Friday, October 28, 2016

False safety belief results in worker losing "most of his foot"...

This is the cart that toppled injuring the worker.
False safety beliefs injure and kill countless workers in our industry on an annual basis. Though we have no statistical data to back the previous statement. Our experience of what is actually occurring in our industry provides the basis of the statement. Sadly the numerous posts involving false safety beliefs on the Aluminium Plant Safety Blog reinforce that statement. Here is a recent incident involving a false safety belief.

A metal company has been fined for safety breaches after a worker suffered severe leg injuries and lost most of his foot.

A local court heard how a worker, who was an agency worker for the company, was injured when a trolley carrying metal stock fell on his legs causing severe injuries.

A bundle of bars weighing about 900kg was on a four wheeled trolley. The trolley was manually moved by the worker and another staff member but it tipped over and the bundle of bars fell off the top of the trolley trapping his leg and foot. He was rushed to hospital by the emergency services.

The worker’s right leg was broken and his right foot was badly crushed. Despite a number of operations to save his foot, most of it was amputated and he now has a prosthetic foot. It was many months before he was able to return to work. The worker is currently only able to work on a part-time basis.

HSE found that the metal trolleys had been used on site for some 20 years without incident. The company purchased the trolleys to be used as ‘workstations’, but employees had chosen to also use them to move metal stock around the site. There was no risk assessment or written system of work for these trolleys at the time of the accident. The trolley also had faulty wheels and there was no record of any maintenance. After the accident, the trolley was given a safe working load of 500kg; half the weight placed on the trolley at the time of the accident.

The company pleaded guilty to Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined for over 148,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector said: “(The worker’s) life has been drastically altered by what happened and this incident could have been very easily avoided with some very simple measures. The right equipment and a correct maintenance system would have prevented this from happening.”
First and foremost we pray that this worker will overtime be able to lead a normal life with his disability. We pray that the worker is given mental health counseling for the long term. Our industry in many fails to acknowledge the longterm mental health aspects to workplace injury. Longterm mental health counseling can provide to the worker the tools needed to overcome his/her disability. In addition the counseling will provide them with the necessary support when it goes bad, and it will go bad. We were told a story recently of another worker who due to workplace injury had his one leg below his knee amputated. That worker suffered in silence for decades because of that injury. Not only did he suffer, but his family suffered to. The pain that a workplace injury places upon the injured worker’s family is life changing. So in some ways long term mental health counseling is best when it includes the worker’s family too.

False safety beliefs are habits or practices that overtime have been thought to be safe but are actually not. False safety beliefs result in needless injuries and deaths in the aluminium industry. False safety beliefs can begin when a lack of knowledge transforms into a habit or a practice. Overtime those practices are assumed to be safe. It is only after an incident resulting in an injury or death that the practice is found to actually be a hazard. Following the best practices toward safety is the first step in achieving that goal. Addressing the false safety beliefs is the next step. Do your workers have habits or practices that overtime have been thought to be safe but are actually not? How do you know? Well, when we visit an aluminium plant we question everything. We acknowledge that may sound crazy, but in essence through our experience we have learned that what could go wrong does (eventually). So when we tour a plant (normal time is 4-6 hours) we observe everything and question why procedures are done. What is the basis of them? In some instances there are no formal procedures. Which is a red flag. If the answer is “we have always done that”. We reply “how do you know it is safe?”. To be honest that question can be taken many ways when asked. We always preface it with “please note my goal for asking these questions is not to piss you off”. But most times they do anger plants when we ask these questions. That is not the goal, the goal is for plants and companies to think out of the box when looking for potential hazards.

Finally, we ask you does your plant have false safety beliefs?

Please comment.

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