Continuous conversation key to accident prevention

By |  November 5, 2012

Mark Kennedy fortunately hasn’t seen this happen, but he’s heard stories from years ago about how quarry workers would wedge steel bars into a clogged crusher, only to have the crusher spit the bar out and shoot it through the worker’s skull.

Kennedy, like many of you, has seen workers climb ladders while lugging a bucketful of tools. He’s seen workers jump off track-mounted equipment from dangerous heights, and he’s thought long and hard about the day a worker tries to jumpstart a mobile unit without fixing the root cause of a problem, only to have another worker lose a limb because a jumper was thoughtlessly put onto an emergency stop.

“It would be truly tough to live with yourself,” said Kennedy, a Metso senior technical training instructor, to an audience of the company’s distributors Oct. 24.

As troubling as some accident outcomes are, it’s essential to remind yourself such outcomes can happen on your watch. So as unmoving as safety education can be, especially when it’s continuously reinforced much like parents instructing their kids not to do something dangerous 100 times, it’s vital to talk safety on the job. And not just from time to time, Kennedy said, but every day.

“Discuss safety frequently,” he said. “When I go to a quarry, I start every single day with a safety talk. We talk a little bit about the safe day we’re going to have. Honestly, I think a lot of accidents happen when people jump into tasks we’re not really prepared for.”

Of course, discussion of tasks and how to go about them safely is just part of the battle. Eliminating hazards by design, guarding or shielding hazards and promoting safety with messages or instructions are other ways manufacturers and producers can operate mobile equipment safely.

Yes, these goals are somewhat obvious. And you probably carry them out 99 percent of the time. But, as Kennedy stresses, it’s the 1 percent of tasks that aren’t carried out properly that forces the need to make the safety conversation a continuous one.

“You have to develop a safe culture in the company,” Kennedy said. “You have to have the attitude that everyone goes home the same way they showed up for work.”

One area where Kennedy sees a greater need for safety is in loading mobile equipment. Metso encourages users to feed its track-mounted equipment over the back so that if spillage occurs, it’s at least on the feed end and not the side of the machine.

“If you take the bucket and bring it over staircases, walkways and ancillary stuff that’s connected to the machine, you could damage the equipment or cause injury to anyone walking,” Kennedy says.

One idea Kennedy brought up at the Metso event to ensure all workers return home as they arrived that day is to have a safety chat before employees go their separate ways to start the workday. Kennedy got the idea from a Canadian gold mine that asked a different employee each day to share a safety story as a firm reminder to be cautious on the job.

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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