Avoid on-the-job injuries by preparing your staff.
By Michael Tharpe
Safety issues often go unnoticed when staff is under pressure to get the job done. While everyone is responsible for making safe decisions, it falls on owners and crew leaders to give installers the training they need, adequate breaks for the workplace conditions and the tools to get the job done efficiently and safely without added fatigue.
Follow these steps to prevent on-the-job injuries and ensure no one gets injured or killed on the job.
Owners and crew leaders need to assign enough time, personnel and resources to do the job. This will prevent crews from having to improvise on the job in order to meet customer expectations. Many times crews are put in a compromised position before they even start a job because there is not enough time allowed for a particular installation. Sales force and operations managers need to know enough about tent installations and how much time is reasonable to complete a job, given on-site demands and logistics.
Training should include all necessary skills and information, including the right to refuse to put oneself in harm’s way. Crew chiefs and crew members should be trained in how to recognize the signs of fatigue or heat stress/stroke and know the steps necessary for handling these situations. The entire team must work together to ensure a safe installation. Part of that training should include how to minimize crew members’ exposure to hazardous conditions throughout the day and making sure first aid is available to any worker who may need it.
Crew leaders should gather crews at each site and outline the expectations for the installation and a safety plan. The safety plan should include communicating steps to be taken if workers become overly tired or dehydrated. Everyone should be made aware of the plan and should be capable of executing it. As the day wears on, crew members should be encouraged to communicate with each other about safety issues and physical stress levels.
Use the right equipment
If equipment is broken, chipped, dull, worn out, undersized or otherwise inadequate, it should not be loaded on the truck. The proper ladders, jacks, stake drivers, etc., should be made available so crews can work smarter, not harder. Personal safety equipment should be listed on every load list to ensure it is part of the operation.
Stay clean and sober
Working under the influence of drugs (legal or otherwise) or alcohol, or knowingly working with someone who is, will only increase the fatigue factor and affect the entire crew’s ability to get the job done. There is often a set of avoidable circumstances leading up to accidents that a well-trained workforce will be able to address.
Use safety gear
Safety equipment is available for a reason. It should be used. Depending on the state or province in which crews are working, if workers are injured on the job and have chosen not to use personal protective equipment, the insurance claim could be rejected.
Know your limits
If a worker is not physically capable of completing the task, he or she should make it known and find a suitable replacement. This includes overestimating strength or underestimating the level of fatigue: both put other crew members in harm’s way.
Plan your work on site
Every crew member should take the time to think about potential hazards or other issues that could present safety concerns, determine options and develop a common-sense plan to save all involved a lot of grief, or worse, an injury. For every one way in, there should be two ways out, in case something falls or fails. Taking just a few minutes at the start of a job to evaluate the situation will eliminate many workplace accidents.
Be in the right place
Workers should not think that they need to put themselves in harm’s way in an effort to get the job done. Crew chiefs and workers should be diligent in evaluating surroundings and always know what is in front, behind, above and below them. Being able to identify potential hazards on the job will be easier as time goes on, though it is tempting to get complacent when working under a deadline. Often this is when accidents happen.
Personal issues should not be brought to the workplace. Everyone has personal issues they must deal with, but coworkers cannot afford to have a teammate lose focus on the job as a result. Personal issues must be handled at a time when other people’s safety is not at risk.
On behalf of the industry, each individual and company has an obligation to create the safest work environment possible. When outside issues are allowed into the workplace and fatigue is allowed to come into play on the jobsite, all stand to harm the industry as a whole, and none need that negative exposure. Diligence with safety planning and awareness of surroundings at all times, including fatigue levels, will benefit everyone