Staying Out of Harm’s Way

Cooperation Among Coworkers is Critical to Avoiding On-the-Job Accidents
Mike Burk
May 20, 2013
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : SAFETY

"For your safety and for the safety of those around you…” These are familiar words if you have ever traveled on a commercial airline. You hear them shortly after the announcement that you have reached a comfortable cruising altitude and the pilot has turned the seatbelt sign off. The flight attendant then reminds you to keep your seatbelt fastened in case of unexpected turbulence.

This same warning is appropriate for people who work with glass. You can get comfortable cruising through your daily work, but you must always be prepared for the unexpected. You must constantly watch for your safety, and for the safety of those around you.

Often, it takes more than one person to safely lift or transport large lites, thicker glass or heavy insulating glass units. Many of the fatalities that have occurred while handling glass have involved more than one person.

Secure lites before attempting movement. If glass begins to fall, move out of danger and allow it to fall.

As a result, you must personally make on-the-job choices that will protect you and your coworkers. You must choose to make sure that you are safe in your workplace. You must choose to never do anything that might harm the people around you. And, although it might be difficult, you must choose to identify and address actions by your coworkers that might cause injury.

Pointing out unsafe conditions can be especially difficult when the situation is caused by a co-worker who is also your supervisor or manager. Many employees fear retribution or dismissal if they raise concerns or refuse to follow unsafe instructions. If you find yourself in this situation, you must choose to do the right thing and voice your concerns to the next level of management. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration has whistleblower policies that will protect you and your job if you receive retribution or are dismissed.

Safe Glass Handling Tips

  • Choose not to lift large glass lites or heavy insulating glass units by yourself or with others. Determine the weight of the item you need to lift. Glass is very dense and is often heavier than it looks. A 3 mm, or 1/8 -inch-thick glass lite—often referred to as double strength—weighs 1.6 pounds per square foot. A 60-inch by 84-inch lite weighs 56 pounds. A rack of 50 lites weighs nearly 3,000 pounds. Locate mechanical lifting equipment, and inspect the equipment to assure that it is in proper working order and is designed to handle the task.
  • Never choose to hold or support glass as someone attempts to retrieve a lite further back in a glass pack. Each lite that is tilted toward you will dramatically increase the load, quickly reaching a point where it may be impossible to escape. Always move lites that are preventing you from reaching the one you require to a safe temporary storage location.
  • When moving glass, always confirm with your coworker where the glass is being transferred and how you plan to lift the load. Choose to transport the glass thorough wide clear aisles with smooth floors. Confirm with your coworker the direction and path you will follow prior to lifting the load. When carrying glass with a coworker, both workers should be on the same side of the lite. This will allow for safe escape should the glass start to fall.
  • Inspect the equipment that you and your coworker will be using. Make sure that loads are braced and secure. Straps must be in good condition and tightened against the load. Check the wheels on carts, “L” racks and “A” frames to be sure that they are undamaged and roll freely. Ensure that glass rack bases are equipped with legs to prevent the rack from tipping if a wheel should shatter.
  • Always use the correct personal protective equipment, making sure that it is worn correctly and in good repair. Remember that most PPE will offer limited protection from lacerations, but it will not offer protection from crushing loads. Be sure glass loads are stable, and stand aside before loosening straps and ties. Glass trucks and racks must be on a level surface before beginning to unload. Never attempt to catch or stop falling glass. Always have an escape path, move out of danger and allow the glass to fall.
In one recent glass accident, two crates leaned and fell onto the victim.

Over time, some of your coworkers might also have become your friends, and you might be unwilling to damage that friendship by pointing out unsafe situations. Keeping your friends safe must be one of your highest priorities. Warn them as you would any other coworker.

Choose not to be bullied into participating in unsafe practices. The Workforce Bullying Institute, defines workforce bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons that takes one of the following forms: verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors that are threatening, humiliating or intimidating, and work interference.”

A glass facility can be turbulent. You and your coworkers are always on the move, as is the glass you’re handling. Always expect the glass to be somewhere you didn’t anticipate. Always consider that the glass might be heavier than you imagined. Keep in mind that gravity is always trying to make it fall. Stay alert, and do all that you can for your safety and
the safety of those around you.

The author is product sales specialist, insulating glass systems, for the Engineered Products Group of Quanex Building Products.