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Safety Happens Every Day

Every single day is a good day to think about safety. It is on my mind this week, especially, after a good friend was involved in a highway accident—clear roads, car in good repair, driving with her 5-year old child (in a child’s seat in the rear) and she just got tired and fell asleep. To say “no one was injured” belies the real psychological and dollar costs that we all know are really involved. To say “accidents happen” doesn’t really address her role in it, one I know she will consider many times in the weeks to come.

Thermographers, especially those of us who work in industry, are often required to put ourselves in dangerous situations. The obvious example is working in front of energized electrical equipment where the risk of exposure to an arc flash explosion is very real.

What remains of this 440V starter after an arc flash explosion is a sobering reminder of the power that can be unintentionally released near us (Courtesy DuPont).

In the busy, day-to-day real world, we often plow ahead to get the job done, thinking, “It can’t happen to me.” Obviously we can’t live our lives in a “cocoon” and avoid all risk, but we also have to acknowledge that risk is real at nearly every turn. In an ideal world, we would assess these risks and take appropriate action to reduce the risk to an acceptable level. For that reason, thermographers wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and carefully follow work safety procedures when conducting electrical inspections.

Our friends at DuPont have been long-time leaders in industry for safety, not just for humanitarian reasons but also because having a safe work environment is the most cost effective way to do business. The origin of their safety culture is rooted in their original product, the manufacturing of explosives. An early, and deadly, “accident” resulted in the decision to have managers live next to the plant to increase their interest in safety. It became integral to everything they did. More recently, DuPont has taken the lead with the “Goal of Zero” campaign. More than just a slogan, this means that companies take a zero tolerance approach to accidents, in both the workplace and at home, or on the road between work and home.

If you knew you might end up working right in the path of the combustion products deposited by this arc-flash explosion, what would you do differently so that you stayed out of harm’s way? (Courtesy DuPont).

Part of every thermal imaging job must be an analysis of the risk involved, a discussion of ways to reduce that risk, communication about the risks with everyone involved and, after the work, a review to take away “lessons learned” for the next time. This is a simple and very powerful way to improve the odds in our favor for safety.

PPE is an important part of a bigger picture of safe work practices for industrial thermographers.

The “lesson learned” from my friend’s accident is to recommit myself to safety. February 29th happens only once every four years, but her accident is a good reminder that we need to have safety in our thoughts every single day. Accidents do happen—but they happen most frequently when we fail to address the risks that become obvious after the accident has occurred. I invite you to make today a “Goal of Zero” day. I mean really, a “Goal of One” doesn’t quite work so well! After we get through today at “zero,” we can work on keeping it up tomorrow and the next day and the next.

Thinking Thermally,

John Snell—The Snell Group, a Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner

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