Working in the Line of Fire
When someone dies in the workforce through no fault of his or her own it is undeniably a tragedy. But in many people’s minds, line of fire injuries — those injuries that result when a worker places his or her body in the direct path of a serious hazard — the injured worker must bear at least some culpability for his or her injury. It’s especially easy to dismiss a line of fire injury as the worker’s “own stinking fault,” but is it?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 17 percent of all workplace fatalities in the U.S. are the result of line-of-fire injuries. Suffice to say that line-of-fire injuries raise a lot of questions; questions, sadly, to which we will most likely never get satisfactory answers. Some Line of Fire events are attributed to Lack of Personal Safety Awareness
Four Levels of Personal Safety Awareness. Associated with unsafe or at-risk behaviors are various levels of personal safety awareness. No mentally balanced person sets out to intentionally to injure themselves or others; however, the following levels of safety awareness precipitate actions or inactions that can lead to injury.
- The first level of safety awareness, “clueless”, is when a worker has no knowledge, training, or experience to realize that the task being performed is unsafe or putting them at risk. Have you ever see this – someone doing a job with no clue as to how to do it correctly?
- Realization without action. The second level is when the individual is performing a task and realizes something has occurred to place them at risk or in the line of fire but chooses to ignore the occurrence and continues the task without any change in procedure. We’ve all seen this – the person doing the unsafe act, knowing it’s unsafe and then, continuing to do it!
- Realization with action. Realization with action is when the worker is performing a task and becomes aware their actions are placing them at risk and performs some action to keep themselves out of the line of fire and safe. This is the person who sees the potential for injury while they are doing the task, and then tries to correct the action.
- A worker becomes proactive when they look at a task and analyze before attempting the task, how the performance of that task could put them at risk or in the line of fire. They then takes steps to remediate or eliminate the possibilities for the accident or injury to take place.
This is our goal – to become pro-active – to try to prevent the accident by eliminating the unsafe behavior before ever performing the task.