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Incident Prevention Magazine

Kelly Sparrow, J.D.

The Power of a Tool and Equipment Inspection System

It’s a hot, muggy day in Missouri. A crew is preparing forms for a foundation that will be poured later, when it cools down a bit. Two employees are pounding in steel support stakes for the forms. They’ve used theses stakes forever, and the heads of the stakes have always looked like mushrooms due to their frequent contact with a 10-pound sledge. Santiago is on the sledgehammer, using all the force he can muster to drive the stakes deep into the earth. Jeff, waiting to hold the next support stake, momentarily removes his safety glasses to wipe the sweat from his brow. Santiago takes one last swing with the sledge and the unthinkable happens. A piece of the rusted mushroom on the head of the stake he is pounding breaks off, ricochets off a rock on the ground and enters Jeff’s left eye, causing permanent loss of vision.

In Georgia, a logging foreman gets his truck stuck in mud. The crew prepares to pull the truck out, using their truck to pull and a 20-foot logging chain as the connection between the two vehicles. The chain has been in their truck for some time and is rated for the intended purpose. They attach the chain to the frames of the two vehicles and start the pull.

It all happens so fast. About 4 feet out from the bumper of the stuck vehicle, a link gives way. Sixteen feet of heavy chain recoils, striking an employee standing by the chain in both knees. After extensive surgery, the employee retrains for work that is less demanding than the logging work he loves. Investigation reveals that the broken link in the chain was severely compromised by abrasive wear and neglect.

What could have prevented these two incidents? In the first incident, it would be easy to blame the injured employee for taking off his PPE, but we all know that PPE is the last line of defense. Good safety systems prevent unwanted occurrences before PPE is needed.

Both of these incidents could have been prevented by an aggressive inspection and removal-from-service program. Below are a few things to think about when reviewing or revamping your inspection program.

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