Occasionally this “age-old” poem appears in my various news feeds, and every single time it does it hits me in the “feels”.
The poem was written by Don Merrell. I have heard a number of stories about the origins of the poem, but since I don’t know the actual version I will leave that for you to find. That said, at the end of the day, whether based on personal experience or on what he gathered from conversations with other people that experienced the situation personally, the poem is moving and tragic.
Be your “brothers keeper”.
There are times that we all take chances that we shouldn’t. Sometimes those decisions are made consciously because we believe that no harm can come to us. Sometimes those decisions are made subconsciously because our minds are not on the task at hand. And sometimes we just haven’t been trained properly how to safely perform the task.
Step up to the task and help the men and women you work with be better. Do not let title, rank or tenure make you feel like you can’t help someone improve.
Speak up in a way that shows you truly care, for your coworker… for your friend and for their family.
This is not the moment to be loud, obnoxious, condescending, rude, or threatening. When is the last time you received the lesson delivered that way?
Your purpose is not to get someone in trouble. Your purpose is to better their performance so they can continue to provide for their family, or even just to simply live their life.
Illumination is one of the more obscure and overlooked regulations. This isn’t surprising necessarily, since it isn’t one that is cited often, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important.
What is REQUIRED?
For the Construction Industry there are generally 3 specific levels of illumination that you need to remember:
3 Foot-Candles – This applies to most of your “outside” areas. For this regulation, “outside” means anything that is NOT covered. So standing on the first floor of a multi-level structure that isn’t enclosed is still considered “inside”. But if you can look up and see the sky, you are “outside”.
5 Foot-Candles – This applies to most of your “inside” areas. If you can’t see the sky when you look directly up from where you are located then you are “inside”.
10 Foot-Candles – Batch plants, Carpenter Shops, Active store rooms, Toilets, etc….
The key to all of this is that these levels apply to ALL areas where workers are located. So, if they have to walk from the parking lot to their work station, the path has to be illuminated. If they are going to leave the work station and walk to the toilets, that path has to be illuminated. If they are going to be rummaging around looking for tools in a yard or trailer… you guessed it, those locations have to be illuminated.
Translate that please…
If you don’t have a visual in your head on just how bright that is, don’t worry, most people don’t. There are a few tools on the market that can help you.
If you are looking for a decent all around safety meter then you can get one from Amazon:
Note: These just happen to be the ones that I have specifically used so they are the ones I know. I am not affiliated with them in any way other than as a customer. I am sure there are other great devices in the field, so get with your specific vendors and get their recommendations.
If you aren’t interested in carrying around another device or spending $200 to $250 dollars there are some apps that are available through the App Store (Apple). I am going to have to assume that there are similar apps available through Google Play but since I don’t have an android I will have to depend on those of you that do to fill in the gaps.
When it comes to straight up “light meters” keep in mind that most of these are meant for photographers and can get pretty fancy in the data they give you. But you can get one for free that gives you are really good idea of the amount of light in an area without all the other fuss.
The one that I recommend strictly for a quick “Light meter” is:
Lux Light Meter Pro – by Elena Polyanskaya
There is a paid option of this app (about $4) but the free one has been sufficient for my needs.
Wondering what a “foot-candle” is? This illustration shows it better than I can describe it.
So, 5 foot-candles would be equivalent amount of light that 5 standard candles would project on a 1’x1′ square surface from 1′ away.
The short answer is… it is brighter than you think!
Use the tool but trust your gut! If you EVER enter a space and think to yourself “its a little dim in here” it is nowhere close to 5 foot-candles. If you enter a space and think there is plenty of light because you can clearly see… it might be enough, it might not be enough. Without testing it you won’t actually know.
What is the point of all of this?
If no one tests this except for the few random crazy folks, and OSHA never cites anyone for it, why do we care? The answer is simple.
The NUMBER 1 leading cause of Injury and Death in the Construction Industry is Falls, which includes Slips and Trips and Falls on the Same Level.
If a person cannot clearly see where they are walking they are at risk of injury. Preventing a workers injury far out weighs the avoidance of a citation.
Did you know that the simple act of slowing down and taking just 4 seconds to think about safety before doing any task has been shown to reduce the probability of an injury incident by more than 90%?
Of course, what you do in those four seconds is important! So, start here:
Am I trained?
Be honest with yourself here. Even if you have sat through hours of class room activity, do you know enough about this particular task to consider yourself trained? That isn’t meant to be a trick question. But you are the ONLY one that can answer that question. Let me put it into perspective for you….
I have sat through hours of class room activities over the course of my career discussing in detail about equipment and crane safety. But to this day I would never claim that I am TRAINED on the proper operations or inspection of Heavy Equipment or Cranes. I know that to operate them you must be knowledgeable. I know that you must do inspections, and that those inspections must cover certain aspects of the equipment. I know that you have to wear a seat belt. The list of things I do know is lengthy, but that does not make be trained.
If you are not trained on the proper and safe way to perform a task, don’t do it! You will just end up injured or injuring someone else. Stop and ask for additional training.
Do I have the right PPE?
This is more than the typical PPE – Hardhats, Safety Glasses, Safety-Toe Boots, High-Visibility Vests. This is the rest of it…
Welding Goggles or Helmet?
Rubber Boots over your typical boots?
When you think about all of the hazards associated with the task you are about to perform, can they be eliminated? And if not, are you protected from them?
Do I need help to do this?
Is this a task that you can safely do alone? This, again, is only a question that you can answer. We can give you guidance, but if you are honest with yourself, you are the one that will know the answer better than anyone. And before you decide to prove just how strong you are, that is activity that is to be left for the gym, not for work. Here, you are expected to get help. No one is going to be impressed with your ability to lift anything if it ultimately causes and injury to you or anyone else.
Can you pick that “thing” up by yourself? Or is it too heavy? Or too bulky? Or awkwardly shaped?
Should you perform that task in that area without anyone else around? Do others know where you are? Or where you are going? Or what you are doing?
Is this the safest way?
Here’s the thing. There are a million rules that cover a million scenarios. You probably don’t know them all. I can almost guarantee that you don’t know them all. But here is something else that I can absolutely guarantee…
If you look at a situation, ANY situation, in the workplace and ever think to yourself … “That looks dangerous” or “There has to be a better/safer way to do that” it is because it is, and there is.
You are the one doing the work. You are the one exposed to the hazard. You are the one with the answer. Share it! Help us improve the safety, not only for you but for everyone that is on our work sites.