Thursday, March 16, 2017

To the workers who build the industry

The workers who build the industry, workers dedicated to the construction, commissioning and maintenance of industrial plants.

I am impressed by the pictures of workers on skyscrapers in the first decades of the XX century, where workers are seen in metal structures at great heights without any personal protective equipment (PPE), makes me think of the conditions so dangerous where the employees were exposed.

A worker constructing the Empire State Building in 1930, overlooking the Chrysler Building in the background (r), by Lewis Hine

Unfortunately, there were no enough regulations for employers to ensure the safety of their employees, perhaps these rules were not enforced strictly, employers took advantage of the workers economic need to expose them to those tasks so risky. Also, this combined with the overconfidence of the workers, generated a very dangerous environment.

Times change, and over the years, stronger regulations have been established in the area of safety. 

While these regulations have managed to reduce the number of accidents, the commitment to compliance by both the employer and the employee must be increased.

In my work, I have had the opportunity to meet very good men and women who have dedicated themselves to this difficult field of construction, commissioning and maintenance of industrial plants, people who dedicate their lives to build our future.

Many of them leave their families and friends to move from one place to another around the country, or even to other countries looking for new constructions, or perhaps some plant modernization or expansion. Many times, they work extended hours of 12 hours a day or more during all four seasons of the year, in extreme temperatures of winter or summer. They work in hazardous environments, climbing structures or maybe near toxic or explosive substances.

The statistics don’t favor them, but still, they go to work trusting that they don’t get with the same bad fate

The statistics are not very favorable, per OSHA on average there are 12 fatal injuries per day and every year 4,500 workers die, these numbers have been improving over the years, but there is still much work to do to avoid this type of fatalities, because only a lost life is reason enough to mourn. 

My advice to them, analyze what kind of fatal injuries occur and think how they could have been avoided, here you can find them.

Beware of overconfidence, don't be like some skyscraper worker of the past

The knowledge or skill that we acquire in our tasks makes us more efficient, but beware this can become a double-edged sword that could hurt us.

Overconfidence is generated precisely because of the ease with which we perform a task and therefore we pay less attention to what we are doing, this can culminate in an accident.

Such is the case of the very experienced worker who has worked for many years in a plant and thinks that he knows the unit very well. One day he is sent to take a part of the pipe or “brake a line” and the worker assumes that there is no product in it, he does not check with the operators or process engineers and takes the decision to “brake a line”, guess what? Exactly, the pressure of the product in the tank that was connected to the pipe, forces the product to go through the pipe removed and splashes the worker causing severe burns.

Do not assume anything, you always should ask!

Here you will find a good article about how the overconfidence can generate accidents.

Some Tips to Reduce Overconfidence

Always pay attention to what is indicated in the security meetings and do not hesitate to ask any questions, in security matters no question is silly.

Be alert for any indications of workplace safety, any signs, barricades, locks and tagging.

Coordinate with operations personnel to verify that no operations or other types of tests are performed

I hope that we really value the work of these great men and women who are engaged in these riskier jobs, I hope that employers really care to train the employees and make the working conditions as safe as possible, that bosses understand that a life has more value than a delivery time and that the workers themselves assume the commitment to always watch over their safety and the safety of their colleagues.

What can I do as an employee or employer to make my work safer?

What experiences have you had and what advice would you give to other workers?