When it comes to protecting your personnel from drop hazards, it’s crucial to follow a systematic approach that ensures their safety. Enter the “hierarchy of controls” – a fundamental framework that serves as the cornerstone of health and safety protocols in various industries like oil and gas, power generation, and manufacturing.
At its core, the hierarchy of controls outlines the essential steps, listed in order of priority, for effectively managing health and safety risks. It should be the foundation of any comprehensive safety strategy, especially when dealing with drop prevention.
Let’s dive into the five priorities that constitute the hierarchy of controls:
Elimination: The first step is to assess if the risk can be entirely removed. During facility design, thoroughly analyze potential overhanging hazards, such as lights and speakers, and determine if some fixtures can be eliminated without compromising safety. Additionally, focus on reducing lifting maneuvers where possible, as they are a significant cause of drop incidents. By optimizing lifting procedures, plant managers can significantly enhance safety. Creating a facility that minimizes the need for frequent lifting operations should also be a consideration.
Substitution: If eliminating the risk completely isn’t feasible, explore alternatives to minimize it. Operators should investigate the possibility of relocating fixtures that pose overhanging hazards or consider using different types of lighting that are safer.
Engineering Controls: Installing safety equipment like nets, barrier systems, pouches, and ‘red zone mats’ provides a physical barrier between personnel and potential drop hazards. For example, secure nets can enclose fittings such as CCTV cameras to prevent them from falling in case their fixtures loosen. Similarly, fitting solid barriers onto railings can prevent tools and objects from falling through gaps.
Administrative Controls: Implement “no-go” zones and develop collision checklists and toolbox talks. These administrative controls aim to enforce safety procedures and reduce human errors related to drops. By promoting clear guidelines and communication, the risk of drops can be effectively mitigated.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE represents the last line of defense against drop hazards. Ensure that appropriate PPE is provided to personnel to minimize the severity of injuries and potential fatalities in the event of a falling object.
Vital: Continuous Review of Controls
Regularly assess the effectiveness of implemented controls and make necessary adjustments. Be cautious not to introduce new hazards with the controls themselves. For instance, wearing PPE might lead to heat stress, so it’s crucial to conduct reviews and consider alternative control methods or additional precautions. Monitoring both the hazard and the control methods is essential to ensure their effectiveness and the reduction or elimination of exposure to hazards.
Monitoring Controls: A Checklist
- Have the controls effectively reduced or eliminated worker exposure to hazards?
- Have any new hazards emerged as a result of implementing the controls?
- Are these new hazards appropriately controlled?
- Are there any other methods or measures required to enhance safety?
- Have workers been adequately trained in using the control methods?
- What other steps can be taken to further reduce or eliminate exposure to hazards?
- Does any workplace change impact the hazard or the effectiveness of control methods?
Prioritizing the hierarchy of controls empowers your organization to proactively tackle drop hazards, ensuring the safety and well-being of your workforce. Regular reviews and vigilance play a key role in maintaining a safe and secure work environment.