Safety First, My Dad Always Said
My father’s favorite saving is “Safety First.” Understandably so—he was a torpedo specialist in the Navy and handled live torpedoes. Their work slogan was “ Safety First,” and as a result, I heard the slogan over and over while growing up. Dad would say safety is not something you do, but a state of mind.
Conducting yourself and all that you do in a thoughtful, deliberate, and safe manner is often much easier said than done. It means making a conscious decision to make safety a consideration before beginning any activity.
Failure to do so not only puts you at greater risk of something “bad” happening to you but also puts everyone around you at risk as well.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic work safety issues. These issues, such as chemical, equipment, personal and floor safety, should be included in your hard surface floor (HSF) care manual.
Chemical SafetyThere are more than 600,000 chemical products in the marketplace today (and new ones being developed everyday). In fact, more than 32 million American workers are potentially exposed to one or more chemical hazard in the workplace alone. Prolonged or overexposure can contribute to health problems such as heart ailments, kidney and lung problems, sterility, burns, cancer and rashes. Many of these products carry additional safety hazards, such as the potential to cause fires, explosions and other accidents. For these reasons, it’s important to have a comprehensive chemical safety-training program. Here’s a Top 10 list of chemical safety DOs and DON’Ts:
- Make sure you are properly trained on how to use the chemical.
- Read all labels before using any chemical and always follow label directions.
- Know what to do in case of emergencies (the time to read the “in case of” emergency label is before you get it in your eye or drink it).
- Know the Poison Control Center number and other emergency phone numbers.
- Never mix one chemical with another unless specifically directed by the label direction. Mixing chemicals can be dangerous.
- Make sure all containers are appropriately labeled. If they’re not, then you should dispose of the contents properly.
- Store and transport all chemicals properly and securely.
- Clean up chemicals spills according to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) instructions.
- Protect yourself with the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Rubber gloves, face-shield, goggles, and respirators are examples of PPE.
- Wash your hands after removing the gloves when handling chemicals.
These safety items and others are covered in the OSHA Hazardous Communication Standard (HCS). The HCS says that all employees have both a need and a right to know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to when working. They also need to know what protective measures are available to prevent adverse effects from occurring. The HCS is also often referred to as the “Right-to-Know” law.
Equipment SafetyA clean, well-maintained piece of equipment is a safe piece of equipment. I teach that the best way to inspect your equipment is to clean it after each use. This takes care of two very important things: it allows you to always present a clean and professional looking piece of equipment; and it allows you to thoroughly inspect for needed repairs. Never try to use a piece of equipment for something it’s not designed to do. In fact, you should read all the “how to use” instructions and owner manuals and make them a part of your HSF training.
Personal SafetyMuch of the personal safety items have been covered in the chemical safety section; however, personal safety goes beyond the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Other personal safety issues that should be discussed in the manual are any company policy you may have. This may include, driving/vehicle safety and other work safe practices. For example, horseplay at work can be a serious problem and many disabling injuries have occurred because of it. I worked with a company that at the time their technicians were pulling practical jokes on one another. It got so out of hand that someone got hurt because of it. A policy against horseplay was soon drafted as a result.
Floor SafetyNo HSF manual would be complete without a section on floor safety. To protect your company, the public and your liability, you must have some general work-safe policies established, including the importance of setting a safety perimeter around the area you a performing the work in.
Setting a perimeter may include such things as locking the door to prevent access, use of caution tape, floors signs, safety cones, placards, barricades, and in some cases, actually posting a guard to prevent individuals from walking on the wet floor. If you think floor safety is not a big issue in our industry, then consider the following:
- One million people annually seek medical attention from emergency rooms due to slip and fall accidents. (Source: Product Safety Commission).
- 300,000 disabling injuries occur each year from slip and fall accidents. (Source: National Safety Council).
- Slip and fall accidents cost business owners millions of dollars a year in medical expenses, litigation cost and insurance rate increases. (Source: National Floor Safety Institute).
- Sixty-five percent of a building service contractor’s general liability goes to pay slip and fall accidents, compared to 57 percent of owner of the buildings.
- On average, building service contractors pay $6,300 per slip and fall claim compared to only $3,000 for the building owner. (Source: CNA Insurance Co.).
Understanding the dynamics of slip and fall accidents is the first step in helping to curtail them. It’s important that you are knowledgeable in ways to reduce potential claims. I recommended the book, “Slip-and-Fall Prevention Made Easy” by Russell J. Kendzior.
Other work-safe policies may include use of safety foot wear, back braces, proper lifting techniques and content-moving procedures, as well as any other work-safe policies you deem appropriate.