Five Senses Safety

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As most of us are aware, that we, if we’re fortunate, have been given five senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste). For the purposes of being pertinent to our specific job site, we will only be discussing sight, hearing, smell and touch. Each of these can be used to protect us from danger or injury.

Sight, is of course the most common of the senses that are used on the job to sense danger. The problem is, when we are so focused on our own specific task, we fail to look around at the big picture. We need to always be attentive, while walking through the site, in looking for any possible unsafe or hazardous conditions. When these conditions are observed it is each individuals responsibility to fix them. If we cannot fix them on our own then we should immediately report it to our supervisor. But, at no time, should we leave the condition unattended. Sight however, as I stated earlier, is only useful if you are looking in the direction of the hazard. So what can be used, if we do not see an unsafe condition?

Lets now look at another option, hearing. Although, it may be easier to see dangers than to hear them, we can hear warning signals all around us. Not just in one direction. Nearly all construction sites are filled with multiple sounds. From the heavy equipment with their loud diesel engines, to the hammering of a rotary hammer drilling through concrete. Even the chatter of a painter’s sprayer is noticeable if the conditions are correct. And, in nearly every case a tool or a piece of equipment will give advanced notice if it about to break down.  We need to become acquainted with the proper operational sounds of equipment, tools and vehicles around us. Listen closely to instruction on what types of work are being performed in your areas and ask questions if these instructions were unclear or confusing. And, always stay audibly alert.

Now comes the time when all those wearing hearing protection say. “What if I can’t hear, the demo saw breaking down, with these earplugs in my ears”? Well then, maybe we could use our sense of touch. Not only will most tools and equipment give us an auditory warning, but the feel of most of these items will change in our very hands when they are breaking down. For example, if your demo saw or drill motor starts to rattle or vibrate more than usual, take it out of service and have it looked at before continuing on with the task and placing the tool back in service. If the steering wheel on the rough terrain forklift starts to chatter back and forth or the boom jerks while being extended out. Shut it down and notify your supervisor that it is in need of service. Sense of touch, is usually only useful with hands on work but, can be extremely useful in preventing injuries.

I know what you’re thinking. Not all dangers can be seen, heard or felt. What then? Sense of smell could be used in case of a hand held power tool motor letting of a burning smell to gas leaks. Both natural gas and propane are used on this job site and both have a distinctive rotten egg smell from a chemical additive called “mercaptan”, just so people can smell them. Now, as stated before, if you observe a hazard, fix it. If you notice a burning smell coming from your grinder, immediately take it out of service until it has been repaired. If you cannot find the source of a gas leak or fix the problem, notify your supervisor so the leak can be repaired quickly by someone competent to do so. Once again, never leave a hazard unattended.

Now, I know I stated earlier that I wasn’t going to talk about the sense of taste, but I reconsidered for those that may need it on another job site in the future. Taste can help in the instance of being exposed to chemicals, such as lead or mercury. Inhalation of excess amounts of these will cause a metal taste in your mouth. If ever subject to this sense, notify your supervisor and immediately evacuate the area.

I would be willing to bet that not many people would have thought, by reading the topic that this would have been, in any way, a serious safety topic. My only hope is that it may help keep all contractors that read it and take it seriously, free from injury in the future.

This toolbox topic was reviewed by ______________________________________ on ___________________________ with the following employees: