(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Sadly, I have found that it is very easy to not use the proper protective equipment. If I happen upon a piece of work that needs doing, I have a tendency to just start it. If a person doesn’t think about the proper tools and processes used for a task, they may not use them. If they don’t think about the risks with the work, or they decide the proper tools and PPE is inconvenient to get, they may just start the job. I have learned some hard lessons in this area, mostly cuts, slivers, and sprains.
Basic Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that every active location needs to have on hand includes safety shoes (always wear good protective foot gear), safety glasses (best to wear for virtually all tasks), goggles (for messy tasks with flying debris), head gear/helmets (to protect from falling objects, chainsaw chaps (to prevent leg cuts), lifting belts (for heavy loads), a safety harness for working in elevated areas, and gloves (for any task with potential for slivers, cuts, etc.). Add the list of PPE required for the task to your process documentation for each task.
LEARN FROM THE PAST – ACCIDENT INVESTIGATIONS
Everyone has mishaps, both minor and major, and near misses. Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. When you hear of someone getting injured or laid up, do a quick study of how you understand the accident to have happened. Then, consider if you do similar activities have similar situations. Do an investigation as if the accident happened to you.
Near misses should be treated as an accident as far as the review and learning process is concerned. Any mishap needs a review, and should result in documentation and actions plans. Record your findings and set up action plans to prevent recurrence.
The format can be whatever you are comfortable with, but to be useful in the future it should have the following information in hard copy format:
Date of occurrence
Task being performed
Cause of incident
Description of the incident/sequence
Suggested corrective action
It is best to use the same form/format for every investigation. This will make it easier to categorize the problems, apply lessons learned and find potential unsafe areas.
ACCIDENTS AND LESSIONS LEARNED…HINDSIGHT IS 20/20
I have listed some recent incidents that I have encountered that may get you thinking of your personal situation. In reality the list of hazards is almost endless.
Helmet and head protection: Recently, my son and I were cutting winter-damaged wood at our land. We were using chainsaws and snippers to clear small trees and large limbs that have fallen across our trails. As my son arrived at the worksite, I noticed he was wearing a helmet, similar to one used for skateboarding or mountain biking. It caught me by surprise, but then I remembered that the last time we did a trail clearing he cut a small tree down that was holding up a dead tree. It was not obvious that the dead tree would fall, but once he cut the first tree the dead limb fell and clipped him in the back of his head. He must have learned from this as he brought his helmet from his home three hours away just for cutting these trees.
Wood cutting chaps: One of my neighbors was clearing wood at the edge of her property lately. She was on a slope and was cutting at an angle. She pulled the running saw back and ran it across her upper knee area. This resulted in a trip 25 miles to the Emergency Room and 17 stitches. Kevlar chaps would have taken the brunt of the hit.
Proper cutting/Cutting tools: I was helping a good friend put up drywall. He was cutting a custom piece of sheetrock while I held the other end. He was using a small battery circular saw. Unfortunately he was cutting right to left with his right hand and holding the drywall with his left. Yes, he deeply cut his middle finger with the blade, resulting in a 30 mile trip one way to the ER, and many stitches. A better cutting plan would have been to properly position the drywall on sawhorses and cut away from the body, using a Fixed-Blade Utility
Drywall Knife and leather gloves.
Sting Avoidance: I recently was watering the base of an apple tree when I was swarmed by very aggressive wasps. I received about ten stings. Wasps like apple trees, and like to build nests in trees and in unoccupied buildings. Avoid areas with flying insects like wasps. I have learned to always take the wasp spray along if working on the apple trees or going into the shed.
Gloves: I am my own worst enemy when it comes to cuts and slivers on my hands. I cut and split a lot of firewood. I have several pairs of work gloves. But, when I am casually working around the place and decide to move some wood, I never seem to have time to look for the gloves. Almost every time I do not wear them, by the time I am done I have several painful slivers and/or cuts. Recently I have started putting the gloves right next to the door leading to the wood pile. Right now I have no slivers or cuts!
There are many sources of safety information available that cover the key safety components reviewed here. Many sources focus on industrial safety, but in reality, the concepts are easily applied to the hard work needed around a homestead. There are many sites that can help you determine what safety components you may need to stay safe. The internet also has many examples of the contents and components of existing safety programs that will give you ideas for your own information repository. Some include Staysafe.org and the National Safety Council. OSHA, of course, has a wealth of information for safety. The CDC has a number of good articles including how to prevent falls and make a home safe for aging adults. Grainger has a very good list of safety components that apply to virtually every home. Many states have state safety councils. Search online for the council nearest to you. Also, an internet query of “home safety checklist” will provide many potential sources of good information and effective formats.
The overall goal of your personal safety program will be to stay in the best physical condition possible and avoid serious, or any, injury. You must stay healthy and avoid:
- Any pain that could detract from you being in top shape and make you unable to do strenuous work.
- Any injury that could result in you not being able to continue to live at your location
- The need for any treatment or the need for outside medical care
- The cost of treatment, lost work time, and lower productivity.
Start today to force yourself to review all of your key tasks, even if it seems boring and you have other things to do. Your awareness should increase and you will develop safer habits.
As time goes on, develop the safety program components and checklists that best fit you, your situation, and your activities. The methods fit tasks both large and small. While I used smaller, simple example tasks, the methodology must be applied to the larger and more dangerous tasks or the results could be fatal. Cutting a large tree down next to your house requires extra planning and caution, and bigger and stronger tools. And it should involve extra planning and dry runs. Building a shed and lifting beams over your head, even if by mechanical equipment, requires planning, caution, and extra help. Keep hard copy records of all your safety components. Put reminders in the area for the most dangerous activities.
Stay aware! Be watchful for any hazards, at all times. Train yourself to continuously look for hazards. Ask yourself, “What could go wrong with this operation?” Remember, Murphy was an optimist.
Learn from your mistakes and stay alert to prevent recurrence.
Buy and maintain the best PPE that you can, while you can.
Ensure your first aid and medical supplies are easily accessible and can handle more than a minor incident.
Always use good safety behavior and processes to keep yourself and your loved ones well for the long term.
Stay alert and aware. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Live life to the fullest.
JWR Adds: One of our safety mottos at SurvivalBlog is: “All The Gear, All The Time” (ATGATT). Make ATGATT your habit.