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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Industrial Hygiene…It’s a 24 Hour Job!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Sep 20, 2010 4:12:14 AM

24 hr JobPaula Kaufmann, CIH

I just read an article in the New York Times (Hazards: Watch Where You Point That Laser) about a 15-year boy who bought a laser pointer on the Internet.  He selected this particular model as the light was supposed to be powerful enough pop balloons and burn holes in fabric.  And, it was all he had hoped for and more.  He popped balloons from a distance and burnt holes in his sister’s sneakers.  However, he literally got burned by the “and more” features of his new toy. Tragically, he shined the pointer in a mirror and the light beam reflected back onto one of his eyes causing major damage. 

My first thought was, “How stupid was that”.  My second thought was more balanced, “I guess he wasn’t properly trained or didn’t read the instructions”.  I’ve been told by loved ones that I can be a bit intrusive (if not annoying) with my unconscious monitoring of unsafe behavior in my constant role of “health and safety inspector”.  So be it!  According to the Home Safety Council, every year there are millions of preventable home-related incidents and accidents “that result in nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits”.  

Here are some examples of what I consider stupid (or let’s say shortsighted) actions -- some at work, some at home. Yes, I make these observations all the time to family and friends and, as you can imagine, that can be a bit trying for them but I feel it’s worth the price.

  • Using an electric lawn mower on a damp lawn with damaged extension cords repaired with electrical tape AND with the ground prong clipped. Worse yet – asking my child to use this dangerous setup!

  • Removing the guard from a circular saw.

  • Cutting overhead branches without wearing a hard hat or eye protection.

  • Smoking a cigarette, cigar or pipe while filling a car with gas. Worse yet – a gas station attendants smoking cigarettes while pumping gas.

  • Construction or utility workers using a jack hammer on a concrete sidewalk and not wearing safety glasses or hearing protection while wearing a hard hat.

  • Police directing traffic without wearing a traffic safety vest. Worse yet – doing this after dark in a dark uniform without white gloves.

  • Mowing the lawn in sandals and shorts without eye protection while listening to music at full volume (using earphones not noise reducing hearing protection).

  • Eating snacks while removing paint from old furniture or woodwork in a house built before WW I, which makes the lead content highly probable.  Worse yet – having your kids help you while you dry sweep or use a regular household vacuum to “clean up” the area.

  • Utility worker serving as a confined space watch (at the ground level of an underground manway) talking (and laughing) on a cell phone and drinking coffee (usually about 10 feet from the manway).

  • Nail salon workers wearing dust masks while applying acrylics to customers’ nails -- dust masks don’t reduce exposure to the chemicals used during acrylic application. Worse yet - acrylic nail services happening in a tiny storefront with limited ventilation.

  • Being “careful” when installing an electrical light by shutting off the switch to the power but not the circuit breaker to the line.

  • Applying insect repellant from an aerosol can while sitting by a bonfire.

  • Removing a bicycle helmet as soon as your mom can’t see you as it is just too hot to protect your brain.

And, finally, one of my favorite tales is the time that I was away from home on a business trip, and while I was gone, my husband renovated my home office space.  He did a beautiful job, but when I asked him why he went through the effort to surprise me, he said “It is so much easier to get work done when the OSHA inspector is not home”.  I just wish I could have given him a citation.

If you’re interested in home safety, September – National Preparedness Month -- is a good time to begin.  You can start with a visit the website of the Home Safety Council® (HSC), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing home-related injuries. You’ll  find dozens of tips, stories and videos and information about Safety Saturday (September 25) at participating Lowe’s stores.

What are some of your favorite observations of “stupid” health and safety practices outside of the work environment? And, if you’re a health and safety professional, how do you balance maintaining a safe home life without driving your friends and family crazy?

Topics: health and safety, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Emergency Response, worker safety, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, Fire Safety, Public Safety, water safety, industrial hygiene, home safety

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