Today we are going to wrap up our safety series. We have covered the purpose of safety in the workplace, appropriate safety dress, and housekeeping. Now we will cover safe work practices and fire prevention.
Safe work practices always involve knowing your surroundings. You should always keep your “head on a swivel” so to speak. Who is near you? What are they doing? Is there a potential for their work or your work interfering and causing a safety hazard? Do you have some form of safety barrier up such as a rope or sign while doing a hazardous function to prevent other workers from inadvertently walking into your work area? If working at a height, are you tied off with a harness and rope? Do you have a catch basin or net below to catch falling objects?
When lifting a heavy object, are you using safe lifting practices? Don’t be a “he-man” when lifting a heavy object. Ask for help. Always protect your back. You only have one. Safe lifting practices include:
- Check your immediate area to ensure it’s clear of any obstacles that may cause tripping.
- Assume a squatting position with the knees bent and the back straight.
- Pull the object you are lifting in towards your body. Don’t keep it extended out from you causing an imbalance.
- Lift using your leg muscles and not your back.
- If you must set the object back on the floor at another location, do the safe lifting practice in reverse keeping your back straight and using your legs.
Another way to protect your back is to always try to do your work at a waist level or slightly higher bench. Some parts that you’re working on can be placed on a bench and is more favorable to your back then bending over constantly doing the work. If the part you’re working on is below your waist and you cannot lift it onto a bench, then consider kneeling or squatting while doing the work, taking frequent breaks to stretch your legs.
Though we might enjoy working with our co-workers, horseplay is just out of the question. In an industrial setting, there is just too many opportunities for an accident. People do get hurt during horseplay and is not appropriate for the workplace. I once saw a young woman who was employed at a water park get injured during horseplay. It was the last day of the season and a group of employees were horsing around chasing each other with squirt guns. The girl slipped on the wet pavement and ended up getting reconstruction surgery on her face due to her injuries. A bad ending to an otherwise celebratory day for the crew.
Also make note where the eye wash and shower stations are. Do you know how to operate them? If not, request an inservice on it.
Do you know where the fire extinguishers are at your workplace? Do you know how to work one? Are the extinguishers visible or hidden by clutter? Are their inspection stickers up to date?
You should also know where the ELSA masks, exits, and marshaling areas are. In the event of an emergency requiring evacuation, you should already have an idea where to go and how to get there.
Safety is an everyday practice for the aerospace technician. Though it is the responsibility of your employer to provide safety equipment, training, etc., it is your responsibility to practice safe habits and to expect it of your co-workers. Remember, the ultimate goal of each and every work day to return home to your loved ones unharmed after each shift.
Housekeeping: Organization and tidiness in general, as of an office, shop, etc. – Collins English Dictionary
For many people, when the term “housekeeping” comes up, they usually have a vision of chasing dust bunnies around the house, but housekeeping is not just for the home. Your workplace is your “home away from home” and housekeeping carries a much more important role for it affects not only your safety, but the safety of others and has a direct impact on the quality of work being produced.
Housekeeping is an essential task in the workplace for the aerospace technician. Proper housekeeping ensures safety, mitigates fire hazards, increased work productivity, reduces unnecessary repairs, and helps with tool control. Without housekeeping the workplace would eventually come to a grinding halt. Poor housekeeping encourages trip hazards, FOD hazards, fire hazards (both by being possibly flammable itself and/or blocking access to fire fighting equipment and exits). Oil and grease not cleaned up could ignite if exposed to a hot area of a machine or be a slip hazard if left on the floor.
Housekeeping is not something that is just done at the end of the shift. It is an ongoing task that you do alongside your job. The term “Clean as you go” refers to proper housekeeping while doing a job. If you pick up trash, put away tools when not being used anymore during the job, and keep your work area trip and hazard free during your task, you are practicing “Clean as you go.” No one wants to work beside the person who’s standing knee deep in his trash with his tools scattered all about and even encroaching into your workspace interfering with your task.
So how can you “clean as you go” in the aerospace workplace? Ensure you throw away all trash created during your job as you produce it. That requires having some sort of trash receptacle nearby that is designated for trash only. Cap all open bottles/cans when you are not using them at that moment to avoid accidental spills. Clean up all grease and oil spills as they occur; don’t leave them on the ground or hardware with the intention of “getting to it later.” Put tools away or return to logistics if your not using it anymore for the job. Stage equipment and supplies for your job that you will need later near, but not in, your work area in a orderly grouping out of the way of traffic and other people’s work areas.
If you are operating a machine in a shop, there are a set of housekeeping rules that apply to it as laid out by the book Technology of Machine Tools:
- “Always stop the machine before you attempt to clean it.
- Always keep the machine and hand tools clean. Oily surfaces can be dangerous. Metal chips left on the table surface may interfere with the safe clamping of a workpiece.
- Always use a brush and not a cloth to remove any chips. Chips stick to cloth and can cause cuts when the cloth is used later.
- Oily surfaces should be cleaned with a cloth.
- Do not place tools and materials on the machine table. Use a bench near the machine.
- Keep the floor free from oil and grease.
- Sweep up the metal chips on the floor frequently (clean as you go!). They become embedded in the soles of shoes and can cause dangerous slippage if a person walks on a terrazzo or concrete floor. Use a scraper, mounted on the floor near the door, to remove these chips before leaving the shop.
- Never place tools or materials on the floor close to a machine where they will interfere with the operator’s ability to move safely around the machine.
- Return bar stock to the storage rack after cutting off the required length (clean as you go!).
- Never use compressed air to remove chips from a machine. Not only is it a dangerous practice because of flying metal chips, but small chips and dirt can become wedged between machine parts and cause undue wear.”
As you now know, housekeeping is an essential part of safety in the workplace and should be practiced at all times. There is no need for a maid’s uniform to be a good housekeeper in the shop, just an awareness that everything has it’s place and and should be clean and ready for use the next time.
“Accidents don’t just happen; they are caused. The cause of an accident can usually be traced to carelessness on someone’s part.” – Technology of Machine Tools 5th Edition
Before an aerospace technician starts working a new job, he or she must know what is the required dress code for safety in that work area. Most companies will address that issue during orientation or you can inquire about it with your supervisor or manager. Most aerospace technicians will be working in an industrial setting and there are some typical considerations you have to make when dressing for safety.
Being a man that is follicle challenged, I have always envied my fellow co-workers who actually had to carry a comb and knew how to use it. But, in a shop setting I had one major advantage over them; I didn’t have to worry about my hair being caught in moving machine parts. Getting your hair caught in a moving machine part not only results in a suddenly becoming follicle challenged, but can also result in the loss of your scalp and/or having your entire head pulled into the moving part resulting in a very bad day. If you’re working around moving machine parts, you should use a hair net, hat, or some other way of ensuring your hair is well out of the way and not at risk of being caught up in the machinery. And since it is likely you will be working around aerospace components as an aerospace technician, it is good work practice to keep those components free of contamination from loose hair.
Eye protection is imperative when working in an industrial setting. The risk of your eyes being struck by a flying piece of debris such as a burr while using a drill press to the risk of a chemical splash is too great. You have only two eyes and your vision needs to be jealously protected. Your employer should tell you what particular type of eye protection you should be wearing for a particular job (safety glasses, goggles, face shield, etc.), but it is always prudent to at least wear safety glasses in an industrial setting even if you’re not doing any work with machinery at the time.
One thing that should be mentioned about safety glasses. Your safety glasses should always be marked as such, don’t think just any old pair of glasses will do. Safety glasses are usually made of tempered glass that has been tested to withstand impacts up to a certain force and usually has side guards to prevent debris from entering your eyes from the side. If the glasses are not certified as safety glasses, then don’t use them. The glass in your ordinary eyeglasses will not do.
I was watching a “Do it yourself” type show the other night and they were featuring people that probably should never pick up a hammer, let alone operate power tools. One young man was working with a hazardous chemical to strip some furniture and I will give him credit for reading the instructions, but that is the only credit to his favor he got. The instructions called for safety goggles and other protective safety clothing to prevent chemical splashes from getting on his body and he decided that his dark sunglasses were good enough for the job and the only thing he needed. He looked cool while doing the job, but when the inevitable chemical splash that resembled a tidal wave occurred while he was transferring the chemical from the large awkward container to a smaller container without the use of a funnel and assistance, he ended up with chemical burns to his eyes, face, and arms resulting in a trip to the hospital.
How you dress your body will impact your safety. If you are working around moving machine parts, you should not be wearing loose clothing that can get caught up in the part. Same goes for long sleeves. Roll up those sleeves or wear a short sleeved shirt. Shop aprons should be tied in the back where the strings can be kept away from the machine and work area. Though gloves are an integral part in your safety wardrobe for many jobs, they should NOT be worn when working with moving parts. If you are unsure as to what to wear in your work setting, talk with your manager.
Jewelry: simple, leave it at home or in your work locker. The shop floor is not the place to make a fashion statement and jewelry, especially rings, have been the cause of many lost fingers and other injuries. Jewelry can also become a FOD hazard if they come off. It is just best to leave it off the shop floor.
What you wear on your feet in the shop setting is important. No open toed shoes should ever be worn in an industrial setting. You may be allowed to wear tennis shoes depending on the work setting, but steel toe safety shoes or boots are usually best practice. Also, make sure your shoes are tied. That may sound funny, but think how many times other people had to tell you your shoes were untied because you weren’t aware of it. Double knot the laces to ensure you don’t end up tripping and falling to the floor, into machinery, or onto flight hardware, etc.
Remember, your goal at work is not only to get the job done, but to ensure that you and your workmates all get to go home at the end of your shift. Make sure your mode of dress helps you achieve that goal.
I grew up in West Virginia known for its coal mines. Accidents at coal mines were a fact of life, but I noticed personally working as a paramedic during those days, and had also read in various accident studies, that the majority of fatal accidents occurred to two distinct populations most of the time inside a coal mine: the very new employee and the very experienced employee that was near retirement.
The new employees were susceptible to accidents. Coal mines are dangerous places with a large amount of safety rules to learn and follow. New employees would sometimes forget those rules or not take them too seriously with fatal results.
What surprised me were the older and more experienced employees being involved in these types of accidents. It was found out that complacency played a large role in that. Men closer to retirement had gotten to the point that they thought they knew it all and didn’t have to be as careful as the new guys.
My father worked nearby at a large power plant that could be an unsafe place if you didn’t follow the safety rules. He had seen 3 or 4 men get killed because of safety lapses during his 35 plus years there. When he chose to retire early, I asked him why. He said, “I don’t want to be carried out feet first from work someday on a stretcher.” He knew that complacency was sneaking up on him and thought it was time to leave.
When I started at KSC, it was the first time I had worked in an industrial setting and I found that I spent more time in safety classes than all my other classes combined. With all the dangerous propellants there such as Mono Methyl Hydrazine (2 breaths, 2 steps, you’re dead.), large equipment, heights, etc., there, you had to know quite a bit about safety.
But KSC took it further. It was ingrained in their culture, and a normal farewell saying done by everyone was, “Be safe.” We had safety meetings, daily safety tips, safety emails, constant safety classes, and on and on. You could bring an entire job to a skidding stop by just saying, “I have a safety concern.” My old manager, Jay Barati, told me once that each day that everyone finishes their shift and goes home to their families is a good day.
I kidded with a co-worker one day after I had been there for about 2 months, “that these guys treat safety like a religion!” After my first brush with a MMH leak while working near the forward reaction control system, I became a staunch convert myself.
Safety begins with you. You are not only responsible for yourself, but for your co-workers. Nothing could be worse than to know that your lapse in safety caused an injury to your co-worker. Everything from your dress, conduct, and work habits should have safety as the guiding force.
We are going to start a series on safety. Of all things you take away from your aerospace courses, safety is the most important. The lessons you learn can literally save your life. Stay tuned!