Safety 3rd  – The Mike Rowe Approach

Jim Schuster
Martin Technical, Inc.

Industrial safety is not a glamorous, and there really aren’t any household names that are recognized across the industry, so when a celebrity talks about safety on a national tv show it’s pretty much the pinnacle of exposure for the safety industry. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame has been a proponent of skilled labor and safety for a long time, and recently he was speaking about his “Safety Third” philosophy on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show. In this clip at the 1:55 mark, Mike Rowe explains his view of safety and the expectations of what happens when we elevate the values of safety to “Safety First”.

As Mike explains, it’s not that safety isn’t important, but rather that “Safety First” can set expectations that somebody else in charge cares more about your safety and well-being than you do, and that if you just follow their processes, you will be safe.  This is an excellent point as transferring your safety to another person or process can lead to complacency and reduce safety to background noise in your daily work.  By stating “Safety Third”, Mike is trying to start a conversation and make people think instead of just following a rule or checking a box for their safety.  This is much like the approach of posting speed limit signs at “14 Miles Per Hour” instead of the common “15” which is just enough of a deviation that it makes people stop, take notice and process their actions.

Where Mike is right is that the first line of safety is personal responsibility and self-awareness, which should be practiced always and not just when going through mandatory safety checks.  What we are talking about is a hot topic in the industry; safety behavior.  The challenge however is the complex set of traits for each individual and changing the behavior of each individual.  Each person has their own physical and cognitive abilities, values, risk tolerance and behavior and the expectations of having everyone on the same level of personal responsibility for safety simply isn’t realistic.  Guys like Mike are smart and experienced, but we also have to deal with the 22-year-old rock climber that would prefer to scale the racking system instead of using a forklift (yes, this was a real situation), or the new worker who just started and is afraid to ask which valve to turn in fear of looking incompetent and getting fired.  So even though an individual may exercise good personal safety behavior, it’s not enough as they are still subject to others in their environment who don’t have the same abilities or care and may create a dangerous situation for those near them.

So despite best efforts by any individual to assess the risks and take safety into their own hands, we don’t always have control of unexpected events such as the co-worker turning the wrong valve on, a machine failing, or to bring it home to a level that everyone can relate to; a driver absent mindedly running a red light.  This is why we wear seat belts; not that we are expecting ourselves to fail, but for the unexpected failure of another person or machine or unplanned circumstances such as hydroplaning on an oil glistening street after a light rain.  And with this comes safety precautions, processes, checklists, and training to the point of numbness, which is where we pick it back up with Mike.

The infinity of safety procedures, signs and training is required to provide the knowledge and awareness to the workers for their safety and has statistically proven to greatly reduce injuries, so it’s not that this needs to go away as much as the volume of it or repetitiveness of it can seem like a process running in the background that creates an environment of complacency.   Routine creates comfort, and as long as there is no incidents, the routine actions, safety processes and training disappear further and further into the background.

So how do we make safety more relevant and important?  The key is bringing things home to a personal level and expanding beyond the forms and processes and into individual responsibility.  Mike has done an excellent job with his crew by stating “Safety Third” which everyone knows that the expectation is that safety is your hands and not to count on a company, process or another individual for your safety.  It is a big leap of faith for a safety manager to state that they are not responsible for your safety and put the responsibility back on the individual, but it’s a conversation that needs to happen.  And to expand upon that, individuals need to know they are also responsible for the safety of others, which is how you build a true and proper safety culture.  Further, safety needs to be personally relevant to be understood and practiced.  Informing workers of codes and standards isn’t enough.  Mike’s safety failures have resulted in numerous injuries, which

The other part that makes Mike program successful is his personal failures and his ability to transfer that to others.  Mike is safety nut because he has had short mental lapses that resulted in injuries and forced him to re-think his safety and the safety of his crew.  His scars and broken bones tell a story that make it personal and that others can relate to.  This makes people stop and evaluate their personal situation instead of simply following processes, which is the whole point of Mike’s approach.  Safety needs to be on a personal level and informing someone about a code will never have as much impact as an emotional connection to someone’s job and the realization that they or a co-worker may not make it home this evening.

As odd as it may seem, “Safety 3rd” may be a good mantra for developing a strong safety culture at your plant or facility by disrupting the routine and reminding everyone that safety may be the priority of the company or organization, but ultimately you can’t count on others for your safety and need to take responsibility for yourself and your co-workers.  Safety managers can provide you all the training, tools and procedures you could ever need,  but it you don’t use them and take personal responsibility….that’s on you.

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Worker Loses 3 Fingers in Unguarded Punch Press Accident

unguarded punch pressNew Castle, DE – A worker lost three fingers following an lockout/tagout accident involving a punch press at Wilmington Fibre Specialty Company Inc.

OSHA has cited the New Castle (DE) vulcanized fiber manufacturer for exposing employees to multiple workplace safety hazards totaling $146,152 in proposed penalties.

The violations stem from an accident in December of 2017, during which an employee at the Wilmington Fibre Specialty Company reached into the die of a press to dislodge a jam. Unfortunately, as the worker reached into the machine, he also stepped on a lever that started the machine. The die came down on the employee’s hand, resulting in the amputation of three fingers.

OSHA inspected Wilmington Fibre Specialty and found that the facility’s punch press had inadequate machine guarding and that the company failed to enforce mandated safety procedures. OSHA documented violations including inadequate machine guarding, failure to use lockout/tagout procedures to control hazardous energy, and failure to report the incident.

Additionally, OSHA cited the company for multiple maintenance failures: failure to perform maintenance, repairs and safeguards where employees were exposed to amputation hazards; failure to perform maintenance and inspections on multiple parts of the punch press; and failure to ensure employees received proper training and were competent in operating the machinery.

Wilmington Fibre Specialty was also cited for inadequate lockout tag out procedures. Lockout/Tagout procedures are written instructions detailing how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment. Implementing Lockout/Tagout, having procedures visible to the workforce, and training workers on how to safely maintain equipment all help to prevent the startup of machinery that may result in a worker injury.

The OSHA inspection also revealed machine safety failures, specifically the failure to use safety blocks. Safety blocks should have been inserted between the upper and lower dies during machine maintenance to prevent the dies from sliding down.

Lastly, Wilmington Fibre Specialty was cited for failing to report the incident. OSHA was alerted to the need for a workplace safety inspection only after noticing coverage of the amputation in local news media reports.

As stated by OSHA Wilmington Area Office Director Erin Patterson, “When lockout/tagout is not implemented and machines are not guarded, employees are exposed to hazards that can cause amputations, and other serious injuries.”

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Energized Palletizer Kills Pet Food Worker

Ogden, UT – The American Nutrition plant in northern Utah was the site of an employee death last month when Raul Ortiz was killed in a palletizer accident. Ortiz was crushed after entering an energized palletizer elevator in an attempt to restart packaging line equipment at the pet food manufacturing facility.

energized palletizer kills

Raul Ortiz, a 33-year-old packaging line associate, was fatally injured while operating an automatic bag palletizer. The palletizer machine automatically stacks pet food bags onto a pallet for transport. Ortiz was attempting to restart the palletizer when he was injured on the nightshift and died soon after.

It is believed that Ortiz got into the palletizer elevator while the equipment was still energized, becoming fatally injured as the machinery lifted and crushed him onto the top of the elevator.

An investigation has been launched into the accident and the facility was closed for a portion of time. The American Nutrition facility at Ogden produces extruded, real meat, and baked pet food products.

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Worker Killed in Preventable Conveyor Accident

Mount Laurel, NJ – Lockout/tagout training and machine guards could have saved the life of 23-year-old Dakota LaBrecque. That’s the finding of federal workplace safety inspectors following a 2017 worker fatality at Springfield Power LLC’s Springfield (NH) biomass plant.

EWP Renewable (doing business as Springfield Power LLC) faces $125,460 in fines following the employee fatality. OSHA has cited EWP Renewable Corp. for 25 safety violations after 23-year-old employee Dakota LaBrecque was pulled into a conveyor and died from his injuries.

In investigating the facility after the worker’s death, federal workplace safety inspectors found that the conveyor and other machinery lacked required safety guarding, and employees were not trained in lockout/tagout procedures to prevent equipment from unintentionally starting.

Springfield Power was also cited for fall hazards; electric shock and arc flash hazards; and a lack of adequate emergency evacuation, fire prevention, aworker killed conveyornd hazardous energy control programs.

Rosemarie Cole, OSHA’s New Hampshire area director, stated that EWP Renewable’s “failure to protect employees resulted in a tragedy that could have been prevented if training was provided and machinery was appropriately guarded.”

OSHA requires equipment specific lockout procedures for each piece of equipment. These lockout/tagout procedures provide detailed instruction on how to isolate and lock each energy source for a given piece of equipment, helping to prevent the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment. Martin Technical’s Rapid LOTO lockout procedure development program is designed to provide high quality procedures that are easy to follow.

Additionally, OSHA requires that employees be trained on lockout policies and procedures. Proper training ensures that the purpose and function of the lockout/tagout or energy control program are understood by employees and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by the workforce.

Martin Technical is a leading provider of practical safety and efficiency services that make industrial plants and facilities better, safer and more efficient. Our experts can help simplify the complex by applying real-world solutions for Lockout Tagout, Arc Flash, Electrical Safety, Risk Assessments, Training, Machine Safety & Safety Consulting Services. Contact a member of our professional safety services team today.

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Unguarded Saw Results in Amputation + Fines for PA Packager

unguarded saw, osha, amputation,Hatfield, PA – OSHA has cited Prime Packaging Partners for exposing employees to 19 different safety and health hazards at its Hatfield (PA) dog treat manufacturing facility following an industrial accident in which an employee suffered amputation due to an unguarded saw blade.

The proposed fines for these 19 violations of federal workplace safety standards total $180,685.

OSHA conducted an inspection of the Hatfield (PA) facility following a complaint that an employee suffered an amputation from unguarded saw blades.

Prime Packaging Partners has been cited for failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures; blocking electrical panels; exposing workers to confined space, machine guarding, and electrical hazards; as well as failure to develop a hazard communication program.

According to OSHA, “moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns, or blindness. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these preventable injuries. Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.”

At Martin Technical, our team of safety professionals specializes in lockout/tagout proceduresmachine guarding, and industrial safety compliance.

During a professional machine safety inspection, each individual machine is registered; and defects are detected and documented. Most importantly, safety hazards are discussed with the staff involved to raise awareness and gain buy-in on the suggested solution.

Following inspection, Martin Technical prepares a report outlining the various deficiencies including photo documentation and a description of necessary changes. Often, this report becomes a cornerstone document for the staff tasked with implementing the safety solutions.

Contact our industrial safety team today to discuss how Martin Technical can strengthen the culture of safety at your facility.

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Arc Flash Hospitalizes 3 Chicago Transit Workers

Chicago, IL – An electrical arc flash blew the panel off a transformer in downtown Chicago last week, injuring three Chicago Transit Authority maintenance workers and leaving hundreds in the area without power.

The arc flash relayed to a transformer, sparking a flash fire at an electrical substation near the intersection of North State and East Lake streets. Three workers were injured. Two were in critical condition with serious burns, and a third worker was also taken to the hospital but in good condition.electrical arc flash

Chicago Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford said the fire took place at a Chicago Transit Authority substation powered by ComEd. ComEd reported that the accident caused an issue with a circuit breaker, which left approximately 500 customers in the area without power.

An Arc Flash is an electrical explosion caused by a fault condition or short circuit when either a phase to ground or phase to phase conductor is connected and current flows through the air. Arc flashes cause electrical equipment to explode, which often result in injury to workers and destruction of electrical equipment.

In an arc flash, temperatures may exceed 35,000° F (for reference, the surface of the sun is estimated to be 9000° F). This discharge of extremely high temperature causes rapid heating of surrounding air and extreme pressures, creating an arc blast. The arc flash and blast usually vaporize all solid copper conductors which expand up to 67,000 times their original volume when vaporized. The arc flash and blast produce fire, intense light, pressure waves and flying shrapnel.

A variety of things can trigger an Arc Flash, but most are preventable and can be traced back to human error. Many arc flashes occur when maintenance workers are manipulating live equipment for testing or repair and accidentally cause a fault or short circuit. Improper tools, improper electrical equipment, corrosion of equipment, improper work techniques, and/or a lack of electrical safety training are some of the failures that can lead to a devastating arc flash or arc blast.

When an arc flash happens, it does so without warning and is lightning quick. The result of this violent event is usually destruction of the equipment involved, fire, and severe injury or death to any nearby people. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage from an arc flash which include conducting an arc flash study, short circuit study, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training.

Contact a member of the Martin Technical Electrical Safety & Training staff today to learn how to protect your workers and your business from the risks of Arc Flash.

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Telsa Fined $110,863 for Unauthorized Worker’s Injury

Palo Alto, CA – Tesla plans to appeal their largest OSHA fine to date. As the parent company of SolarCity, Tesla was fined $110,863 for 10 violations following the electrical shock and subsequent hospitalization of an inadequately trained SolarCity employee in December of 2017.

OSHA identified 10 worker safety violations at a SolarCity solar panel installation in Amherst, Mass. Four SolarCity employees had completed construction of a 19-acre solar farm at Hampshire College when one of the workers attempted to take a cellphone photo of an electrical panel. The employee suffered electrical shock and burn injuries when he entered theunauthorized worker electrical panel which was energized at 13,800 volts.

Federal safety investigators found that Tesla failed to provide workers with adequate training or protective gear. According to OSHA, the four SolarCity workers were wearing only Class 0 safety gloves, a rating which would protect them only up to 1,000 volts of electricity. OSHA found that the workers had each completed a Tesla-mandated online safety class, however they had not been required to demonstrate safety proficiency. Additionally, none of the workers onsite that day could tell investigators how far away they should have been standing from a 13,800-volt energy source, and Tesla hadn’t conducted required inspections of its safety procedures.

Without having demonstrated proficiency following their training, none of the four SolarCity employees could be considered Certified, Authorized, or Competent Persons under the law. OSHA requires that a “competent person” be one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are hazardous or dangerous to employees, and “who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” Without Authorized or Competent Person certification, these were not approved to perform specific electrical duties at the jobsite.

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The Challenge of Replacing Lockout With Interlocks

By Donny Snyder

The eternal battle is production versus safety, and at the very center of this is lockout, or better – avoiding lockout. The complaint, by both production and maintenance is that locking out equipment takes too long, or if they lockout, getting the machine back on line could be difficult. They will also argue that the machines have interlock controls that provide effective levels of protection and allow workers to efficiently (and safely) complete their work. The truth: maybe, maybe not.

Interlock systems (machine sensors)

An interlock is a device that will prevent one element from changing (moving), due to a state in another element. Interlocks in the work setting include electromagnetic switches, RFID proximity switches, light curtains, trap key interlock’s, etc. Interlocks open control circuits but do not isolate equipment from hazardous energy.

A good example to understand interlock is to examine your home washing machine. Washing machines have limit switches (newer models have both limit switches and lid locks) that would not allow the washing machine to run if the lid was in the open position. Raise your hand if as a child growing up you used a pen or a pencil (maybe your finger) to push that limit switch and watch the washing machine go around (author hand in the air). The limit switch (interlock safety device) keeps the machine from moving, but does it isolate it from the energy source? The limit switch does not unplug the electrical cord and turn the cold and hot water valves to the off position. And under the right circumstances (accidentally pushing down on the limit switch with your hand), the interlock can fail in its purpose and activate the machine

Interlocks have been used for decades and are one of the most misunderstood and improperly used safety devices installed on equipment. Their intended use, reliability and integrity from a safety perspective has evolved, where now there are Category 1, 2, 3 and 4 systems. These safety devices were to prevent accidents. They do not provide the equivalent level of protection that lockout provides, which is the OSHA standard. In our example of the washing machine, in terms of current OSHA language, as a child I was bypassing a guard and defeating a safety device. Technically, these are now considered Category 1 Interlock Controls. Similar devices are used every day under the guise of providing effective protection against the expected (or unexpected) start up or release of hazardous energy. Sadly, workers are injured and killed every year due to the failure or misuse of these perceived safety devices.

Interlock systems applied

Your company has Machine “X”, which is currently guarded by Plexiglas around all working parts, with interlocked access doors for workers to access. Operators are charged daily with clearing jams during their shift, which requires the worker to open an interlocked access door. This will stop the machine from running and allow the worker to clear the jam. When completed, the worker closes the door and the machine returns to normal operation.

This scenario plays out every day in companies across the United States and yet, this is in violation of the OSHA standard if the accidental energization of the machine would create a hazard for the worker. Machine “X” is still energized, and we are asking the worker to bypass a guard (they reach through the plane of the Plexiglas), place part of their body in the danger zone or at the point of operation. In this case, lockout should be applied because of the nature of the task and the measures of control in place. These types of interlocks are installed to protect workers in case they were suddenly exposed (door is opened) to an area where body parts should be placed. Over time, these interlocks have been integrated (wrongly) into the daily routines and tasks of production and maintenance where sentiment is that this is “safe” and “compliant.” Neither is true.

These types of task are often repeated several times per shift, to several times per hour. If the worker was to lockout the machine each time, they would spend a large amount of their work day locking the machine out and then returning to service. OSHA leaves it to the employer to determine (and document) what is acceptable in terms of protection when it comes to Alternative Measures of Control. The ANSI Z244.1 standard has recently provided in its 2017 update some guidance on how to determine if the Interlock Control Devices provide equivalent level of protection.

Much has advanced in the technology, reliability and integrity of Interlock systems over the past two decades. The industry has seen the development and deployment of Category 3 and Category 4 Interlock Control Devices. These systems have been proven to increase productivity (uptime) and decrease lockout (downtime), but they do come with a requirement of significant investment in time and resource to install, implement and maintain, and still do not meet OSHA requirements. From the scenario on Machine X, it would be a wise investment to install an interlock system to save a few minutes, several times an hour — which then does increase your production uptime AND protect your workers from hazardous energy.

Too often we find ourselves in conversations with customers who are looking for solutions to avoid lockout as a means to increase production uptime. The majority of the industry has equipment that requires three or fewer locks/devices to achieve a zero-energy state. There is a good argument to use Interlock Control Devices in a particular industry, with particular equipment and involving particular tasks. Invest and protect wisely for true gains in uptime and worker safety.

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Mineral Trans WA Fined After Worker’s Hand Crushed

A transport company has been ordered to pay more than $63,000 in fines and court fee’s after a worker’s hand was crushed between two containers that were being moved with a forklift in Western Australia.

Mineral Trans WA and another entity operated Cranes Haulage in August 2014 when a truck driver transported sea containers to a yard in Esperance, Western Australia to be unloaded with a forklift by the general manager. 

The truck driver was releasing twist locks that attached two containers when they became stuck, and as they were separated his left hand was crushed. He was transported to a local area hospital. He required skin grafts and pins to repair open fractures.

Mineral Trans pleaded guilty in Esperance Magistrates Court to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace, and by that failure, caused serious harm to an employee.The company also admitted allowing an employee to operate a forklift without the appropriate licence.

Mineral Trans was fined a total of $58,000 and was also ordered to pay $5542 in costs.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said, “the hazard should have been foreseen. The worker should have been prohibited from removing the twist locks from the bottom container until the top container was safely removed from the pedestrian area.”

Following the incident, Cranes Haulage stopped separating sea containers and the general manager has obtained an appropriate licence to operate a forklift.

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Arc Flash Incident at Tennessee Nuclear Plant

Two contractors working near a 6.9kV electrical bus were injured in an arc flash incident on March 16th at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Soddy-Daisy, TN, northeast of Chattanooga.

TVA, Nuclear plant, Arc Flash

According to an event notification report from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) posted Monday, the two contractors were transported to a medical facility for treatment. “The cause of the arc flash is not understood at this time, an accident investigation has been initiated by TVA,” the report said.

The two injured contractors sustained first and second-degree burns. Both are employees of Day & Zimmerman, an engineering, construction and security firm based in Philadelphia. TVA told television station WRCB that it has suspended similar work activities until the cause is understood.

Neither of the workers were shocked or contaminated by radiation in the incident. The TVA’s two nuclear reactors at the site, Sequoyah Unit 1 and Unit 2, remain at 100 percent power, the NRC said.

When an arc flash happens, it does so without warning and is lightning quick. The result of this violent event is usually destruction of the equipment involved, fire, and severe injury or death to any nearby people. Proper safety and protection measures must be taken to limit the damage from an arc flash which include conducting an arc flash study, short circuit study, and NFPA 70E electrical safety training.

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