautions to be taken
  3. The Supervisor in charge and his signature.
  4. The specific area to which it relates and the exact nature of the task.
  5. The period for which the Permit is valid.

On completion of a task, the Permit must be signed off and its validity terminated. Look out for signs showing “Permit to Work Area” and make sure you are in receipt of a valid permit for any of the above circumstances.



How To Identify Workplace Hazards


Employers have a responsibility to protect workers against health and safety hazards at work. Workers have the right to know about potential hazards and to refuse work that they believe is dangerous. Workers also have a responsibility to work safely with hazardous materials.

Health and safety hazards exist in every workplace. Some are easily identified and corrected, while others create extremely dangerous situations that could be a threat to your life or long-term health. The best way to protect yourself is to learn to recognize and prevent hazards in your workplace.

There are four main types of workplace hazards:

Physical hazards are the most common hazards and are present in most workplaces at some time. Examples include: frayed electrical cords, unguarded machinery, exposed moving parts, constant loud noise, vibrations, working from ladders, scaffolding or heights, spills, tripping hazards.

Ergonomic hazards occur when the type of work you do, your body position and/or your working conditions put a strain on your body. They are difficult to identify because you don’t immediately recognize the harm they are doing to your health. Examples include: poor lighting, improperly adjusted workstations and chairs, frequent lifting, repetitive or awkward movements.

Chemical hazards are present when you are exposed to any chemical preparation (solid, liquid or gas) in the workplace. Examples include: cleaning products and solvents, vapours and fumes, carbon monoxide or other gases, gasoline or other flammable materials.

Biological hazards come from working with people, animals or infectious plant material. Examples include: blood or other bodily fluids, bacteria and viruses, insect bites, animal and bird droppings.

How Do I Identify Workplace Hazards?

Good hazard scenarios describe:

  • Where it is happening (environment),
  • Who or what it is happening to (exposure),
  • What precipitates the hazard (trigger),
  • The outcome that would occur should it happen (consequence)
  • Any other contributing factors.

To perform a job hazard analysis, the following questions have to be asked

What can go wrong? The worker’s hand could come into contact with a rotating object that “catches” it and pulls it into the machine.

What are the consequences? The worker could receive a severe injury and lose fingers and hands.

How could it happen? The accident could happen as a result of the worker trying to clear a snag during operations or as part of a maintenance activity while the pulley is operating. Obviously, this hazard scenario could not occur if the pulley is not rotating.

What are other contributing factors? This hazard occurs very quickly. It does not give the worker much opportunity to recover or prevent it once his hand comes into contact with the pulley. This is an important factor, because it helps you determine the severity and likelihood of an accident when selecting appropriate hazard controls.

How likely is it that the hazard will occur? This determination requires some judgment. If there have been “near-misses” or actual cases, then the likelihood of a recurrence would be considered high. If the pulley is exposed and easily accessible, that also is a consideration. In the example, the likelihood that the hazard will occur is high because there is no guard preventing contact, and the operation is performed while the machine is running. By following the steps in this example, you can organize your hazard analysis activities.



Safety Awareness


Safety Awareness is like almost everything else we do . . . it is learned, not instinctive. We aren’t born with awareness for safety concerns . . . in fact anyone who has a young toddler or grandchild knows this first hand as they see them going around doing unsafe things constantly.

We learn through various means. Some learn by doing, others by watching, some by reading. Others learn by their mistakes or the mistakes of others which is one reason we post and talk about near misses and direct hits that we’ve had here and at other companies and locations throughout the country.

So how do you know you’ve developed good safety awareness? Here are some good examples of behaviours that suggest you have good safety awareness:

Before you begin a job, you consider how to do it more safely

You make sure you know how and when to use personal protective equipment

As you work, you check you position to reduce strain on your body

While you are working, you become aware of any changes in the area – people coming or going, jobs beginning or ending
You start talking with others about safety
Monitor yourself today and see if you’ve got good safety awareness. If you don’t, one of the best ways to gain further awareness is to step back and take a hard look at your or a coworkers actions as they are performing a job. Watch for risky actions. You will learn and if you’re watching a coworker . . . share those observations with them to help them go home safely each and every day.

Safety is More Than Common Sense


Safety is more than common sense

[Written by Allen D. Quilley, CRSP, courtesy of]

When I’m speaking at conferences or conducting training sessions, it’s not unusual for me to meet frustrated managers and safety folks who are beside themselves with their lack of results in reducing injuries. They are frustrated because their current method of keeping their employees safe isn’t working. It’s from some of these folks that I hear statements and questions like, “Why don’t people use more common sense?” or, “Safety is only common sense!”

I’d like to explore this strange beast some folks believe is the secret to safety: the all-too-rare common sense.

Some universal truths: Humans don’t know what they don’t know. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? We only know what we know, so how do we learn things? No matter how much we want it to be true, humans do not have the ability to “just know” about anything, including safety.

For example, there is no gene in human DNA that makes it natural to know that ladders need to be tied off to make sure they don’t slip. The common sense 4:1 ladder angle ratio is not somehow imprinted in our human DNA.

As a young man, my father — a machinist by trade — taught me about carpentry. Dad is an excellent hobby carpenter and, over his lifetime, has built many things from furniture to garages. His instructions included how to safely use the power tools in his garage, including a table saw and a radial arm saw. I learned how to safely use these devices through his instructions and my hands on practice. I am the hobby carpenter I am today mainly because of my father’s mentoring.

Not long ago, my eldest son called to ask if he could drop over and use my table saw. Without hesitation I told him that he could. While I waited for his arrival I went out to my attached garage and started to position the saw so that there was room to cut full sheets of plywood. I started to wonder how my son gained the knowledge needed to use a table saw. He certainly hadn’t shown any interest in using one as a kid, and now that he was a man working in the fitness industry, there wasn’t any reason for me to believe he would know very much about this particular kind of power tool.

When he arrived, as I suspected, he told me that he had never used a table saw before. He had never taken a course, or even paid much attention to all of those renovation shows on TV. It was crystal clear that common sense about table saws didn’t exist — and frankly, why would it?

If I had let my son use the table saw assuming he just knew how to use it because of course “everyone knows about table saws,” it could have had disastrous results. I helped my son cut his sheets of plywood using some of the training techniques my father had used on me. I know with some confidence that when my son one day teaches his son about table saws that there won’t be any assumptions of common knowledge about these potentially lethal machines.

It’s impossible to know what another human knows without communication. I meet a lot of people in my travels and there is no possible way that I can know how extensive their knowledge about a subject is, without engaging them in a conversation.

The life experiences and formal education make every one of us uniquely different. This is a very good thing. Imagine if we all knew exactly the same things and had perfect replicas of each other’s life experience. After-dinner conversations would be pretty boring now wouldn’t they?

“Did you see the new superhero movie?”

“Yes I did, as did you…in fact everyone we know has seen it!”

“Did you like it? I did!”

“Of course I did…everyone liked it; we all have the same experience!”

Obviously this is a silly example, but no sillier than the concept of common sense. It just doesn’t exist.

When I hear those frustrated individuals use the term common sense, there are a few responses I use to try to get them to reflect a bit:

“Common sense is a myth propagated by those people who don’t remember where and from whom they learned what they know.”

“Having common sense is the art of knowing something that someone else believes you should know with or without the opportunity for you to actually know it.”

“People who believe in common sense can’t, by definition, have any because, logically, that would make anyone believe that everyone knows everything.”

“Only someone without any common sense would believe there is such thing as common sense.”

Finally, some common sense! You don’t have to answer these questions for me, but answer them for yourself because I, for one, already know the answer.

Have you ever:
• Used the wrong tool for a job (knife as a screwdriver, wrench as a hammer)?
• Stood on a chair to get something?
• Forgotten to wear a piece of safety equipment when you should have worn it?
• Driven your vehicle while you were distracted or tired?
• Forgotten to tell someone you were working with a critical piece of information?
• Driven faster than the road conditions/speed limit?
• Used a tool for the first time without reading the directions?
• Paid interest of over 24 per cent on a credit card?

I could go on and on. These are all common sense things to avoid aren’t they? Smart people wouldn’t do ANY of these things. Unfortunately, very smart people do most, if not all, of these things. Usually, people do these things for no greater reason than to save some time or to be more comfortable. Sometimes the pull to take risks we don’t have to is overwhelming. We need to help each other resist the urge to take these all-too-common risks.

Let us not rely on something that doesn’t exist. In a “practical based safety culture” we know what our people know and do because we’ve engaged them in the process of creating safety. Training and mentoring are based on evidence — not some belief that our employees must know something because, after all, it’s just common sense, isn’t it?

Keep smiling! It’s a common way to stay happy.