OSEA Safety News

One Safeguard Doesn't Make it Safe

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Many different things can go wrong during the workday that can result in injury to employees. Often when a safety hazard is identified, it is thought of as a single issue. It may fall into the category of a slip/trip/fall, electrical, machine guarding, or in one of the many of the other hazard categories. A lot of time and money is spent to keep the workplace incident-free and employees healthy. When looking for solutions to workplace hazards, we often try to find the simplest solution. However, safety solutions should be thought of as a combination of many actions.

Some individuals have the mindset that one solution will resolve the hazard. They may think that wearing PPE or installing a guard will resolve the issue. Having the mindset that a simple solution will resolve a problem is in and of itself hazardous. Our roadways are safer when we follow multiple rules; if people only followed the speed limit and ignored traffic lights, the rate of accidents and injuries would certainly go up. It is no different with safety. There are likely several safeguards that need to be put in place in order to assure a hazard is abated.

For example, when elevated heights work is being performed, taping off the area with DANGER tape is not the only safeguard that should be put in place.

  • Tools and equipment should also be secured
  • Toeboards and guard rails should be inspected
  • Harness, lanyards and tie-off points inspected
  • Traffic should be eliminated
  • Netting may need to be installed

Having a “good enough” mindset will leave employees at risk when hazards are not thoroughly abated. Assessing a safety hazard requires that it be looked at from multiple angles. The hierarchy of controls (eliminate, substitute, engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE) should be considered and looked at from a variety of angles or options. There may be several engineering controls that can be used, or more than one type of PPE required. We also need to consider who will it affect? Can other people not involved in the work process be harmed? In other words, we need to look at the big picture and not think that a safety hazard is resolved by simple solutions. Achieving safety in the workplace involves identifying and evaluating multiple safeguards for any known single hazard.

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