A Fine Line

Making sure your safety program has a near-miss process goes a long way toward reaching the goal of a zero-injury workplace

Anyone who has ever worked with electrically energized equipment knows there's a fine line between a non-event and a fatal encounter. A single momentary lapse in judgment by you — or a co-worker — can quickly result in a life of pain and suffering. If you're lucky, you might end up adding your name to the “near-miss list” and walk away from a bad situation with no physical scars. However, I think it's what you do after this type of experience that's most important.

Near misses occur on a daily basis. Odds are you've experienced more than one or two of these yourself. Even if you're the most careful worker around, you're most likely going to encounter a dangerous situation at least once during your career. The key is to be wise enough to use the event as a learning tool, teaching others in our industry valuable lessons from your experience. That's why I believe every safety program should be outfitted with a near-miss process. Employees should be encouraged to identify and report near misses immediately, not sweep them under the rug. Once reported, your process should be set up to identify the root cause of the near miss and develop an action plan to help deter it from happening in the future. Finally, you should distribute this information to every employee in your organization. This approach will help build awareness and keep safety in the forefront of employees' minds.

Why do I feel so strongly about establishing such a program? Because anything we can do to drive down the thousands of work-related fatalities and life-altering injuries that still occur each year is a move in the right direction. Our theme for this month's issue, health and safety, supports the sharing of such important information. Anything we can do to help shed more light on this topic should help keep safety fresh in the minds of each and every one of us.

If the ultimate goal is to create a zero-injury workplace, then the latest research on electrical injury and fatality trends in the construction industry, conducted by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), Rosslyn, Va., reveals there is still room for improvement. A summary of the group's analysis can be found in the “Workplace Accident Update” on pages 26-30 of this issue. And this month's cover story, “After Shock,” on pages 18-24, focuses on the initial treatment and aftermath of electrical shock and burn injuries, hammering home the personal tragedies associated with the life-altering effects of electrical trauma.

There's no question electrical work is a dangerous job — especially when working on energized equipment. Unlike other professions, however, electrical workers can't afford to become complacent with their work practices, even for a moment. If you do, your life can easily be altered or end in a split second. That's why your No. 1 goal should be to avoid becoming an industry statistic. Don't you agree Join me in making safety the top priority in our industry, reminding not only yourself but also your co-workers of its importance every day. We all know it's the right thing to do, but actions always speak louder than words.

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