Ensuring Employees Drive Home from the Job

By Thad Plumley

The irony was not lost on me. After spending several weeks working on an update to the book NGWA Employee Safety Manual, Second Edition, I came across a newspaper article with a headline that stopped me cold: “Falling bale of lumber kills man at work site.”

A man close to my age lived not too far from my office at the National Ground Water Association. He was killed when boards suddenly fell off a skid steer and hit him in the head and chest.

The article said several of the wire straps holding the poplar boards failed, releasing the wood on top of the man. Police were on the scene within two minutes and began working on him. He was later rushed to a hospital, but the injuries from getting struck with the boards were too severe and the worker died.

As I finished the article, I wondered if the man had a family. If so, did he see them, hug them, and tell them goodbye before heading to the jobsite that morning? One thing is certain; he didn’t know he wouldn’t be driving home that night.

Simply put, everyone driving home after a shift must be the goal for the safety programs of every business in every industry.

You can have a thick safety manual, hold detailed meetings, and hang new safety posters in your breakroom throughout the year. But at the core of your safety program is there this question: What are we doing to make sure everyone drives home to their families every night?

Perhaps the business near me has a quality safety program, and perhaps it was because I had been recently working on the latest NGWA Press book covering safety, but I couldn’t help but wonder:

  • Did the company hold a recent tailgate talk about operating powered industrial vehicles such as skid steers?
  • Were the employees ever reminded about the importance of utilizing proper personal protective equipment (PPE)?
  • Had there been a safety session of late about wire straps?

Wire straps and wire rope must be inspected daily. They need inspected before being put in use, and any showing wear need replaced immediately. More than likely that did not happen at the jobsite near me.

Skid steers are wonderful pieces of equipment, but there are tens of thousands of accidents each year involving powered industrial vehicles. Discussing their proper use needs to happen regularly.

And you can never remind your team too much about PPE. Why? Because it is too easy for employees to get lackadaisical about their hardhats, boots, gloves, and eye and ear protection.

The accident near me is under investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. One thing, though, is already clear—one person too many didn’t drive home from work.

The NGWA Employee Safety Manual, Second Addition, has been updated by the NGWA Safety Subcommittee and will be available for purchase at Groundwater Week 2018, December 3-6 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in the online bookstore.

Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org and on Twitter @WaterWellJournl.