It Will Never Happen to Us
It Will Never Happen to Us
By: Dave Carter
Published in OH&S, July 1, 2016
It will never happen to us: Six little words that haunt various job titles throughout industry. Those who have experienced a wake-up call will replay scenarios over and over in their minds: Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t our employees know how to handle this? Did anyone check this contractor out? Hopefully, it was only a wake-up call. The goal is to never have to wonder about that other set of questions: How long did he work here? Did she have family? Are the media here? These questions and more will continue to linger for months and even years. The excuses, on the other hand, will only have a short shelf life.
Providing a safe work environment and protecting employees is a huge task. Government regulations, company policies, and less-than-cooperative employees can pose huge challenges. Technology at times seems to be our enemy. We have more and more tools that provide us with more data than we can process in a timely manner. Stacks of paper and page after page of emails wait for our attention. How do we provide our employees with quality training that keeps them interested in operating safely? How do we give them that common core of knowledge and a necessary skill set that will help them handle potential disasters calmly, efficiently, and in a safe matter?
The truth is that there is no easy answer. Every type of industry out there has its own unique set of risks and dangers. If something goes wrong, production can come to a halt. If something goes wrong, people get hurt. If something goes wrong, you may end up on the evening news, or you might be the next hot topic trending on the web.
I was recently reading a report from the National Transportation Safety Board. The investigator referred to the accident in question as a “major safety failure.” It referred to failure to follow established procedures, with a further note of “classic miscommunication or misunderstanding.” It’s sad that this problem is so frequent that it is referred to as “classic.” I can’t stress enough the importance of your employees being familiar with the systems and action plan that you have in place. They can only become familiar with these type things through training. When tragedy strikes, crucial decisions have to be made in a timely manner. Simply making decisions on the fly with little to no training or experience to rely upon is a recipe for further disaster.
Emergency response preparedness for “not if” but “when” requires a dynamic and effective training program—training that not only meets mandates, but also exceeds requirements. Training that is fresh and that helps motivate. Training that is effective in not only preventing injuries, but also avoiding shutdowns. Training that keeps your company from becoming a headline.
None of us wants to be the reason that OSHA comes out with a ruling or a fresh focus on a topic. Here are a few things to consider that can improve what we do and ultimately provide a better end result for when it happens.
Meeting the Challenge
Keeping employees interested in training is a challenge. Going over the same thing year after year can be brutal. Try to create training and exercises that are unique to your own workplace. Ask employees where they feel they need to be trained.
What is the worst disaster that could happen on your property? Develop realistic scenarios for your job site and develop a plan to respond. Industry is at an advantage over the average business out there; you know exactly what your exposures are on site and you know exactly the processes used in manufacturing and what the potential is if those processes occur out of order. Action plans should be developed for every process on site.
In the minutes it takes to call for help, a lot can happen. In the next five minutes that it takes that call to be dispatched and for help to get started rolling, even more can happen. In the next five minutes that it takes for help to arrive and get to the right location on site, conditions may have become drastically worse.
The bottom line is that no matter how small or large an accident, emergency response preparedness is crucial in getting a response to an incident started right, and starting right can be achieved only by creating that knowledge base through an ever-evolving training program before an incident occurs.
Dave Carter is an independent safety instructor and consultant for Priority One Safe-T, LLC, an industrial safety training, standby rescue services, and emergency response consulting firm (www.priority1safe-t.com). He is also a firefighter employed with the Springfield Fire department in Missouri, where he carries the rank of captain and is the Rescue Team leader for his shift. With more than 18 years of experience as a career firefighter, Carter is certified in numerous types of rescue categories, a certified Fire Instructor, a Hazardous Materials Technician for the Homeland Security Regional Response Team for Southwest Missouri Region D that covers 19 counties, and a member of the Southwest Missouri Incident Support Team. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Drury University.