In Praise of Safety Managers

next time you see your safety manager, please take the time to thank him for what he does.

From time to time, I am sent books of a technical or business nature for review in this publication, though most of them are not foundry-specific enough to merit review in our pages. I recently read a book called Still Going Wrong! authored by Trevor Kletz, an industrial safety advisor. This volume is a sequel to Kletz’s original What Went Wrong? published some years ago. Both deal with accidents that happened in the workplace in process industries, and what might have been done to avoid them.

As I started browsing through Still Going Wrong!, I was ready to shelve the book as not pertinent to my readership. The case studies didn’t deal with furnaces or foundries or the safety issues that confront metalcasters every day at work. However, the more I read, the more I was struck by the random nature and seemingly harmless intent of preliminary events or communications failures that eventually led to harmful and sometimes fatal accidents. As I continued to read, I realized that metalcasting shops were just as vulnerable to these types of events as any other process plant, and maybe safety lessons from other industries might be worth some consideration on this page.

There is an example given in which piping was being installed in an oil refinery. In this instance some workers were fitting a piece of pipe to an installation. A bend was welded onto one end and a cut was made at the other. When workers went to install the pipe, they found the cut they made narrowly missed a full propane cylinder that was somehow inside the pipe. If the saw had cut that cylinder, sparks would have ignited the compressed propane and a nasty explosion would have resulted. No one intentionally planted that cylinder in that pipe, but through some carelessness it was there and the consequences could have been disastrous.

In another instance, the central bolthead of a three-way cock on a chemical line valve had been marked to show the position of the cock. This was done because the positional marks on the valve itself were hard to see. Originally, the engraved marks on the bolt corresponded to those on the plug. During a subsequent maintenance procedure, however, a workman innocently inserted two washers under this bolt, which changed the cock positional markings when the bolt was fully tightened. This error caused a mistaken perception by plant personnel of the valve position, which resulted in process steam being directed down the wrong line, the formation of an explosive by-product, and a plant explosion.

Those who work in potentially hazardous industrial environments should be aware that all accidents are caused by some unexpected circumstance, lack of training, or miscommunication on the shop floor. In our industry, just like in others, accidents—some even fatal—have occurred. Given the nature of our industry, it is a credit to foundry safety managers, who mandate and educate us about safe procedures and protective apparel, that we have as good a safety record as we do. It is because of these diligent and conscientious individuals that so few serious accidents plague us, and we owe them much gratitude for their professionalism.

There have been a couple instances during my tenure here in which we erroneously published photos that showed workers improperly protected for the task they were doing. So diligent are the safety managers in our industry that the ink on the magazines was barely dry before they were calling me to correct the photos and not perpetuate the bad practices shown in them.

On occasion, I’ve heard workers grumble about burdensome safety policies and procedures instituted by their safety staff, but they are just trying to ensure a safe working day so you all can get home to your families healthy after your shift.

So next time you see your safety manager, please take the time to thank them for what they do.From time to time, I am sent books of a technical or business nature for review in this publication, though most of them are not foundry-specific enough to merit review in our pages. I recently read a book called Still Going Wrong! authored by Trevor Kletz, an industrial safety advisor. This volume is a sequel to Kletz’s original What Went Wrong? published some years ago. Both deal with accidents that happened in the workplace in process industries, and what might have been done to avoid them.

As I started browsing through Still Going Wrong!, I was ready to shelve the book as not pertinent to my readership. The case studies didn’t deal with furnaces or foundries or the safety issues that confront metalcasters every day at work. However, the more I read, the more I was struck by the random nature and seemingly harmless intent of preliminary events or communications failures that eventually led to harmful and sometimes fatal accidents. As I continued to read, I realized that metalcasting shops were just as vulnerable to these types of events as any other process plant, and maybe safety lessons from other industries might be worth some consideration on this page.

There is an example given in which piping was being installed in an oil refinery. In this instance some workers were fitting a piece of pipe to an installation. A bend was welded onto one end and a cut was made at the other. When workers went to install the pipe, they found the cut they made narrowly missed a full propane cylinder that was somehow inside the pipe. If the saw had cut that cylinder, sparks would have ignited the compressed propane and a nasty explosion would have resulted. No one intentionally planted that cylinder in that pipe, but through some carelessness it was there and the consequences could have been disastrous.

In another instance, the central bolthead of a three-way cock on a chemical line valve had been marked to show the position of the cock. This was done because the positional marks on the valve itself were hard to see. Originally, the engraved marks on the bolt corresponded to those on the plug. During a subsequent maintenance procedure, however, a workman innocently inserted two washers under this bolt, which changed the cock positional markings when the bolt was fully tightened. This error caused a mistaken perception by plant personnel of the valve position, which resulted in process steam being directed down the wrong line, the formation of an explosive by-product, and a plant explosion.

Those who work in potentially hazardous industrial environments should be aware that all accidents are caused by some unexpected circumstance, lack of training, or miscommunication on the shop floor. In our industry, just like in others, accidents—some even fatal—have occurred. Given the nature of our industry, it is a credit to foundry safety managers, who mandate and educate us about safe procedures and protective apparel, that we have as good a safety record as we do. It is because of these diligent and conscientious individuals that so few serious accidents plague us, and we owe them much gratitude for their professionalism.

There have been a couple instances during my tenure here in which we erroneously published photos that showed workers improperly protected for the task they were doing. So diligent are the safety managers in our industry that the ink on the magazines was barely dry before they were calling me to correct the photos and not perpetuate the bad practices shown in them.

On occasion, I’ve heard workers grumble about burdensome safety policies and procedures instituted by their safety staff, but they are just trying to ensure a safe working day so you all can get home to your families healthy after your shift.

So next time you see your safety manager, please take the time to thank them for what they do.

TAGS: Testing/QC
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