Friday, April 15, 2011

Applied Accident Prevention

By Louis Lemos

The Significance of Accident Prevention
In the course of our daily work routine, we are all required to observe and apply the basic principles of accident prevention. Very few of us however, realize just what accident prevention really means. The term “Accident Prevention” may be interpreted differently, according to our respective interests and attitudes. At the administrative level, it implies higher productivity through healthier employees and reduced absenteeism. Supervisors and department heads view it as a prerequisite to greater efficiency, less down time and fewer problems to contend with. To the average employee, whether or not he or she is aware of it, accident prevention means a much safer environment in which to earn his paycheck. From a philosophic viewpoint, as it applies specifically to the maritime industry, effective accident prevention may be regarded as a contributory factor in assuring a successful mission or task, and a safeguard against the inevitable penalties of failure. Regardless of how efficient we may be in our respective occupations, the more personal injuries and physical damage we can prevent, both on and off the job, the better we can “Support the Maritime Industry”, which is after all, our primary professional purpose.

Causes and Effects
What then, can we do to prevent accidents? First let us stop to consider the motivating factors we are confronted with: Most industrial safety engineers throughout the world are unanimous in their findings that the majority of work-related accidents are attributable to any one, or a combination of three, principal causes, namely:

• An Unsafe Act or Omission

• An Unsafe Condition

• Unsafe Attitude

The unsafe act or omission may be due to carelessness, ignorance, panic, forgetfulness, neglect, or improper supervision.

The unsafe condition may arise from inadequate maintenance of property or equipment, poor housekeeping in the workplace, or failure to apply basic rules and common sense.

The unsafe attitude is invariably due to a lack of safety consciousness, and this is undoubtedly the more of the three motivating factors mentioned above.

The sad truth is that indifference to safety constitutes a hazard in itself, not only to the apathetic party involved, but unfortunately, to other unsuspecting co-workers who may become innocent victims as a result of someone else's apathy. Quite frequently, when people are alerted to a potentially hazardous condition within their vicinity, we hear the indignant response “That's not my job.” Likewise, there are many among us who are so concerned with the importance of their own immediate tasks and activities, that the possibility of accident happening never even enters their mind. This lack of awareness is not limited to the so-called “front-line” workers but also applies to those who are so far removed from ‘where the action is’ that the only time they think about safety is after the occurrence of an accident. It is therefore logical to assume that if the three main accident producing causes can be corrected, or at least reduced to a minimum, there should be a corresponding reduction in the overall accident potential, at least for a period of time. Accident prevention however, should not be thought of in terms of a one-shot affair, comprising officious rhetoric or a sudden surge of housekeeping and decorating the workplace with safety posters and signs. Panic response is invariably indicative of prior neglect or indifference and can often be misleading, since it may focus attention on the superficial symptoms while failing to consider and correct the less apparent underlying causes. Accident prevention is a continuous task, an integral part of our everyday routine, requiring periodic inspection of premises equipment, practices and procedures. It also includes the setting of good examples to emphasize the importance of safety and the enforcement of such safety rules as may be necessary to maintain each department accident-free all year round.