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Knowledge at Work - UL Workplace Health & Safety

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Workplace Safety

Why "tag, you’re it" is a flawed approach to workplace incident response

January 14, 2014 - Posted by Jonathan Jacobi

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An incident has been reported in one of your warehouses. You gather details, make notifications and head to the scene. You find a forklift lodged in a storage rack. The compromised structure leans precariously on the lift.

Onlookers are gathering. No one can agree about what should be done next. Arguments and the creaking sound of terminally stressed metal combine to form the soundtrack of a situation quickly spiraling out of control. A supervisor turns to you, "You're the safety person! What should we do?”

Supervisors and other facility personnel cannot simply pass the baton and step away. A collaborative approach is necessary for a number of reasons:

  • Production supervisors have unique insights into operational risks, resource capabilities and limitations. For example, they can tell you whether any hazardous substances were stored on the broken rack.
  • Maintenance and engineering personnel can address structural questions. For instance, will the rack collapse if the forklift is towed clear? Is there an effective way to brace the rack before the forklift is removed?
  • Health and safety professionals and other trained responders often serve as the voice of reason during an incident response. For example, these professionals may need to veto plans that involve sending climbers to recover materials.

Having pre-planned (and communicated) who is going to do what, when, how and where helps ensure an efficient, effective response. Many companies choose to create a small-scale version of the incident management system used by professional responders such as fire, police, and emergency medical-service responders.

There are many good resources available to support companies seeking to improve incident response readiness and better meet HAZWOPER, fall protection rescue, confined space rescue, hazardous waste and chemical-specific response, first aid and fire response, and other emergency action planning requirements.

Here are two resources:

Federal OSHA –Fact Sheet – Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies

Oregon State OSHA –Expecting the Unexpected - What to consider in planning for workplace emergencies

See how FedEx SmartPost used UL’s incident management tracking system (IMS) to expedite injury response and simplify OSHA recordkeeping.

Topics: workplace safety, Featured