We’ve all had it happen at home. A sudden kitchen cut. The dash to the bathroom and the accusatory cry: “Who used the last Band-Aid?” While we wrap a bleeding finger in toilet paper and vow to keep the first-aid kit stocked in future, it is important to remember that in the workplace, accidents are far more costly when vigilance is allowed to slide.
Safety equipment used on a daily basis is easy to monitor and maintain. Safety glasses, harnesses, helmets, protective clothing and gear get used regularly and are top-of-mind. Then there are the safety equipment ‘orphans’ – rarely used, but critical when the occasion arises. Such occasions are often the litmus test of a company’s safety awareness and training success.
Every team can brainstorm about the kinds of safety tools they seldom use – but would need to access and use successfully the second the need arises. Here are three often-neglected pieces of safety equipment, according to Seton product manager Christine Wendt.
Eyewash stations: Work sites where there is a danger of eye injuries involving chemicals need eyewash stations in every room. But if the eyewash station starts to double as a catchall, and products are not kept up-to-date, serious trouble looms, especially when time is of the essence. Here, says Wendt, is how to keep eyewash stations current:
- Check expiry dates on disposable eyewash fluid regularly. Replace as needed.
- Regularly test water lines on re-usable eyewash bottles, ensuring clean water flushes through at all times.
- Erect clear signage near eyewash stations – posters overhead and floor markings, with arrows, so that the products can be found quickly when time is of an essence.
- Ensure there are stations in every area where chemicals are in use and not just one station for the entire workplace. Quick access is everything.
- Attach inspection logs to the station so that records can be kept of when supplies were last checked and replaced.
First Aid Kits: Workplace first aid kits should be inspected regularly – weekly or once a month at the very least, says Wendt. An inventory of supplies should be attached to the kits and checklists kept.
- Replenish dwindling supplies as needed
- Inspect the kits for open packages, expired medication, items that need to be sanitary and may have been left to the air. Replace if necessary.
- Ensure visible and clearly worded signage is placed prominently near the First Aid station, so that employees can find supplies quickly and use them properly. This includes floor markings and overhead posters.
Spill Products: Hazardous spills in the workplace – chemicals, oils, even flooding from burst pipes – require a speedy response if injury and serious property damage is to be avoided. Absorbent pads, materials to contain and absorb spilled liquids must be kept ready to use and should be regularly inspected.
- Ensure supplies are kept up to date and ready for emergency spills.
- Make sure spill kits – which can look like large garbage cans – are easily accessed with nothing piled on top and with appropriate signage overhead and indicator tape on surrounding floor area.
Wendt recommends never letting the seldom-used get short shrift in safety talks.
“They should be made a regularly scheduled part of team meetings,” she says. “Beyond that, there should be special safety courses around maintenance and use of seldom used equipment at last once a year.”
In the meantime, keeping the location of seldom-used equipment uncluttered and readily visible and maintaining a regular maintenance schedule, will ensure that when the time comes, no one will be caught flatfooted.