Safety and Hand Grenades

Ever heard the adage “Close is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades”?

We think that close calls are also important to maintaining a safe work environment. Exposing, analyzing, communicating and learning from these events is an important part of TGM®’s safety program. We call these experiences “Near Miss” events. The resolution of one of our recent “Near Miss” events may benefit your operation.

Our mechanics were using a striking wrench to loosen bolts on a turbine. One mechanic held a rope attached to the end of the wrench in order to apply a slight torque to keep the wrench seated on the nut. Another mechanic struck the wrench with an 8 pound hammer. Naturally, the holder of the rope is standing along the path of the hammer swing. The rope is normally long enough to position the mechanic well outside the hammer’s path. In this recent case, space was tight and the rope was too short. No problem if every hammer blow strikes the wrench. The mechanic was confident, declaring “I never miss!”. Except he did, and struck his partner in his safety glasses. His partner suffered a slight cut from the glasses but was otherwise OK. (See adjacent picture.)

TGM® takes these near misses very seriously. An immediate stand-down is ordered for that phase of the work and the circumstances are documented in both words and pictures. The corporate Safety Director is alerted and a discussion begins on how best to remedy the current situation in order to safely resume the task. The incident and its immediate resolution is communicated to all Technical Directors so they can beware of the hazard. This particular incident was judged a systemic hazard, so we began looking for a systemic solution. A reminder of the incident was also recorded in our latest Safety Slogan: “I NEVER miss” is NEVER an acceptable answer! (See other slogan winners HERE.)

Our solution is a specialized tool which allows a mechanic to stand perpendicular to the path of the hammer blow while holding the striking wrench. The picture at the top of the article shows a mechanic setting the wrench on a nut. He will get out of the way after another mechanic grabs the end of the tool. A second mechanic will strike the wrench. An added benefit is that the wrench will not go flying if it is dislodged from the nut.

Hydraulic wrenches are also used to remove nuts in close quarters. TGM® uses this tool where warranted. Hydraulic wrench manufacturers maintain explicit warnings regarding their use and require operators to have specialized training. The hydraulic sockets can shatter even when used properly. We have experienced several Near Miss incidents in their use, and have discussed the dangers in several other Turbine Tips. (See below).

One recent hydraulic socket failure demonstrated the importance of our current practices. We have a set of specialized sockets in each tool set which are dedicated for hydraulic use only and painted white to distinguish them from other sockets. The sockets and the wrenches are regularly inspected for damage when the tool set is returned to the warehouse after a job. An outage team can also get a replacement socket if they feel one is damaged or otherwise subject to failure. Before use, a socket is wrapped in a specialized tape which will contain the shattered pieces if it fails. The picture below demonstrates the effectiveness of these practices. Without the tape, the socket could have flown across the turbine deck.

Please Contact Us if you would like more information on procuring or using any of these tools.

Overhead Loads

A young construction worker was killed the same day his wife was coming home from the hospital with their first child.

How did this occur? A crane was transporting a heavy, bulky section six or seven feet in the air to clear other objects. The load was guided by tag lines which were used by all of the workers except this young man. Although warned by his foreman to use the line, he didn’t. A lifting pad gave way and he was killed instantly.

Let’s face it, our job is dangerous within itself – we don’t need Murphy’s Law in the mix as well. Be aware of the load at all times, no matter how large or small it is. Remind yourself of this slogan the next time a load is lifted – “IF IT’S IN THE AIR, IT’S DANGEROUS”.

Let’s review some of the rules that can help keep us from getting injured by failing loads:

A load that can be carried close to the ground can be stabilized by a person at each end. These individuals must stay in the clear at all times, and the ground surface must be unobstructed and reasonably level.

Taglines should always be used where needed and definitely where the load is to be carried more than five feet above the ground. In some cases, ten-foot taglines should be used to guide loads being raised and lowered, rather than using extremely long lines that drag around the job and can snag on something.

On all jobs, only one person, generally the lead individual, should give signals to the crane operator. If you are assigned the job of directing the crane, follow these basic rules:

Always use standard hand signals to direct the crane operator.

Stand in the clear and place yourself where the operator can plainly see you and you can see the operator.

If you can’t see the load and another person is signaling to you, be sure everyone is in the clear before you give the signal to the operator.

Remember, it takes time to relay signals.

Never permit a load to be lowered, raised, or swung over a worker’s head or an occupied building.

If the operator can see the load, it’s the operator’s responsibility — without exception — to see that this rule is followed.

REMEMBER …..”If it’s in the air, it’s dangerous.”

Heat Stress

It’s that time of year again – summertime – hot and unbearable weather.

This year is starting off in pretty much the same pattern as years gone by. All over the U.S we are seeing extremely high heat temperatures, especially in the western portion where temperatures are reaching an average of 112° to 128° degrees.

Many people are exposed to heat on some jobs, outdoors, or in hot indoor environments. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness.

Why is heat a hazard to workers?

When a person works in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature. It does this mainly through circulating blood to the skin and through sweating.
When the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, cooling of the body becomes more difficult. Blood circulated to the skin cannot lose its heat. Sweating then becomes the main way the body cools off. But sweating is effective only if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation and if the fluids and salts that are lost are adequately replaced.

If the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. As the body continues to store heat, the person begins to lose concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often loses the desire to drink.

The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.

Excessive exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.

Exposure to heat can also increase the risk of injuries because of sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness, and burns from hot surfaces or steam.

How can heat-related illness be prevented?

Heat-related illnesses can be prevented. Important ways to reduce heat exposure and the risk of heat-related illness include engineering controls, such as air conditioning and ventilation, that make the work environment cooler, and work practices such as work/rest cycles, drinking water often, and providing an opportunity for workers to build up a level of tolerance to working in the heat.

Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Also, it’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do – acting quickly can save lives!

Remember, refrain from alcohol intake the night prior and drink plenty of fluids during the shift.

“Off the Job” Safety

We emphasize a lot of “on the job” safety, but what about “off the job” safety?

We have a responsibility to use what we learned in all of our safety training and apply it to everyday safety. A large part of safety training is to help you form a safe attitude – to encourage you to want to be safe and to think safety at all times.

It is important not just to your employer, but to you and your family as well. What you do on your own time is your own business, but it is only natural that we are concerned about each other’s welfare, both on and off the job. Only an immature person would deliberately leave safety at work. However, there are times when we all get a little careless.

Accidents away from work account for 70 percent of all deaths and 55 percent of all injuries to workers. Your contribution would be difficult to replace if you were injured either on or off the job. Add this to the fact that as a spouse and/or a parent you are priceless to your family, so it is easy to see why a 24-hour safety effort is necessary.

The highways are prime areas of concern for safety away from work. Watch your speed on the road. Be patient getting out of the parking lot, and always watch the other driver.

Most of us are do-it-yourselfers around the house and this is where a lot of people are injured. Be careful when using ladders. Make sure your ladder is safe before climbing it – do not overreach or climb too high.

When using tools, pick the right tool for the job, do not use a tool if it is in poor condition. Power tools should be grounded with a three-pronged plug or double-insulated. Remember to stay off wet surfaces when using electric power tools. Always use PPE just as if you were on the job.

Watch weather conditions. For Northern employees, do not overexert yourself when shoveling snow and for Southern employees, do not work too long in the hot sun, especially if you have had a hard week on the job.

(Safety tips provided by Insperity Support Services)

Common Sense Safety

Contrary to popular opinion, all workers can prevent themselves from getting hurt.

The easy way to avoid pain is to observe how others have taken risks and been injured, rather than learning the hard way–from your own injury. That’s common sense! By avoiding unsafe acts and practicing common sense, your work will go smoother, with less chance for accidents.

The experts say at least 80% of industrial accidents are caused by unsafe acts on the part of employees–and not by unsafe conditions. Although employers are required by law to provide a safe and healthful workplace, it is up to you to be aware of your work environment and follow safe work practices. Statistically, most accidents are caused by unsafe acts, including:

  • Being In A Hurry – Sometimes there is more concern for completing a job quickly instead of safely. Take time to do a good job and a safe job.
  • Taking Chances – Daring behavior or blatant disregard for safe work practices can put the whole work team at risk. Follow all company safety rules and watch out for your fellow employees. Horseplay is never appropriate on the job and can lead to disciplinary action.
  • Being Preoccupied – Daydreaming, drifting off at work, thinking about the weekend, and not paying attention to your work can get you seriously hurt or even killed. Focus on the work you are paid to do. If your mind is troubled or distracted, you’re at risk for an accident.
  • Having A Negative Attitude – Being angry or in a bad mood can lead to severe accidents because anger nearly always rules over caution. Flying off the handle on an outage is potentially dangerous. Keep your bad moods in check, or more than one person may be hurt. Remember to stay cool and in charge of your emotions.
  • Failing To Look For Hidden Hazards – At many jobsites, work conditions are constantly changing. Sometimes new, unexpected hazards develop. Always be alert for changes in the environment. Hidden hazards include spilled liquids that could cause slips and falls; out-of-place objects that can be tripped over; unmarked floor openings one could step into; low overhead pipes that could mean a head injury; and other workers who don’t see you enter their hazardous work area.

Remember to stay alert for hazards, so you won’t become one more accident statistic: You can do a quality job without rushing. Maintain a positive attitude and keep your mind on your work.

This is just common sense–something smart workers use!

Slips, Trips and Falls

Slip-and-fallFalls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for nearly 8.6 million visits to the emergency room.

Adults 55 and older are more prone to being victims of falls, and the resulting injuries can diminish the ability to lead active, independent lives. The number of fall deaths among adults 65 or older is four times the number of fall deaths among all other age groups.

Most common locations for falls:

  • Doorways
  • Ramps
  • Cluttered hallways
  • Areas with heavy traffic
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Areas prone to wetness or spills
  • Most common locations for falls to another level:
  • Unguarded heights
  • Unstable work surfaces
  • Ladders
  • Stairs

Falls can be prevented – Ladder Safety

  • Always keep at least three points of contact with the ladder (i.e., two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand)
  • Place the base on a firm, solid surface
  • A straight or extension ladder should be placed 1 foot away from the surface it rests against for every 4 feet of ladder height. When you climb, always face the ladder and grip the rungs, not the side rails
  • Climb down a ladder one rung at a time
  • Do not climb with tools in hand – use a tool belt
  • Keep your body between the ladder side rails when climbing. Do not lean or overreach – reposition the ladder closer to the work instead
  • Do not use ladders outdoors in windy or inclement weather

Knife Safety

Statistics indicate that knives cause more disabling injuries than any other hand tool.

Knife Safety in all occupations are injured by knives – a stock boy in a supermarket produce department or a mechanic opening a box or cutting rubber. We are all exposed to knife injuries only because a knife is a very handy and commonly used tool.

All cuts should receive first aid. Even the smallest cut can become infected, so treat all cuts properly. Always use a knife only for what it is intended.

Never use it as a screwdriver or pry bar. Never use a knife that is defective. Keep knives sharp and in good condition. A dull knife can cause you to put too much pressure on the object you are trying to cut. The blade could slip and slice you or someone nearby.

The principal hazard when using a knife, whether on or off the job, is that the user’s hand may slip from the handle onto the blade, causing a painful and serious injury. A handle guard will reduce this hazard. Another cause of injury is the knife striking the free hand or the user’s body.

Industrial knife safety principles remind us to always make a cutting stroke away from the body when possible. Adequate protection should be worn to protect the body and provisions made to hold the material steady.

Steel-mesh gloves are available in select industries, such as meatpacking, where materials must be held in close proximity to the knife. TGM carries these steel mesh gloves in every tool set we own. We are in the process of getting Kevlar gloves as well.

When on the job, carry a knife in a sheath or holder over the right or left hip, pointing backwards. Otherwise, a fall could cause a serious leg injury. Storage of knives is also an important safety factor. Cutting edges should be covered and not exposed. Knives should be kept in their proper place and not left on benches or on the floor.

If you are using the right knife for the job, it should cut without great difficulty. When you have to resort to force to make a knife cut, then you are headed for trouble–it could result in an injury to you, damage to the knife, or damage to the material that you are attempting to cut.

Remember this, “our patience will achieve more than our force.” That is a good point to remember when using a knife.

Forklift Safety

According to OSHA, forklift overturns are the leading cause of fatalities related to the use of forklifts and result in 25% of all forklift deaths.

Other incidents that are associated with using forklifts include falling from a forklift, loads falling on workers, not using a seat-belt and being ejected or not following the proper procedures while traveling on grades or ramps.

With the proper training forklift operators will gain the knowledge and skill required to create a safe environment. When operators do not have the proper training problems arise and often lead to accidents and deaths.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you received training to operate a forklift?
  2. Do you know how to properly report damage or problems during your shift?
  3. Are you aware of any mechanical issues before operating a forklift?
  4. Do you know how to properly operate a forklift on grades and ramps?
  5. Do you know what to do if your forklift is overturning?
  6. Do you know how to determine load capacity?
  7. Are you using seat-belts properly while operating?
  8. Have you received training on proper fueling?
  9. Do you know how to properly mount and dismount a forklift?
  10. Do you have the necessary information needed to comply with OSHA regulations?

(Courtesy of Crane Tech)

Crane Safety Revisited

Just when you think you have all the bases covered, the “impossible” happens.

During a lift on one of our recent outages, the idler pulley and mounting bracket for the drive on the overhead crane fell approximately 25 feet. Fortunately no one was injured.

We have discussed the need for pre-outage crane inspections in previous Safety Tips, identifying the need for an OSHA-compliant inspection before the outage. The customer had conscientiously performed the inspection, and we had examined the report.

In a post-incident report, the company’s preferred crane inspection vendor discovered the root cause was an alignment issue with the driven sprocket for the trolley. The company implemented two corrective actions: the crane vendor installed a safety cable to prevent the bracket from falling in the event of a failure, and an alignment protocol was added to the inspection checklist. Discussions are continuing on additional preventive measures.

For TGM’s part, we recognize that we have a responsibility to not only request the inspection report, but to read and analyze it. We have discovered that this crane vendor includes an Inspection Report Key along with the report which gives a Priority Code and a Condition code for each finding. These codes help identify the importance of the finding and the need for corrective action. These codes are specific to this particular vendor.

Others may use a different key or not have one.  We will now be asking for an Inspection Report Key in addition to the report so we can double check that all deficiencies have been corrected. We will also be asking for the report with enough lead time such that any corrections can be made before the outage.

Hose Connector Failures

Once again we are inviting comments on a recent safety concern and TGM’s efforts to remedy it.

A 1” air hose came loose from the connector fitting.  The hose whipped across the floor, narrowly missing two mechanics, before a quick thinking mechanic shut off the supply.

Our hoses were equipped with the fitting shown on the left.  After discussion with our supplier, we have chosen to replace this with the crimped sleeve connector shown on the right.  The connector is affixed with a computer operated machine.  The operator inputs the inside and outside diameters of the hose, the type of hose and the connector used.  The machine calculates and applies the correct pressure for a good crimp.

According to our supplier, most customers prefer the old double banded style connector because when a hose gets soft (usually at the ends by the connector) they can cut it and band it back together and save the cost of a new hose.

What do you think?  Are we being too cautious?  Is this a problem in your shop?  How do you handle it? Please join the discussion on this blog article.