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President's Messages 2017

Time to Review Your Safety Training
By Scott A Anaheim
Posted on 9/02/2017 3:03 PM
September is here, and with it comes the time when most municipal utilities will be completing their budgets for the fiscal year. We also usually see an increase of storms around our state, whether it’s from a named tropical storm or just the increase in the afternoon rains that seem to pop up each day. I bring this up because this is when we see a rise in the number of man-hours that are worked, which can lead to increases in injuries. 

 

As I’ve stated in previous articles about safety, we have a tendency to be complacent at work, especially as we have more time on the job and are comfortable in our roles. In October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 workplace inspections. One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes, other than the order, which is compiled by most-to-least violations:

  1. Fall protection

  2. Hazard communication

  3. Scaffolds

  4. Respiratory protection

  5. Lockout/tagout

  6. Powered industrial trucks

  7. Ladders

  8. Machine guarding

  9. Electrical wiring

  10. Electrical, general requirements

 

When I was the director for the operations and maintenance department for the utility I retired from, I would use this list to show how dangerous of a job we have.  Our safety group also ran an analysis on the recordable injuries that we had, and just like any other utility, you could see that most injuries are avoidable by taking an extra few seconds to review the work area before performing the task. We also noticed that the most frequently injured where the new to five-year employees. Steps were put into place to address this issue and there was a slight improvement, but programs only work if there is followed-through, even after improvements are made.

 

One area that I always complained about, but was never properly addressed, was continued safety training for the more senior employees. It seems that many times we concentrate on the new hires or on a particular issue after a serious accident occurs. Taking the time to review standards to make changes in design, like installing guards to keep hands, feet, and other appendages away from moving machinery, or requiring training for new equipment to be part of the bid package, are ways to reduce injuries.

 

All of this is important, but training is still needed, and being able to sit in a class with fellow employees discussing issues can’t be dismissed. I remember going to short schools, and it was great being able to discuss processes with other folks to learn how they do it. September is a good time to review safety training because it gives you a chance to review the past year to see what areas need to be addressed. Long-term employees need refreshers (and it doesn’t have to be a 40-hour course), but if processes have changed, then they need to be covered.

 

It has always been, and continues to be, the mission of FWPCOA to provide the best, most affordable training courses available to all operators in all areas in the utility industry—courses that are taught by professionals with the hands-on experience required for practical application in the real world of work, as well as preparation for licensure exams at all levels. So, pick up the phone and call our training office to see how FWPCOA can meet your training needs.

 

In closing, I invite each of you to become an active part in your association by attending your regional meetings and attending a board of directors meeting. Visit our website and tell us what’s on your mind, whether it be positive or negative. Tell us your training needs and what additional areas of training you would like to see our association offer. We are here to serve.