Practicing safe habits needs to become an automatic part of our lives.
By Ronald B. Peterson
As an industry, we have made significant advancements in workplace safety over the years. But while we have come a long way, we still have room for improvement.
The most important thing that we can expect from any project is for everyone to complete their assigned tasks and return home safely and unharmed.
Safety needs to be a natural and automatic part of our life. We need to always emphasize the importance of completing every job safely with no one injured or hurt. It should be emphasized and recognized as the number one priority for the company.
Properly Using What Is Available
Safety protocols should be defined and available for all operations and procedures. For many operations, it is either a Mine Safety and Health Administration or Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirement that employees be properly task trained for their jobs.
Safety Data Sheets, or Material Safety Data Sheets as they were previously called, are available for all products. They provide valuable information regarding product safety, potential hazards, and emergency contacts for the product. We need to have them available for all personnel to review so that they can take proper actions if necessary.
Safety Data Sheets feature details pertaining to the safe methods of transportation, storage, and use of products. They also include the recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required.
Please know that it is not enough to simply have PPE onsite. You must properly use the recommended PPE for it to be effective.
It’s not just hard hats and gloves. Whenever we are in an environment in which our respiratory system may be impacted, we should identify and use the appropriate equipment. It can be as simple as using a dust mask or as sophisticated as wearing an airpack.
When mixing dry drilling additives such as grouts, cement, or any powdered material in confined areas, always wear breathing protection. N95 respirators are designed to filter at least 95% of airborne particles 0.3 microns and larger.
Always protect your eyesight by obtaining and wearing appropriate eye protection. We should always protect our sight from potential foreign objects and ultraviolet or damaging light rays.
Hearing protection is also highly recommended. Whenever we are working in a situation where we may experience sudden or loud noise that can have a negative impact on our hearing, we need to identify, obtain, and use the appropriate hearing protection.
Hand protection is much better than it was in the past. There are a variety of safety gloves on the market today, including cut-prevention gloves. Some jobs require specific gloves for the tasks that will be performed on the worksite. Make sure you always protect your hands.
Work boots have come a long way as well. There is now metatarsal protective footwear available. Look to see you have the appropriate footwear for your jobsite.
Knowing the Plan
It is important to always know what is expected of you. Make certain you understand the job, any required procedures, and the desired objectives.
Make sure that you confirm the job, the expected procedures, and the desired objectives with your client or customer. This will ensure you understand and meet the customer’s needs and expectations.
Then you need to know that you have the correct equipment and tools to do the job. We need to be confident that everyone in the crew is familiar with the tools that will be used, that everyone is familiar with how to use them, and be confident that the tools will work as expected.
Finally, make sure you know who to call for help and when you would need to do so. Always have emergency phone numbers ready and available. And use them when you need them.
Being Safe All the Time
I said at the start of this column that safety needs to be a natural and automatic part of our life, and that is absolutely true. Safety must be so ingrained in our personality that we automatically do things the safe way. It needs to be part of all aspects of our life—home, recreation, and work.
To always behave in a safe manner, it must be automatic. 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 other parts of our life.
When you go out in the morning to drive somewhere, do a quick walk around your vehicle to be sure that it is safe to use. Are there any obstructions, animals, toys, or children in the way? Do the tires look properly inflated? Check the oil to assure the engine is safe to start. Check the dash lights to see that you have no warning lights on.
Always be aware of your surroundings. Is there anything that can cause you a problem? Are the surfaces level and clear to walk on? If you are at a worksite, is the area clear of debris? If it is a drilling site, is there drilling fluid anywhere on the ground that may be slick and compromise your footing?
Is everything properly secured and are all protective guards in place on operating equipment?
Are there any hoses or equipment lying around that could be tripping hazards? We always want to do our best to avoid slips, trips, or falls. Falls has been the top-cited OSHA violation for 11 consecutive years—and they are preventable.
There is no doubt there are a lot of protocols to be followed to ensure we are safe. But make sure if they are not properly followed that the appropriate people are notified to correct the situation.
Be aware that you always have what is known as stop work authority when you observe potential safety hazards. You must never hesitate to use it properly and when appropriate. No one ever needs to be exposed to unsafe conditions.
We need to all look out for each other.
It is my belief we borrow the earth’s water and other resources from our descendants. Therefore, we need do everything we can to leave things in better shape than when we found them. We should always error on the side of caution and if there is any doubt, always play it safe.
If anyone has a question or subject that they would like to see me address, contact me at email@example.com.
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.