I’d Rather Work with a Net
by Dale Malcolm
Imagine this scenario:
your customer service person called in sick and you had to do his job—in addition to running the shop. Three customers dropped their cars off for new windshields … and all three cars have to be ready for pickup by 4 p.m.
It's been a long day. The phones and walk-in customers have been busier than usual—or maybe it just seems that way. The first two cars are ready to be picked up. While you are pulling the cold knife around the last part of the windshield for vehicle number-three, the blade breaks. You pick up a screwdriver and change the blade. Time is getting short and you hurry to finish the last car. A fire truck draws your attention when it races by with the siren blaring as you start to cut out the last few inches of the windshield. The blade breaks a second time only this time your unprotected hand brushes across a piece of the broken windshield, cutting you deep across the back of your hand. You rush to the emergency room only to find you will need two operations to re-attach the nerves and tendons in your hand. It will take months of intensive physical therapy to regain full use of your fingers.
“The Dangerous Three”
If you have ever been injured or know someone who has, the cause was most likely what I call the "Dangerous Three." Any one of the Dangerous Three can lead to an accident. Put two or three together and a mishap is almost a certainty.
1. Haste - rushing can cause mistakes that may lead to injury;
2. Fatigue - whether you are physically or mentally drained, fatigue can lead to a mistake and consequently an injury; and
3. Distraction - if you don't pay attention to what you are doing, an accident might be just around the corner.
Could the injury described above have been avoided? Yes, with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). Properly selected work gloves would have minimized the damage and might have prevented the injury altogether.
The most effective way to select PPE is to conduct a review of previous accident records. Determine why, where and how injuries occur in your business and outfit employees with the proper equipment and training to ensure their safety. If your company does not maintain an accident record, common sense can go a long way to proper PPE selection. Practical experience has shown there are two critical pieces of safety gear everyone should have—work gloves and safety glasses.
The proper glove is determined by the hazards lurking in each specific type of work. For example, statistics show during auto glass replacement almost half of all cuts to the hand are to the back of the hand. A full leather glove that is worn while cutting out, removing or cleaning the opening for glass replacement minimizes the risk of this type of injury. For best protection, the back of the glove should be as cut-resistant as the palm. Beware of knit, cut-resistant gloves that offer adequate protection from cuts by large pieces of glass, but may allow small glass shards to pass through and cut you. If a ballpoint pen can penetrate easily and leave a mark on your hand, what will a sliver of glass do?
Safety glasses should be worn whenever anyone is in an active work area. A piece of glass tossed in the trash can fracture and scatter over a large area. Since glass installers work with chemicals that can spray and splash, safety glasses should be worn. It is important to establish a policy stating when and where safety glasses are worn.
Other types of PPE to be considered are work shoes, chemical-resistant gloves, hearing protection and even the type of clothing worn. Each job and the associated hazards should be considered and the appropriate PPE should be selected and worn to protect against injury.
A tightrope walker never knows when he may slip and fall. That is why he uses a safety net. You never know when the Dangerous Three will show up at your next job, so work safely and use your PPE. It sure beats a trip to the emergency room …
Dale Malcolm is the technical services supervisor for Essex ARG of Dayton, Ohio.
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