Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees

A little something that changed my perspective in on the job safety. Amazing as this may sound I've gone over 20 years in a profession that has a fairly high rate of injury with little to no major incidence of bodily harm. I was even at one time on the safety committee with the focus of helping others go home with all their limbs intact. But looking back I see now that the primary focus of most companies is with minor injuries and the avoidance of lost time claims. Even the smallest injury on the job costs a company between $1000 and $2000 just for the filing process with Labor and Industries.

But as I said things changed with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and Gulf oil spill. As I said the greatest know factors of an on the job accident are slips, trips, falls, and objects falling on you. Of these I have been witness to plenty. But I never once considered process safety until the investigations of the Chemical Safety Board.

From their latest findings:
Houston, Texas, July 24, 2012 – In preliminary findings to be released today at a public hearing in Houston, U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigators examining the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf report that companies like Transocean and BP, trade associations, and U.S. regulators largely judged the safety of offshore facilities by focusing on personal injury and fatality data (such as dropped objects and slips, trips, and falls), that overshadowed the use of leading indicators more focused on managing the potential for catastrophic accidents.

Looking back I can think of several instances where things could have gone terribly wrong and it was only luck that things didn't. A little ignorance is bliss or so they say. But all of this did change my perspective and made me ask a few more questions about the processes occurring around me even if they had nothing to do with our own mission. We are always on the look out for the "what ifs". I believe they call that risk assessment. But now we needed to have a few more to add to the list. The basics have been repeated so many times that they are ingrained in every long time workers' head. Slips trips falls electrical hazards chemical hazards and heat stroke or stress can be found on just about any safety meeting sheet. But it takes a sharp eyed supervisor and alert workers to spot the many other dangers and that's where the importance of good communications comes into play.
Will companies learn anything from all of this? I seriously doubt it. Not as long as bean counters rule. The bottom line always supersedes any safety issues. That is until enough people die and it cuts into the profit margins. I've seen it too many times. The lower management bosses who cheat and are hailed as heros until they get caught by a regulatory agency. Then it's as if upper management never heard of them. With the accidents at BP had they been a smaller company they'd no longer be in business. Most companies get three strikes and then the fines are so high it usually ends their operations. Not so with a larger corporation making millions or billions because the fines are set for such things at $1000 $10,000 and $100,000 which would be pocket change for them. And for any deaths there's liability insurance. Any hit there would be as a premium increase. Most regulatory agencies with limited staff only have enough time to look at paperwork. If it's all in order then it's move on to the next inspection. That's the reality of the situation. Even then much is overlooked or worse ignored. We've seen what's happened with oil spills and again with the financial sector. Self regulation doesn't and won't work.

Hope I haven't bored you to death. That could be an occupational hazard if you're reading this at work. Just what are the health effects of boredom? Never mind it just came to me. Just flip on the ad for cable TV as in "don't sell you hair to a wig shop".


BBC said...

I bought a black powder pistol yesterday, now I can do what they stress to not do, reload it from the flask just like in the movies. If I blow myself up it's no big deal, just toss me out in the woods for the critters.

The Blog Fodder said...

Good post, thanks. "that overshadowed the use of leading indicators more focused on managing the potential for catastrophic accidents" - need to apply that to coal mines and a lot of other places too.
BBC, more settlers on the Oregon Train died of accidental self inflicted gunshot wounds than were ever killed by Indians.

Demeur said...

Blow yourself up? Naw, we thought we'd cover you in varnish that way you could go out with a nice finish.

Randal Graves said...

If you're worried about slips and trips, just put some Krazy Glue on your soles. Duh.

You can put BBC in your living room.

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