Make sure you practice safety to the point it becomes automatic.
By Ron Peterson
Safety in the groundwater industry needs to be so much a part of our lifestyle that being safe becomes automatic.
Accidents are typically the result of someone being in a hurry and overlooking a potential problem. When there is an incident, it almost always inadvertently involves innocent people, whether directly or indirectly. They also usually cost significant amounts of money, time, pain, and—frequently—jobs.
People may talk about good luck, but it is almost always the result of careful and thorough planning, while bad luck is pretty much the exact opposite—it is overlooking details and inadequate planning. I truly believe we create our own luck.
If safety is to be truly effective, it must become a lifestyle. If we take intentional risks in our private lives, we will, whether intentionally or inadvertently, take risks in our professional lives as well. When we take risks, it almost always impacts someone else.
While training can help, we need to live in such a way that safety is a natural and habitual focus in our lives.
Every job or project has potential risks and hazards. We need to evaluate all aspects of the job including access to location, equipment to be used, personnel, and level of training and skill of personnel.
Don’t Take Shortcuts
I was once on a diamond coring job in a remote area of the western United States. The driller was ready to make a connection and reached for a 10-foot rod on the rod pile. The pin end was closest to him, and he needed it to be pin-down to make a connection, so as he picked it up, he let the pin end go down and raised the box.
There was a rustling noise and then an unexpected guest joined us on the floor right between the driller’s feet—a 5-foot rattlesnake! It had been warming itself in the rod and was irritated at being disturbed.
There was a bit of rapid movement and a few choice words spoken but fortunately the snake was not fully awake, and no one was harmed. The snake actually moved fast enough to escape uninjured as well.
Crisis avoided, but I can assure you that driller has always tipped the rods away from him after that. The lesson learned: Always be aware of your surroundings.
PPE Is a Must
I was working on a roofing crew years ago, and no one wore a hard hat or safety glasses when they were on the job. I was tending the tar vat one day when one of the workers knocked a rock loose and it fell toward us. Fortunately, it didn’t hit anyone in the head. Unfortunately, it lit in the tar vat and the hot tar splashed onto my face and sealed my eyes and nose shut.
It took two hours to clean the tar off my face before I knew if I could see. There are two lessons to be learned from this one:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Make sure you always wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
We need to make sure we have the correct equipment and tools to do the job. We need to be sure we are familiar with the tools we will be using, that we are familiar with how to use them, and that we are confident they will work as expected.
Make sure that you confirm the job, the expected procedures, and the desired objectives with the client or customer. This will ensure that you understand and meet the customer’s needs and their expectations. Remember, the only dumb question is one that you have and don’t ask.
Make sure you also know when and who to call for help. Always have their phone numbers ready and available. And use them when you need them!
One of the things that we do now is recognize and review near-misses. Initially this seemed like a waste of time, but it is definitely a positive for us. It causes us to evaluate the situation where there was no damage done and take precautionary measures in the future to make sure it doesn’t recur and result in an accident.
Being Safe All the Time
I said at the start of this column that safety needs to be an automatic part of our life. It must be so ingrained in our personality that we automatically do things the safe way. It needs to be a part of all aspects of our life: home, recreation, work, wherever.
If we cut corners and do things in an unsafe manner in any aspect of our life, we may find ourselves slipping and letting that behavior surface in the other aspects of our life.
When you go out in the morning to drive your vehicle, whether it is your work vehicle or your personal vehicle, do a quick walk-around to make sure it is safe to drive. Are there any obstructions, animals, toys . . . or children in the way? Do the tires look properly inflated? Check the oil to make sure that the engine is safe to start. Check the dash lights to make sure that you have no warning lights lit up.
Always be aware of your surroundings. Is there anything that can cause you a problem? If you’re at the shop, are the surface levels clear to walk on? If you are at a work site, is the area clear of debris? If it is a drilling site, is there drilling fluid anywhere that may be slick and compromise your footing? Are there any hoses or equipment lying around? We always want to do our best to avoid any slips, trips, or falls.
Is everything around you properly secured? Are all protective guards in place on operating equipment?
There are many protocols that when properly followed ensure we are safe. Make sure that if they are not properly followed, the appropriate people are notified to correct the situation.
We should always error on the side of caution. If there is ever any doubt, play it safe!
Ronald B. Peterson has been involved with the drilling industry for more than 40 years. He previously worked for Baroid Industrial Drilling Products and is now with Mountainland Supply Co., a supply company in Orem, Utah. He served as The Groundwater Foundation’s McEllhiney Lecturer in 2015 and was given NGWA’s most prestigious award, the 2013 Ross L. Oliver Award. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.