Selecting Equipment for Safety

The November-December issue of Lift and Access marks our annual safety issue, and a few topics caught my eye recently concerning safety and site compliance. While working on an article on explosion-proof equipment with Man & Material Lift Engineering, Cudahy, Wis., I learned that potentially hazardous environments, including the aircraft , gas and petroleum, paint, manufacturing, and mining industries, often require specially designed equipment that can withstand explosions and fires. These explosive locations may have flammable gases or vapors, flammable liquids, combustible dust, or ignitable fibers. (For more information specifically on when and where to use explosion-proof equipment, see the November-December of Lift and Access.)

However, the company reports that while federal regulations require companies to employ explosion-proof lifting equipment, there is some resistance to using these machines. Many fleet managers and equipment owners refute the need for these units because they say they’ve never had an accident, or the cost of these specialty products is out of their price range. However, having covered equipment accidents for nearly 10 years, I can’t count how many newspaper articles I’ve read in which the equipment owner is utterly shocked by the result of an accident—even when improper safety equipment or the wrong machines are being used for the job.

Like equipment owners who refute the use of explosion-proof aerials because of a higher sticker price or the belief that they just don’t need it, complying with personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements is also a challenge. Although I found it interesting, I was not entirely surprised by the results of a safety equipment compliance survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional. Ninety-eight percent of respondents of the poll, which took place at an American Society of Safety Engineers show in June, said they had observed workers who were not wearing necessary safety equipment while on the job. What’s more, 30 percent of respondents said this occurred on numerous occasions. Kimberly-Clark Professional also conducted this survey in 2006, 2007, and 2008 at the National Safety Council Congress, which produced similar results.

Failing to wear eye protection is the most common PPE off ense, followed by foregoing hearing protection. Although I do not have tangible numbers, I would lump in the use of fall protection harnesses as another common transgression—particularly with the use of aerial work platforms. Survey respondents noted comfort was their biggest PPE complaint, while others said that equipment was too hot, not available near the work task, a poor fit, or unattractive looking.

What are ways to improve compliance of equipment and PPE? Education and training in our industry needs to constantly be at the forefront of our thoughts and discussions. Those who are ignorant of ways to protect themselves simply will not be safe. Additionally, make employees accountable for their own actions by monitoring them individually, as well as tie in compliance to performance evaluations. Finally, if you are a manager, lead by example by wearing your own protective equipment and employing the right equipment for the job. With the high costs of insurance and worker’s compensation claims, there is no reason not to.