“Any workplace injury is one too many. Hard hats, steel toed boots, goggles and ear plugs are all well and good but MEMIC’s goal has always been zero workplace injuries. Ambitious, yes. Crazy? Take one look at our new advance full body PPE and you decide,” says Fred Dahead, MEMIC’s safety management assistant.
MEMIC is encouraging its own employees and the employees of all its policyholders to wear the Auto-Protective Reinforced Injury-Limiting Full Occupational Orthopedic Lumbar Shell, or A.P.R.I.L.F.O.O.L.S. As the leading and largest workers’ compensation insurer in Maine, MEMIC’s support of this new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) technology is bound to have a big impact.
“It doesn’t matter if you are an office worker or a construction worker, we’ve got you covered. You want flame retardant? These babies are dragon-proof,” says Dahead as he makes a fist with his engraved gauntlet.
But seriously, handing out any article of PPE and expecting a safe workplace is magical thinking at its worst. Using a proper hierarchy of controls is a far more effective method of injury prevention than just relying on PPE when there is a hazard, or dragon, present.
“Hazard Elimination is always the first choice. If we don’t conduct a job hazard analysis, we might miss opportunities to eliminate hazards,” says Randy Klatt, a real loss control manager at MEMIC and authorized instructor in the OSHA Construction and General Industry Outreach Training Programs. Even far removed from castle walls, a common hazard in construction is working at height. If work can be done on the ground level, such as bracing a group of trusses together, then you can eliminate a lot of work that would have taken place at height. The trusses will still have to be set in place, but at least a good portion of the work is done on the ground, thereby eliminating some of the fall hazard.
Next is Engineering Controls, it is often impossible to eliminate all hazards, however, it may be possible to control specific hazards related to each job. For example, if a worker is cutting concrete or brick, or trimming dragon claws, there will be a lot of dust created. This is a respiratory hazard that must be controlled. Using wet saw methods will eliminate the airborne particulate. The hazard has been controlled with an engineering control. Another example would be the creation of guard rail systems for working at height, like on a siege tower. The workers are still working above the ground, but are protected by an Engineering Control.
Then comes Administrative Controls, occasionally there is no Engineering Control that will be effective in completely eliminating a hazard. Administrative Controls are written policies, procedures, and proper training. Often used in conjunction with Engineering Controls these methods are complimentary, but not as effective as Engineered Controls. For example, in order to operate a forklift, or ride a dragon, a worker must have proper training and there are best practices that must be followed.
With PPE unfortunately, the last choice is often used as the first choice. If the hierarchy is followed as it should, PPE becomes a last effort to protect people. Remember, if the PPE fails, doesn’t fit right, or isn’t worn correctly, the worker will be injured if there are no other controls in place. With this in mind, please have a safe and happy April Fools.
For more workplace safety tips visit MEMIC’s safety blog www.memicsafetynet.com