This happens everyday. Its Friday, everyone knows its been a long week, and the boss has asked you and your partner 'one last thing, before you clockout. There are 22 pallets in the rear hall that have to be put outside of the building because the floor strippers are coming Saturday night. Great....ok, let's go do it so we can go home.
Now, no one said they have to be pretty, they're not going anywhere over the weekend, so you guys just toss them to the right of the loading dock. As you toss them, one or two have a paricular odor of petrolem, when you ask your partner, he tells you there was a load of 'camping oil' bottles on one of them and a couple were leaking but it should be dry now. (Keep in mind, camping oil is kerosene) You don't think much of it because it 'looks dry' but just so you remember, you put them closest to the loading dock so you know 'those are the ones that stink'. Fair enough, right? Its Friday...
Now, let's face some hard facts:
1. 29CFR1926 states that materials used for moving products (pallets in this case) must be stacked in a 'self-supporting' manner, at least 3-8ft from the building. They cannot lean or be supported by any actual structure.
2. Should the matetial (s) be of the type that is combustable, reasonable effort must be made to keep the material from any source of ignition whether it be actual flame or ambient heat.
3. Matetials must be stacked and stored in a manner that precludes collapse and or toppling thereby injuring workers or damaging property.
So this is an easy solve, right?
It is, and I'll tell you why. This is actually a mindset issue. Prevention of these types of incidents start with the task at hand. 'We must move the pallets outside' the problem is, its 5:10pm on Friday, and everyone with a paycheck is going home to their families for pizza and Law & Order. Perfectly understandable. Let's say you're the 'bearer of bad news' the manager. Is there a compromise that can be negotiated between the floor strippers and your department? After all, its your guys that you forgot to inform during the day about moving the pallets in the first place.
Its been shown that angry and or frustrated employees account for nearly 70% of all workplace injuries. Easy to see how that is accurate, I think everyone has had a 'tool throwing day' I'm guilty of it myself. Cooler heads not only prevail, they PREVENT. That's exactly what could've happened here.
Had this task been assigned at a regular time or even if the manager told these guys earlier, this would not have happened. Remember the two pallets that had a 'odor of petroleum'? Guess what. They were placed closest to the dock. Figure 2 shows what happened over the weekend. Yes, you guessed it. A UPS truck with its exhaust closest to the pallets with kerosene on them, nearly ignited the pallets. See how close the pallets are to the eve of the roof? Right again! The residual kerosne in the pallets would have caused ALL of them(some 22 ) to flare up and extend fire into the eve and ultimately into the structure itself. Without the quick action of the Driver and Security Officer on scene, you would be looking at pictures of a burnt out shell of a building.
What have we learned? We learned that time-management is a skill all too underated. Your employees need time to approah a problem, develope a plan, and mitigate that problem. Like I said, had they not been walking out the door when asked to adress this task, they might have thought about how close the pallets were to he building, could their stacking technique have actually injured some one by collasping? Could they have caught fire? This is how seemingly innoccuous actions on all three sides could've caused a catastrophie, and why you ask? Because they were irritated about being asked to do it in the first place.
Safety isnt just rules, books, fines, and reactions. Safety is a mindset that we need to start with every morning.