Incident Prevention Magazine

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Richard J. Horan Jr., CSP, CUSP

Construction Workers are Occupational Athletes

Why do professional athletes compete? Well, the obvious answer is that they compete to both win and earn a living. But athletes aren’t just found in the professional sports world. The construction industry has its own athletes; they’re known as “working athletes” or “occupational athletes,” people who physically move around to work and earn a living.

Although a successful day for a construction worker may not be an actual win that gets recorded like a professional athlete’s does, it is a win nonetheless. A successful day for an occupational athlete who wants to win on the job includes a couple of things. One of those things is eating nutritiously before, during and after their shift. Years ago, I remember several journeymen linemen approaching an athletic trainer in the workplace to discuss nutrition. They were very interested in learning how to choose the right foods to buy and consume. The trainer agreed to meet them after the end of their shift to walk through the supermarket and show them what to look for on food labels. Those linemen were preparing to win.

Workplace Ergonomics
A well-developed workplace ergonomics program is another thing that helps to ensure occupational athletes have successful days. There are four essential components of such a program. The first is worker education and training, and those must take place before anything else. Athletic trainers will educate workers about musculoskeletal injuries and how to prevent them. Construction work is demanding on the body, so learning how to move safely on the job is key to prevention. Workers will learn how important it is to get close to the work and properly position their bodies. Knowing the causes of soft-tissue injuries and how to avoid them provides the working athlete with the prevention tools needed to help ensure proper body mechanics on the worksite.

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Richard J. Horan Jr., CSP, CUSP

Learning from Potential Serious Injuries and Fatalities

Over the past century, there have been many changes in how companies manage their safety systems. Although fatalities were common and accepted as part of doing business in the 1920s, great strides were made throughout the following decades to reduce or eliminate unsafe conditions. Over time, safety measures continued to increase among various sectors, which led to a decline in serious injuries and fatalities. In the nearly five decades since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law, workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries have dropped by more than 60 percent, according to a January 2012 white paper published by OSHA.

And yet serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) and potential serious injuries and fatalities (PSIFs) continue to afflict companies across a wide range of industries. When a company experiences a SIF event, safety consciousness usually increases. However, when a PSIF incident occurs, some company leaders do not know where or how to take action to strengthen the company safety culture against future risk.

One solution to this problem is for leaders to consistently use an incident decision tree or assessment questions to determine PSIFs. Each PSIF incident should be treated as an actual event, and a thorough incident investigation should be conducted. The main objective in an investigation is to recognize and diminish precursors – existing conditions that are known to increase the risk of an incident – in order to avoid a future SIF or PSIF.

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Richard J. Horan Jr., CSP, CUSP

Adding Value to Your Organization’s Safety Culture

Every person who reads this Tailgate Topic might have a slightly different idea of what drives a strong safety culture. But there is one thing every reader can likely agree upon: that all of a company’s employees have value and make valuable contributions to the organization, helping to create and maintain its safety culture.

Valuable contributions come in an infinite number of forms. In the utility industry, they go well beyond employees simply getting the work done accurately and on time. One example of a valuable contribution is a new written work procedure that helps to keep crews safer, is easily understood by employees and isn’t overly cumbersome to adopt. This contribution also is tangible; it can be disseminated via email, printed, used in training sessions and brought to work sites for easy reference.

Other contributions are less concrete. For instance, a caring attitude is highly valuable. If employees do not have a caring attitude that’s authentic, safety and good health can falter or even cease to exist in some cases.

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Richard J. Horan Jr., CSP, CUSP

Human Performance Tools: Important or Critical?

The critical steps of a work task are just that – critical. They are distinct from important steps and can cause immediate injury if not properly executed. If you research the definition of a critical step in relation to human performance, you will find that it is a human action that will trigger immediate, irreversible, and intolerable harm to a person or asset if that action or a preceding action is improperly performed. In other words, it’s basically the point of no return once the action is performed. On the other hand, many actions that you may need to take leading up to a critical step are important and should be recognized as such. Some examples of important steps include preparing for a task, verifying proper equipment to be worked on and selecting materials.

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Richard J. Horan Jr., CSP, CUSP

Elements of an Effective Safety Committee

There are a number of components necessary to create and maintain a strong, effective safety committee. Key among them are employee involvement and evolution – that constant search for ways to improve both how the committee functions as a group and the results committee members produce. Other ingredients for success include ownership at all levels of the organization, a clearly defined committee charter, sponsorship, effective committee facilitation, and companywide communication about committee activities and progress.

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