Welding Safety – Fire from the gas tank

Welding Safety – Fire from the gas tank

My dad told me about a time when he was repairing a shock mount on his Chrysler. He used the company boom truck to lift the rear of the car to a comfortable working height.

After the completed the welding job he flipped the stinger back and accidentally contacted the gas tank on the car. He was quickly surrounded by flames dripping from the tank. The little hole in the tank continued to fuel the fire.

He simply reached his gloved hand up and stopped the flow of fuel with his finger. The flame went out but he was then stuck like the proverbial little Dutch boy with his finger blocking the flow.

Soon my Grandfather walked by and asked “What are you gong to do now boy?” Dad suggested that he would continue to hold his finger in place while someone got him a roofing screw with a rubber washer.

My grandfather soon returned with a screw, washer and a wrench. Dad plugged the hole with a screw and the rubber washer made a liquid tight seal. He says that plug was still in place when he sold the cars years later.

Machine Tool Safety

As I look at the scar on my left index finger, I am reminded of how fast a machine tool can cause an injury. I was a teenager working in my grandfather’s machine shop when it happened. I was using the large drill press to counter bore holes in the cutting edge of a bulldozer blade.

The drill press was very old and was definitely not built with safe operation in mind. I am not sure why, but the procedure involved sliding the heavy plate into position under the drill bit while the bit was still turning slowly in the chuck. I was wearing gloves to protect my tender hands from the sharp edge of the blade. The bit caught my glove, and although it was turning slowly, it began to wrap my finger around the bit all too quickly.

I was able to hit the power switch but the drill continued to coast until my whole arm was wrapped around the spindle. I reluctantly called to my grandfather for assistance. He manually turned the drill backwards as I unwrapped myself from the machine.

I was very lucky to have escaped with just a cut on my finger. I quick bandage and I was back to work; this time without gloves.

Machine tools can be very unforgiving when body parts are caught on or in them. The nature of the work also brings hands and fingers dangerously close to the rotating parts. It is easy to get accustomed to the proximity and get caught.

Gloves and loose clothing can easily get caught. Neckties should not even get close to the machines.

Procedures need to be developed to minimize exposure to the hazards. Making sure the rotating parts have stopped before relocating the work or taking measurements is one good place to start. I have seen many experienced machinist take caliper readings while parts are being cut in a lathe. Such practices endanger the worker and the equipment.

Guards are often a huge annoyance to machinists. However, if the guards are constructed of clear materials and made to easily open and close, they can add safety without interfering with the work to be done.

When developing procedures and procuring safety equipment, it is important to work closely with the machinists to make sure that the safety equipment does not interfere with the work. Otherwise, the safeties will be bypassed and procedures overlooked when supervision is not around.

Machine tools are a part of most modern workplaces. They can be used safely and effectively if proper precautions are taken.

Top ten workplace safety tips revisited Tip Number 1

My Top ten workplace safety tips article has proven to me my most popular article. I am taking a moment to revisit each tip and delve a bit deeper in to what is behind each one. Read the original articel here: Top ten safety tips.

Tip number 1: Maintain a clean work area. Not only will you remove many hazards from a work area by keeping it clean, but you will also provide a more productive work environment for your employees.

According to Louise Hay, accidents are often the result of an inability to speak up for the self, rebellion against authority or a belief in violence. It is easy to see that allowing employees to work in a messy environment could result in feelings of frustration that would be difficult to express and could result in a resentment for authority.

In addition, having a workplace that is free from obstructions will result in a more efficient and effective work atmosphere. If employees are restricted by messy conditions, not only will they be more likely to be injured, they will spend more energy getting the job done that would otherwise be required.

By keeping the workplace clean and orderly you will not only reduce the chance for accidents but also improve the overall productivity of the process.

For example in my own shop, I occasionally will try to work on cramped quarters having too many projects going on at once. When I do, I always find myself trying to work in less than optimal positions and sometimes I will slip and hurt myself. I also waste a lot of energy stepping over or moving around obstacles.

When I take time to prepare the work area before I begin, not only do I work much faster, but I enjoy the experience much more as well. Enjoying the experience helps me be more aware of my surrounding and makes me safer as a worker.

So to both improve your productivity and reduce accidents, make sure your work place stays clean and orderly.

Changing Beliefs About Safety.

Safety meeting topic – Changing Beliefs About Safety.

One of the most difficult hurdles I had to get over when I was working to improve the workplace safety at the Westvaco plant I once worked in was overcoming the idea among the maintenance men that getting hurt was expected. These men took great pride in their work and they were willing and felt it was expected of them to occasionally get hurt while performing their work duties. “No pain – no gain” was more than just a slogan to them – they took it very literally.

When I first started talking to them about leaving work in the same or better condition than they arrived, they looked at me like I was from Mars. They simply did not believe that they could do the jobs that they were called to do and not face occasional injury. They all had the deep seated belief that maintenance work was inherently dangerous and that if you did it long enough, you would get hurt.

Changing this belief became my first task toward improving the safety of the maintenance department.

The core of the belief change came from developing proper work instructions. Previous efforts that focused on PPE and accident prevention were seen as just annoyances to the maintenance workers. Their belief that they would get hurt anyway just made them resent the PPE and other accident prevention efforts.

I began by observing their work practices. When I saw them taking an unnecessary risk, I gently suggested a safer method. Often they would object that the alternative would take longer. When they realized that I was serious about using a safer method even if it took a little longer, they began to make better choices themselves.

I also assigned one of the more boisterous electricians the duty of developing workable lock out tag out procedures for each piece of equipment in the plant. He actually located every disconnect in the entire operation, numbered and labeled it and wrote instructions on how to properly de energize that piece of equipment. While tedious and time consuming to develop, these procedures became a key factor in changing the belief that getting hurt was inevitable.

Through the development of the LOTO procedures, we found that some equipment could not be easily locked out. Thankfully the Westvaco management backed up their words about commitment to safety with their dollars and paid to have some very expensive disconnects added to the printing presses so that they could be safely de energized for maintenance work as well as for operational changeovers.

Again, this very visual commitment from the management went a long way in instilling the belief that injuries were not to be expected from the maintenance group. Their belief system began to change as well as their unsupervised decision making process.

During our work planning sessions, we began to discuss the safest way of approaching a problem – not just the fastest or cheapest solution. We discussed potential hazards and made sure we had adequate safeguards in place to protect us from these hazards as we worked. We began to tell a new story.

Our new war stories were about how much we accomplished and how quickly we achieved our goal rather that who got hurt and how we worked through the pain.

The nature of maintenance and repair work makes it difficult to write specific procedures for each situation. After all, if the machine was working properly, we most likely would not be working on it. However, the general methodology of approaching a situation can be standardized.

Our lock out tag out procedures not only gave specific instructions on what switch to flip but also advised the workers on the other potential hazards of the machine and how to properly set up the repair procedures to minimize potential risk. They also let them know how to get the job done as quickly as possible.

Focusing on the work that needed to be done and developing specific work instructions for each machine allowed the workers to believe that they did not have to get hurt at work. Morale improved as did the number of repair work orders accomplished each month. Injuries went from about one a month to almost none in a year.

Telling a new story and altering the belief system of the workers accomplished way more in a few moths than years of focusing on PPE and accident prevention had done in the past.

For more info on improving the workplace safety of your plant, see StrawSolutions.com

A higher level of safety culture.

A fifth level of safety consciousness. – Creating a safe and productive work environment.

Robert Pater describes four levels of safety culture. These are forced, protective, involved and leadership.

Many of the places I visited during my work as a sales rep for a boiler repair company fell into the first group. Actually maybe there needs to be a lower group as sometimes I saw places where worker safety was completely ignored. In others, the safety policies were forced upon the workers and managers alike. Every one there felt safety was a burden and OSHA was out to shut them down. There was some truth in that, but not for the reasons they felt.

The workers themselves even rebelled against the safety protections because they were forced by the safety police to comply. They felt the PPE and other protections were just another form of repression.

I have also seen many plants that work on the second level. These are the plants that Pater says have a lot of procedures that don’t get followed when no one is looking. I used to work on a plant where one guy actually said in response to a reprimand, “I did not know that was a procedure we were actually supposed to follow.” And he was serious.

In the protective mode, the managers feel they have to impose safety for the employee’s own good. They feel they have to protect them from themselves in spite of themselves. The safety director here is often detached from the work environment and lots of money and effort goes into promoting the flavor of the week safety campaigns. I suspect a lot of the people who come to my web site looking for free safety slogans work in these types of environments.

Next up the scale are the involved plants. These are places that have made a lot of progress in safety and here I usually see a lot of safety teams doing safety stuff. There is probably a safety suggestion program. As Pater points out, these facilities often hit a plateau where improvement is stifled by their previous progress. The last facility I worked at had reached this point. I got really annoyed when one of my workers got injured trying to implement one of the safety suggestions made by the safety committee.

Pater’s summit level is the leadership level. At this level, safety is done by people, for themselves. There is a true belief that all accidents are preventable. Management actively champions safety. The culture is proactive and morale is enthusiastic. There is a real emphasis on engagement and getting everyone as involved as possible.

Plants like this are unfortunately rare. Few ever make it past the involved level as the safety team structure is self limiting. When the safety consciousness evolves to the leadership level, the safety directors and safety teams are no longer needed. The safety ego steps in to protect itself and limits the transition to the higher level.

I would actually love to see a plant that operated at an even higher level of safety consciousness. This would be a creative level. At this level, there would be no conscious thought directed at preventing safety problems because there would not be any to prevent. All procedures would be written to reflect the safest and most efficient way to produce a quality product with minimal adverse effect on the environment. There would be no energy given to preventing accidents. Instead the total focus would be on the desired outcome. In this environment, employees would focus their entire attention on doing theirs jobs well. There would be no thought of injury or pain.

In some ways this level sounds like the sub level one plants; but in practice, it is the complete opposite. In the sub level one safety consciousness, there is not thought given to the well being of the people. In the creative level, the well being of the people involved is the primary concern. At this level, the well being of the people and the facility are the same. People are focused on creating quality product as safely and efficiently as possible.

The most important step in achieving a level five facility is believing that it is possible. The results of the facility will be a vibrational match to the people involved in the process. People that focus on accidents and accident prevention will continue to see accidents. People who believe in a creative safety culture will see an environment where there is no need for safety policies and procedures. The standard operating procedures will instruct employees in the safest, most efficient way to create quality products.

Again, the safety ego of the facility is often the greatest hindrance to achieving this step. Once a facility approaches the creative level of safety consciousness there is no longer a need for safety directors and safety teams. These people have worked themselves out of a job.

However, if their energy and efforts are shifted instead to creating a safe and productive work environment, all will benefit even more. In the lower four levels, the safest way for employees to act is not to work. However this method is not really in the best interest of their overall well being. At the creative level of safety consciousness, employees’ well being is best served by working according to the established work practices and producing quality goods for which they are well paid.

If you would like to learn more about how to transform your safety consciousness to that of creating a safe and productive work environment see http://strawsolutions.com