Hazard perception

Keep a watchful eye
By Charles Turiello
January 1, 2008

Having worked in the safety arena for a number of years, I look at things differently than most people. Safety is always first and foremost in my mind, so when I stepped onto the casino floor in Las Vegas during the November 2007 NACE convention, the work environment was the first thing to grab my attention. In these situations, I ask myself: Is this environment safe, and does it provide employees optimum work conditions?

For example, is the blackjack dealer wearing cut-resistant gloves? The dealer could easily scratch his or her hand on the edge of a deck of cards. In today’s world of antibiotic-resistant Staph infections, a cut, no matter how minor, can be dangerous if not fatal. Are the roulette operators wearing safety glasses?  The roulette ball could pop up out of the wheel and hit someone in the eye. Is the cocktail server wearing chemical-resistant gloves?  Alcohol allergies are uncommon, but the Mayo Clinic notes some people are allergic to other ingredients in alcoholic beverages such as the preservative sulfur dioxide.

Regardless of your position in the glass industry, you should look for hazards that expose employees to injury. By honing your hazard perception, you can anticipate danger and prevent injuries.

Share responsibility
Windshield repair has its challenges in regards to safety issues. Employees must be aware of at least two basic safety precautions:

• When working with resins and other chemicals, the technician needs to have the appropriate safety equipment in place. This includes Nitrile gloves, safety glasses and Kevlar gloves.

• Prior to performing a repair, the technician must remove all hazards, including oil, grease or extension cords from the work area.

Unfortunately, some technicians do not take these safety issues into consideration. Compounding the problem are employees who feel safety is not their responsibility. I once gave a class on safety in the workplace. One of the attendees told me that safety was not in his job description as a customer service representative, but the shop or branch manager’s responsibility. Unfortunately, the majority of workers share this attendee’s belief.

From the CSR to the CEO, everyone should take responsibility for employee safety.

Identify risk
How we determine risk in our organizations is paramount to identifying safety issues and taking action to correct them.
When visiting a satellite location or a technician on the job site, check to see if the employee’s wearing the proper personal protective equipment, or PPE, correctly, and whether the equipment is in good condition.

Assess the condition of the building, and make sure there are no slip-and-fall hazards, unsafe ladders or extension cords, and that the exits are clearly marked and accessible.

Take action
It is not easy to change the way we perceive our work environment; it takes practice and a watchful eye. One employee injury can affect many facets of your organization. It can reduce staff and require new hires or shifting employees around to accommodate the injured worker. It can affect the annual renewal on your insurance coverage and rates. Most importantly, an injury impacts the affected employee’s quality of life, personally and professionally.

We are all responsible for providing a safe working environment for our employees and must watch out for each other. When you observe an unsafe practice, alert the employee and his or her supervisor. Educate employees about safe practices as often as possible. Reinforce and enforce safety on a regular basis. Changing old habits takes consistent communication.

For the most part, safety is common sense. We all deal with unsafe situations on a daily basis. We mow our lawns and use chemical cleaning solvents and power tools. I take safety precautions when I do these everyday tasks. I wear safety glasses when mowing my lawn, chemical-resistant gloves when using cleaning solvents and cut-resistant gloves when handling power tools.

Hazard perception is a way of anticipating danger and taking steps to avoid that danger. Develop a checklist to evaluate work conditions in each location. Identify safety concerns and take the necessary steps to correct them immediately. Sample checklists are available on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Web site, www.osha.gov. The information OSHA provides is comprehensive. Use this checklist to develop best safety practices companywide.

Take these steps, change your perception of the environment around you, and begin to create safe working conditions for your employees.


The author is director of quality assurance and safety for Diamond Glass Cos., Kingston, Pa., and a member of the National Committee on Windshield Repair. Write him at CTuriello@Diamondglassco.com.