Why Accidents Happen and How to Avoid Them
What’s at Stake?
Accidents may seem like a word used only in safety briefings until one occurs. When it does happen, it comes with reeling effects: injuries, death, court prosecutions, loss of property, damage to company reputation and the environment. The slowdown in business activities further drives down income. However, the immediate and remote causes of workplace accidents can almost always be traced to unsafe acts and unsafe conditions.
What’s the Danger?
Unsafe acts are human-related actions that threaten the health and safety of workers. Examples of unsafe acts:
- Taking shortcuts involve by-passing safety instructions and procedures meant to protect workers from harm. These include carrying out a job without performing a job safety analysis (JSA) or engaging in highrisk work without a work permit.
- Inadequate training. Imagine driving a car on a freeway, after a few informal lessons, without learning the traffic laws and undergoing a driving test. Wouldn’t your inability to understand traffic laws and your lack of driver training increase the chances of an accident occurring? Lack of training makes it much more likely you will be in an accident at work too!
- Using damaged or faulty work tools and equipment is an unsafe act and a big safety hazard.
- Engaging in horseplay during work activities reduces your concentration making it harder to observe safety rules and makes it difficult to get a full description of an accident and may affect your right to compensation or health insurance.
- Abusing drugs or working under the influence of drugs and alcohol limits mental focus, slows your reaction time, affects balance and coordination
Unsafe conditions are hazardous, managerial, physical and environmental conditions that exist in the workplace and a crucial role in triggering accidents.
- Environmental hazards: example, extreme weather conditions, fires, oil spill, gas leakage.
- Equipment failure.
- Inadequate communication: example, no safety meetings, toolbox talks, safety signage, safety policies, or safe work procedures.
- Poor safety culture: no reporting systems, recordkeeping.
- Poor housekeeping.
How to Protect Yourself
- Obey all safety rules (including the use of PPE) ; they are for your protection.
- Only carry out tasks you are trained for; especially tasks requiring special skills.
- Never mix work with play, it is harmful in more ways than one.
- Always inspect your work tools/ equipment in order to detect damages and report them.
- Do not abuse drugs and never work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Take a permitted break from work whenever you are mentally stressed out.
- Maintain good housekeeping before, during and after work.
- Ensure proper understanding by asking questions and repeating during communication.
- Always inspect the work environment for strange changes before any activity
Accidents are caused by our actions and inactions; the most important step towards avoiding them is identifying and addressing their causes. Report unsafe acts and conditions as soon as you see them and don’t engage in unsafe acts.