Reducing risks through enhanced safety policies and procedures

by FM Media
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DAVID KRAMER, group manager of assets and maintenance for Spotless, explains how a safe work methods statement can be further supported through the creation of checklists and guides.

When managing safety of both in-house staff and subcontractors, it is imperative that organisations have good safety policies and procedures in place and remain vigilant to ensure foreseeable risks are managed and avoided.
The catch-all of safety policies and procedures is placing a requirement on staff and subcontractors to create a safe work methods statement (SWMS) before commencing any work. But, what more can a service provider do over and above their reliance on this assessment of the work?

IDENTIFYING AND CONTROLLING FORESEEABLE HAZARDS
Risk assessments and SWMS for complex and infrequent jobs may be created prior to work commencing with a focus on how the task will be conducted safely to ensure minimal risk. An SWMS can be further supported through the creation of checklists and guides that will assist in identifying the hazards and foreseeable risks that are already known from prior experience or have been considered earlier, well before commencing the work. These checklists do not replace an SWMS, but seek to assist in identifying foreseeable hazards and ensuring that they are being controlled.
Take, for instance, the completion of thermal imaging, an infrared photographic process used to identify dangerous hot spots on a live electrical switchboard. Opening the switchboard door provides a view of the escutcheon panel, which must be removed to view the live conductors. It is the removal of this panel that presents the main risk of thermal imaging activity.
Whether a frequent or infrequent activity, compiling the collective thoughts of experienced people and preparing a hazard checklist will help to mitigate the potential risks involved.
By way of example, some hazards to consider with respect to thermal imaging have emerged from discussions on this subject, including:

  • is there an appropriate means of preventing access to unauthorised persons when the escutcheon is open, and
  • does the escutcheon have noticeably warm patches, which may indicate live contacts in close proximity to the cover?

In addition, for metal escutcheons, considerations include:

  • are the cut-outs around the fuse blocks large enough to prevent the inadvertent removal of a fuse, or contact with live conductors, when the escutcheon is removed, and
  • is the escutcheon too large to be safely handled by one person?

Meanwhile, when it comes to plastic escutcheons, it should be questioned whether a process to assist in removing or prying tight plastic escutcheons away from the board has been identified.
As thermal imaging involves a close proximity to live conductors, an immediate reminder to facilities managers that the switchboard remains live at all times when conducting thermal imaging is worth including. It is also recommended to have a blunt and obvious reminder in place that contact with electricity at these voltages is usually fatal, because many incidents occur when ignoring or taking the obvious lightly.
Mitigating the risk further may call for two-man teams with one person trained in electrical release and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). This measure acts to reduce the consequences of a failure.
This list and these statements cannot be considered exhaustive. As mentioned above, considerations such as these act as a prompt and will assist in evaluating a completed SWMS before any works commence. It is important to emphasise that this checklist does not replace but rather supports the SWMS.
The further usefulness of such a checklist extends to the induction process, which is another critical method of managing safety and forms part of assessing/screening competency.

BRINGING SAFETY TO FRONT OF MIND
There are a number of questions, some of them obvious, that should be included in checklists of foreseeable risks specific to many tasks. Although these checklists can never be exhaustive, they provide a level of induction training that brings some commonly forgotten items to front of mind, and ensures personnel are focused on the task at hand. They also serve to demonstrate the necessary due care taken by the service arrangers and forewarn those performing the task about their responsibilities.

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