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Week of 19 April 2021: The Extremes of Safety--Routine

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Last week, we talked about excitement creating dangerous safety conditions. This week let's talk about the opposite--routine creating dangerous safety conditions.

Because we work around large machinery, clamp trucks and so forth, which, for the most part behave as they should, we become complacent that about these items.

Paper machines can kill--and they have. Clamp trucks can kill--and they have.

Dynamic accidents (things flying apart, things falling) are dangerous.

Items at rest can harm or kill, too. I once worked in a mill where one of the foremen had a prosthetic leg. It was a mill accident that happened before I worked there. He was walking by a roll rack in the basement when a weld on the rack gave way and a roll moved off the rack and pinned him. These were calender rolls, not large in diameter but heavy. They did not all come off the rack, just one and it happened just as he innocently walked by it.

Shipping is a particularly dangerous place with potential for accidents. The work is routine, clamp a roll, turn around, drive into the truck, place the roll, back out, start over. I challenge you to do that for just one shift and not get lulled into boredom.

We see these "boredom" accidents in the news. Who is going to forget the ship, Ever Given, for a couple of weeks? How do you get sideways in the Suez Canal? Certainly, someone was asleep at the wheel, so to speak.

As we move towards more AI (Artificial Intelligence) in our mills, I fear safety will become even more of an issue unless safety principles are incorporated apace. Back when machines were run from benchboards out on the mill floor, they may just have been a bit safer, from the point of view of the operator taking action, than they are now.

It is just like riding a motorcycle or driving a modern car. The modern car cocoons you in an environment of comfort and quiet. A motorcycle lets you feel the road. A number of years ago, I was regularly driving I-20 from Atlanta, Georgia to Shreveport, Louisiana. Invariably, with just a little ice, I would encounter all sorts of vehicles out in the trees. Why? Despite the womb like atmosphere of the modern automobile, it still comes down to the contact four tires have with the highway--this has not changed.

Control rooms can have the same feel. You lose touch with what is going on on the machine. It becomes routine.

For safety this week, find ways to break your routines and work on self-awareness in your environment.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


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