By Carrie Parashar
Project Manager at Alaska Safety Alliance
For many years I trained a course whose main subject was energy source hazard recognition. I’ll never forget the concepts taught. Partially, due to having trained it for a decade and partially because new hires rarely left that class without having a different thought pattern of how the world works and the control they can have over their own safety.
When things go wrong, it is so easy to make statements like “Things happen!” or “That’s bad luck!”. Is it though?
Some safety professionals feel that 100% of accidents are avoidable. Others feel we’ll always be human, making a goa of zero incidents is a huge challenge, maybe even impossible. However, we may feel, the goal is always the same, no one gets hurt and everyone goes home safe. Energy sources, situational awareness, and effective hazard mitigations are key concepts to consider when striving to reach this goal.
ARSC’s Basic Orientation Plus program delivers many similar concepts. ARSC councils train on the basic energy sources involved with everyday worksite hazards through Basic Orientation Plus and Basic Orientation Plus Refresher. Motion, chemical, radiation, they're all in there. All of the activities that make the world go ‘round involve energy.
To drive these points home with all of my trainees I ask them to give me one example of anything that happens on earth without a single energy involved. As they ponder, I grin a little. The light bulb is about to come on and I know it and I love it. This is why I am a safety.
The spark that happens in that moment. The realization that if only they could recognize what all these energies can and will do around them, that they could control them, mitigate them, avoid them entirely? Everything might go right? No one would get hurt again? Yes.
So, what happens on Earth without any energy involved?
Now they’re thinking about the world and the energies in it. Often, trainees will answer “a heart attack.” I reply, “That’s a really good one, although that’s electrical energy.” Yes. Now that lightbulb is brighter. They try to think of another answer and quickly realize, there isn’t one. AHA! That moment we all wait for when training!
Now that it’s obvious to the trainee that there isn’t anything that happens without energy, I then discuss how many incidents and accidents occurred in the United States in the last 50-plus years of OSHA-recorded history. I speak about how those events could have been avoided. I tell them that roughly 2% of OSHA-recorded incidents and accidents, after being investigated, are ruled an “act of God” or “unavoidable by persons.”
This means that roughly 98% of all of those events could have been stopped or avoided entirely. 50-plus years of an entire nation working day and night, industry upon industry, and 98% of those negative events could have possibly been avoided by recognizing and controlling energies?
Hopefully, the training works, and the next 50 years will look a lot different.