Do You Feel Lucky?

 In 2023, Tip of the Week

This past Friday, March 17th, you might have worn green, ate some corned beef, or participated in a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, proclaiming to have the “luck of the Irish.” If you are wondering who St. Patrick was, he’s the Patron Saint of Ireland. While he was a notably good man who lived back in the 400’s, unfortunately the story of him driving the snakes out of Ireland is a myth. And St. Patrick’s Day is not his birthday, it’s the anniversary of his death. You can learn more about St. Patrick on his History.com page.

Another mythical Irish tradition is the Leprechaun. Leprechauns are a part of Irish folklore, and finding one is considered lucky as they might share their pot of gold with you. You might see where this safety tip is going. There is a pattern we are creating – luck. Luck is defined by Webster as a chance happening of fortunate or adverse effects.

In the safety world, we might look at an incident and be tempted to say something about the employees involved were “lucky” not to have been harmed, or that they were “unlucky” because there were injuries. But do we really want to build our safety systems on myths and folklore?

A better idea would be to base your safety on the hierarchy of controls, now called the hierarchy of risk treatments as established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), including ANSI/ASSP Z10.0 – 2019, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, and ANSI/ASSE Z590.3 – 2021, Prevention through Design Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Hazards and Risks in Design and Redesign Processes.

As identified in the hierarchy of risk treatments, the more effective safety controls remove any element of luck from the picture. Avoid any contact with harmful, risky, unsafe operations. Eliminate contact with unsafe procedures, equipment, and/or hazardous materials, or at least substitute less risky operations.

An SCM client had a valve that frequently required employee involvement, i.e., opening, closing, or doing repair work on the valve. The valve was located at rather high off the ground, and employees had to climb up to access it. Rather than put employees at risk of a potential fall, the client’s engineers redesigned the system so that the valve was at ground level. They eliminated the risk of employees falling – a good example of using controls to create a safer workplace.

Interesting additions to the hierarchy are the two concepts of minimization and simplification. In an upcoming safety tip, we’ll take a closer look at these methods of controlling risk at work.

Or as said best by Clint Eastwood in the movie classic, Dirty Harry, “do you feel lucky?”

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