There’s no doubt that work in the utility industry can be dangerous. Many routine tasks are carried out in confined spaces, high off the ground or near high-voltage power sources and flammable materials. A 2018 study by DEKRA Organizational Safety & Reliability, a consulting group that specializes in workplace safety, found that the risk of serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) is higher in the utility sector than in other heavy industries, including mining, manufacturing and construction. Here are the top three risks and information on how to mitigate them:
#1 Slip and Falls
It’s not so much that we need to relearn how to walk; it’s that we should be more mindful of the ways we walk in certain environments. For example, training might emphasize making wide turns at corners to avoid hazards that can’t be seen. Other simple steps that training can reinforce include carrying a flashlight to move safely through dark areas and reporting or cleaning up spills that might cause others to slip. Those who work outside should be taught to adjust the way they walk depending on inclement weather, i.e., leaves or standing water obscuring holes in the ground or creating tripping hazards after a storm.
#2 Ladder Safety
When a task seems simple, it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s not very important. Ladder safety training helps workers see common risks when you’re in a hurry. For example, a worker may be tempted to repurpose a ladder as a makeshift bridge or scaffold with potentially serious consequences.
#3 Repetitive Motion
Preventing this type of injury requires training in a subject that may seem even less likely than the ones discussed above: stretching exercises. Maintaining flexibility can prevent many musculoskeletal problems, especially as workers age.
Developing a comprehensive training program that incorporates reinforcement, and keeping that program up to date, is a daunting task. One approach is to take advantage of standardized, OSHA-compliant training programs. It’s important to remember that even the most thorough training can only be one component of a broader culture of safety. To be successful, that culture must involve continuous reinforcement and open channels of communication at all staffing levels.