For a long time, those working in the larger water industry have provided a service that many of us take for granted. We expect to have a shower in the morning. We depend on clean water for cooking and hydration. Particularly with COVID-19 threatening our workplaces, more must be done to protect these workers.
What isn’t as well known is that damage prevention goes hand-in-hand with worker safety – two sides of an important coin. For example, if the water plant’s infrastructure is compromised, the safety of the workers could be compromised as well with increased risk of fires, slips, trips and falls, chemical and gas poisoning, collapse of trenches, waterborne disease, and even drowning. Here are some steps you can take to prevent injuries and infrastructure damage where your team works.
The first step to protecting workers is to conduct risk assessments regularly to identify any existing threats and look at ways of mitigating them. This includes looking at any damage to infrastructure, helping you anticipate any issues down the road. While it might seem daunting to constantly conduct these assessments, you will soon establish a rhythm and discover structured ways of doing them.
It is easy to write a new training manual or policy and email a PDF to your team. But to truly improve safety, you need to provide training and education so that they understand – and believe – that measures are in place for good reasons and they were shown how to perform their job in a safe manner. Part of the training should teach workers how to identify and anticipate structural problems at the plant or wherever they work, such as calling before they dig when out in the community.
Proper Personal Protective Equipment
This might be an obvious one, but you would be surprised how often outdated personal protective equipment (PPE) is still being used. As part of the risk assessments mentioned earlier, any new PPE should be identified and provided. When there’s damage to a pipe, workers can be struck by projectiles and high-pressure bursts so they need to have the best protection available. The condition of your infrastructure and facilities should somewhat influence how you equip your team.
While the latest PPE can add up and get expensive, a successful worker safety program doesn’t have to be. This includes providing fall detection, a manual or automated check-in system, as well as using existing devices so no more purchasing is necessary. Training is crucial and should be incorporated into the program as a fun and engaging aspect of your safety culture.
Maybe the most important element to protecting your workers is building a strong work safety culture in your organization. This is a workplace where your team feels comfortable to speak up about any safety and damage prevention-related issues, including unauthorized construction and digging, as well as potentially dangerous practices from co-workers. Your team can recognize safety issues better than anyone and it is in a company’s best interests for them to have a loud voice in this area.
Gen Handley represents SafetyLine, a cloud-based worker safety tool for employees working alone, in isolation or hazardous situations. Learn more at safetylineloneworker.com.