Why Personal Safety Is the Most Important Technician Skill of All

If you do suffer an unfortunate safety accident, it could affect you or your fellow workers for the rest of their careers.

Why Personal Safety Is the Most Important Technician Skill of All

During the past 10 years the number of ladder-related injuries has increased 50%

Continuing this month with our “Best Practices” series, we will take a look at the most important best practices skill of all. You might think it would be super technical, but it is not. However, it has to do with most important technician, and that is you. This important best practice is personal safety. After all, if you do unfortunately have an accident, it could affect you, or your fellow workers, for the rest of their careers or even lives.

We often take everyday daily tasks as technicians for granted. It is easy to take that one brief moment in the hast of work and a possible serious accident occurs. Practicing good safety habits are exactly that, habits. It will initially take some extra focus and concentration on safety skills, however they will shortly become good habits that can save both yourself, co-workers and even customers from danger.

First, let’s take a look at safely selecting the proper tools. I still have the scar on my finger from my early tech days when I used the wrong sized screwdriver for the application. Just enough of a lifetime reminder to use the right tool for the application.

In many cases techs have to provide their own tools. I often feel sorry for the newbie techs that have a limited selection of tools, which in turn can be a safety hazard. While considerate employers can work out programs to supply the correct tools, did you know that the government has tax incentives for tool allowance programs. Check out IRS Employee Tool & Equipment Plans website (irs.gov) and view Section 62(a)[2)(A). § 1.62- 2(b). $1.132-5(a)(l)(v) and 81.62-2(c) (1) of the Income Tax Regulations.

Make sure to always use sharp tools, as dull tools can be a cause for accidents. Sharp drill bits are a must. Make sure techs are supplied with sharp drill bits for every job. You can set up programs with a local or regional drill bit sharpening service, or sharpen your own with tools such as those from Drill Doctor.

A Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report on ladder safety revealed some startling statistics concerning the frequency and severity of ladder-related accidents in the United States. More than 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment from ladder-related injuries every year. Ladder deaths account for 15% of all occupational fatalities.

During the past 10 years the number of ladder-related injuries has increased 50%. The amazing thing is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stance is that 100% of all ladder accidents could be prevented if proper attention to equipment and climber training were provided. Make sure to check out training resources such as the free program from the American Ladder Institute (laddersafetytraining.org).

Even though we typically work in the low-voltage workspace, there are times when we may come in proximity with high-voltage. It is important that we not only have the correct tools, but that they keep us safe from various voltage levels. Use a noncontact sensor wand to identify the voltage you are about to test. Make sure that your DMM has a category rating for the work you are doing. Ratings go from a CAT I to CAT IV. The higher the CAT rating the better the instrument is at handling higher voltage and transients.

You may notice a pattern here when it comes to electrical safety. Even though your work is dedicated to low voltage, you overall work environment puts you often in proximity to higher voltages. Always remember to be aware of your surroundings. If you are not sure, then de-energize equipment close to you and use safety lockout devices so equipment cannot be accidentally turned on. Make sure you have properly electrically insulated your ladders and hand tools.

It can be challenging for a company to keep track of all the nuances for good safety practices. That is why a company, no matter their size, should have a dedicated safety officer. Documented and regular safety training sessions, customized to your trade, should be conducted. If you need guidance on your particular safety program, one can look at the free safety manual for OSHA (safetymanualosha.com). Another free safety training resource is the CDC “Electrical Safety for the Electrical Trades” student manual (search “electrical safety” on cdc.gov).

Set aside a short period of time (15-30 minutes) to present and discuss a particular safety subject. Make sure the sessions are documented. This should include a brief quiz administered by the safety manager, the technician’s name and score recorded, and time stamped.

Why all the fuss? First, you want to make all understand the safety practices. Second, you may find yourself and company ready to propose a big security equipment project only to find out your company must show proof that you ALREADY HAVE IN PLACE a recorded safety training program. It would be sad to lose a big proposal opportunity just because you didn’t already have a safety training program.

Tool of the Month 

Why reinvent the wheel when you can get great free custom safety material from OSHA for your safety training program? That is why this month’s tool is the safety manual program from OSHA. 

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About the Author

Bob Dolph

Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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