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MACHINE OPERATION REQUIRES SKILL & THOUGHT

Machines don't know what they're doing. A power saw or lathe can injure you without a second "thought." When using power tools or machinery, remember that you are the only one with the brain. Machines turn on and they turn off. Beyond that, it is you, the operator, that controls their safe use. That means you need to apply your training and skills to use machines in a safe manner. You need to be alert and think ahead at all times, because the machine will not think for you. It doesn't know when you or someone else next to you is in danger. A saw or lathe can't tell your finger or wrist from wood or bar stock.

A recent loss makes this example clear. A shipwright was in the process of making rabbit joints on hardwood, using a dado blade. To keep the wood from splintering at the end of the cut, the operator first moved the stock to the back side of the blade, in order to make a small notch. Does anyone out there doubt this was extremely unsafe? Understand, the saw blade was rotating toward the operator, and his hands and wrists were actually beside and behind the saw blade itself. His body was stretched forward. What happened next is predictable. The wood kicked forward abruptly toward the operator, and one of the operator's hands was thrown into the dado blade, resulting in a serious, painful amputation.

This only took a fraction of a second, but the shipwright will spend the rest of his life bearing the handicap of his amputation and deformity. Statistics show that one serious disabling injury will happen every 300 times an unsafe act occurs.

In the course of investigating the accident, the supervisor said he had never seen this employee do this act previously. If he had noted it, he would have cautioned the employee, he said. We can't doubt the supervisor's honesty, however the employee indicated that in this yard, they always had done it that way. One must wonder if the supervisor had ever watched his people's work practices from a safety standpoint. Or did he not check HOW the work was being done, and instead only checked the end result?

Of course, you don't need to wait for a supervisor to analyze your actions for safety. You should do this all the time. Take responsibility for your own safety at work and continually ask the question, "WHAT IF . . ." Who will get injured if things go wrong? Who pays the price if there is an accident? Who endures the pain if something happens? Whose life might be lost if this short-cut doesn't work?

Guard against taking safety short-cuts. Pre-plan the job and set it up properly. Take the time to do your work safely. If unsure how to do the job correctly or safety, ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help. And, if you see someone doing something that doesn't meet the "WHAT IF. . ." standard, talk to them about it. Volunteer to help your co-workers, whenever they need it.

 

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