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Safety, Cultural, Wellness Moments

Safety, Sustainability, and Resilience

Safety, Cultural, Wellness Moments

Each Crowley meeting or shift change begins with a Safety Moment—a brief pause to share a safety tip, anecdote or idea about how to improve our safety performance. This practice is part of our commitment to continual improvement when it comes to safety.

It gives every member of our team a voice when it comes to safety, it helps us develop new ideas for safety procedures and it helps reinforce the role that safety plays in our performance as a company. As part of our focus on safety, we will periodically share some of our Safety Moments here.

Static electricity, as a source of ignition for flammable vapors, gases, and dusts, is a hazard common to a wide variety of industries in Alaska. A static spark can occur when an electrical charge accumulates on the surfaces of two materials that have been brought together and then separated (between two solids, between a solid and a liquid, or between two immiscible liquids, i.e., incapable of mixing).

One surface becomes charged positively and the other surface becomes charged negatively. If the materials are not bonded or grounded, they eventually will accumulate a sufficient electrical charge capable of producing a static spark that could ignite flammable vapors, gases, and dusts.

Working under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited. This means more than just not drinking on the job. Tests have shown that alcohol can still have an effect on your body up to 18 hours after you have stopped drinking. Alcohol use is a legitimate on-the-job safety issue – and not just an attempt to control off-the-clock lifestyles.

Alcohol is a sedative. Drinking any quantity of alcohol impairs a person’s judgment, thinking ability, and coordination to some degree. Some people can “handle” alcohol better than others, but it is a fact that any alcohol consumed has some effect. Other factors that influence your body’s ability to metabolize alcohol include your weight, medications, and previous medical conditions. You may not feel it right away, but remember, alcohol affects judgment.

After drinking, you are no longer in a position to assess your own capabilities. You don’t have to be drunk to have some impairment. If you can’t make it through the day without a drink, you could have a problem and should seek professional help.

What should you do about a co-worker who is drinking on the job? Should you ignore the situation or report it? Most people would ignore the situation because they do not want to cause problems on the job or do not want to get involved. People would prefer to avoid conflict at almost any cost. But look at it this way — the drinker, no matter how nice a co-worker, is not doing you any favors. It’s a fact that the drinker is less productive. Who has to pick up the slack? You do. It is a fact that the drinker is more 1ikely to be involved in accidents. Who else is he or she placing at risk? You!

Are you allowing the drinking to continue?

  • You are – if you cover for the drinker’s poor productivity
  • You are – if you cover their mistakes.
  • You are – if you make excuses to others for them.

Take control of the situation.

  • Don’t allow the situation to continue. Stop covering for the drinker.
    • Talk to your supervisor. It is your responsibility to talk to your supervisor whenever any performance or safety issues affect your job. A drinking worker could be just as dangerous as a defective saw. You wouldn’t hesitate to bring the saw to your supervisor’s attention, would you?
    • If you are uncomfortable, suggest to your supervisor that there may be a problem. A good supervisor will take the initiative and pick up the issue from there.

Whatever you do, make sure you do something. Watch out for your co-worker, as they may need help. If you don’t, you may pay dearly for someone else’s mistake.

It is generally accepted that in heavy industry, you’ll find dangerous work environments that expose employees to potential injury. But fewer companies recognize the potential risks found in everyday office environments. Office work, too, can lead to injuries if appropriate safe work practices are not followed. Learn to avoid these common hazards:

1. Musculoskeletal strains and sprains associated with material handling: If you must walk and carry an object, make sure the object is carried in a way that avoids blocking your vision. Never lift objects that are too heavy to handle comfortably. Get help, or use a hand truck when moving heavy or large objects. Lift objects from the floor correctly by using proper lifting mechanics–hold the load close to your body. Use a stool or stepladder when placing or removing items from high shelves.

2. Stress and strain associated with sitting and VDT use: Arrange your desk or work station so that your arms, wrists, legs, back and neck can be maintained in a comfortable “neutral” position, with proper back support. (Eagle can provide ergonomic checklists for evaluating your work area.) Those who spend long hours at a computer should consider mastering keyboard moves, instead of relying principally on the mouse. This helps reduce strain on your elbow and shoulder. And don’t forget to take rest breaks!

3. Injuries that result from slips, trips, and falls: Never run in the office. If liquids are spilled on tile or linoleum floors, clean them up immediately. If a rolling chair pad is cracked or if any part of the pad edge is curled upward, replace it and eliminate the tripping hazard. Do not lay electrical cords or phone cords where they could create a tripping hazard. Keep aisles clear of stored items.

4. Hand injuries from cuts, scrapes, smashes, and punctures: Use a letter opener when opening envelopes and boxes, and a staple puller when removing staples from documents. Wear a rubber finger “cot” when fingering through a significant amount of envelopes or pieces of paper. Store sharp objects neatly in desk drawers or inside closed containers. Always close desk and file cabinet drawers with your hand firmly gripped on the drawer handle–and leave repair of office equipment to the maintenance people.

Although offices are not considered to be “high hazard” work environments, injuries happen when risks are not controlled or when people get careless. Practice safe work habits at all times. Know where the office first aid kit is kept, and who has been trained to administer first aid. Lastly, make sure you understand the emergency procedures for dealing with fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and power failures.

Many workers don’t fully realize the serious hazards of oxyacetylene. That doesn’t necessarily mean these people aren’t safety conscious, or are careless in their work. The hazards of gas welding are not always visually obvious, and therefore are not always appreciated. Even “old-timers” can become complacent, but this attitude can be very dangerous. Here are some examples:

  1. Oxygen is commonly stored at pressures near 2,000 psi. This is a huge amount of stored energy. Whenever any compressed gas cylinder is not in use, remove its regulator, and replace the valve cap. This is the best way to protect the cylinder valve from damage. It is also important to always secure every cylinder in the upright position. This helps prevent a cylinder from being accidentally knocked over and damaged. If a cylinder’s valve stem were to be sheared off in a fall, there is enough stored energy to turn the cylinder into an unguided missile, which could shoot across the shop or yard, destroying anything in its path.
  2. Acetylene is an extremely unstable gas. It has a very wide explosive range and it can be dangerously explosive at pressures above 15 psi. It is for these two reasons that acetylene must never be used at hose pressures greater than 15 psi.
  3. Oxygen placed under high pressure can erupt in flame or explode if it comes into contact with oil or grease. Never use oil or grease on any gas welding apparatus, including cylinder caps. Keep the torch clean and free of grease. Don’t change cylinders or regulator valves unless you have clean hands. Just a little on your hands could cause an unfortunate explosion.
  4. Always close down cylinder valves when you are through working. This includes when you take a break and go to lunch. Even a pinhole leak in the hose could allow gas to accumulate in the workplace creating the potential for fire or explosion.
  5. When opening regulator valves, turn them slowly and stand to one side. If oxygen and acetylene were to mix inside the regulator under pressure, an explosion could result. The explosion could be a minor “pop” or it could destroy the regulator and injure the operator.
  6. Regularly inspect the gauges to make sure they are in proper working order to prevent possible malfunctions, and ensure accurate gauge settings. Any damaged or inoperable gauges should be repaired or replaced before use.
  7. DO NOT use oxygen to ventilate a confined or enclosed space. An oxygen enriched confined environment creates a serious fire and explosion hazard.

These are just a few of the hazards associated with welding operations. There are others that all torch users should know. Know all the hazards. Follow all safety procedures for your work.

We have all been told to avoid back injury by bending our knees when we lift, keeping the load close and avoiding twisting motions. These safety rules may be appropriate for simple, direct lifting of materials, but what about back care when you are working in awkward positions?

Work tasks that require you to reach or stretch away from your body while handling materials can also put excessive strain on the vertebral discs and soft tissues in the back. An awkward position is a work posture that distorts the spine from its natural curves, puts unbalanced pressure on the discs, and can strain arm, leg or back tissues if held for any length of time.

What are some work situations that may put you in “awkward” positions?

  1. Jobs that require you to bend and reach into bins or containers to retrieve or place material.
  2. Overhead work, installing or servicing equipment, pulling wire, cleaning ceilings, etc.
  3. Floor or ground level jobs such as installing or servicing equipment, cleaning, etc.
  4. Work tasks in confined or small spaces where there is limited range of motion such as boilers, hatches, pipes, tanks, vaults, crawl spaces, etc.
  5. Jobs on ladders, work platforms or scaffolding where you may over-reach to adjust, clean, install or service.
  6. Pulling loads, instead of pushing them, when removing equipment or other materials.
  7. Repetitive tasks that require twisting of the back such as loading or handling material 90o to 180o from the starting point

How can you avoid injury when working in awkward positions?

  • Raise bins and containers off the floor and/or tilt them to reduce bending and over-reaching.
  • When working overhead, stand on a steady and adjustable platform. Keep your back posture in its natural curve to avoid uneven spinal loading.
  • If working on the floor, avoid bending over to work. Squat down using your leg muscles and wear cushioned knee pads if you have to kneel at work.
  • In confined spaces, plan your work, and reduce clutter in the area which confines you further and increases the need to twist or overreach. Also arrange for adequate illumination.
  • Don’t hold an awkward position for too long. Pause often to stretch and straighten out.
  • When leaning forward to work, support the weight of your upper body on your free hand and arm, whenever possible. This greatly relieves pressure on your lower back.
  • Position yourself as close as possible to the job, avoid overreaching and/or use tools with longer handles when working on ladders or scaffolding.
  • Never lift heavy loads that are far from your body’s center of gravity. Get help in such cases.
  • Position your work below the shoulder and above the knees to minimize over-reaching.
  • Push, rather than pull, loads to help maintain the spine’s natural curve.
  • Remember that a back support belt may remind you to lift correctly, but it will not protect your spine if you overreach or twist with a load.

What specific awkward positions do you face in your work?

How can you “work smarter instead of harder” to prevent injuries?

Most of us know what features our cars have—such as power windows or power sockets—and how those features behave; however, many of us may not realize that not all features and components are created equally. For example, some vehicles have 12V power sockets that turn off when the ignition is in the off position, while others have power sockets that remain on—even after the car is turned off. Also, vehicles with multiple power sockets may have some that turn off when the ignition is off, while others remain on—all in the same vehicle!

Seen below are pictures of what resulted from an iPhone charger being left plugged into a 12V power socket for an extended period of time. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Needless to say, perhaps, we should inform ourselves of potential hazards by reading instructional manuals of electronic gadgets and the vehicles that we drive. Moreover, this not only applies to your cars, but also to RVs, Boats, and more.