The real message of today's meeting is simple. In fact, I'm borrowing it from the Boy Scouts. The message is: Be Prepared. The University has put a lot of time and effort into accident prevention, but we all know that no matter what we do, accidents are going to happen. None of us is infallible. And even if we were, accidents can still happen as a result of things that are beyond our control.
That's why OSHA requires us to be prepared for many types of emergency situations. It's also why we're all here today.
Identifying Potential Hazards
As with most safety-related issues, the first step toward emergency preparedness is identifying the most obvious risks in your work area. For example, one thing that we can all be on the lookout for is electric hazards. Electrical problems are among the main sources of workplace fires. As a rule of thumb, always check electrical equipment before you use it. If you spot a problem, have it corrected immediately.
Some other common hazards are related to chemicals. Be familiar with any substance in you work area that might be:
- Flammable - I f there are flammables in your area, make sure you know the circumstances which may cause them to ignite.
- Explosive - Certain vapours and dusts can cause serious explosions when they come into contact with other substances you should know about them already, but let me know if you have any questions.
- Reactive - Some substances are safe until they come into contact with others. Make sure you're familiar with the types of reactions that could cause problems in you work area.
These are just a few of the things you need to be concerned with. I just want to get you thinking about potential problems and how to guard against them.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
One of your best weapons against the hazards we're discussing is the MSDS as well as chemical labels, can tell you a lot about what you're dealing with. But you've got to read them. Take a good look at them until you're very clear on all of the potential hazards as well as what to do should an accident occur. This goes for the chemicals you work with as well as those used by others in your vicinity.
Don't be satisfied with a quick read. It's important that you become somewhat of an expert in dealing with the chemicals in your area, because in a real emergency, you won't have time to look in a manual for instructions on what to do.
If An Accident Does Occur
Because no two accidents or accident situations are exactly alike, I can't give you complete details on what to do in every emergency. Sometimes common sense applies. But what I can do is give you some general pointers about what to do in an emergency.
- First, make sure you know how to report an emergency. This could be a fire, a chemical spill, an explosion or some other type of incident. According to the University policy, the procedure for reporting emergencies is the following:
- If someone else spots the emergency, you've got to know how to react to our alarm. (You may wish to demonstrate the alarm). A true emergency calls for evacuation. Make sure you now how to get out of the building safely and help others to do the same. Once you're out, it is very important that you go directly to your assigned meeting place.
- Some of you may also have specific jobs in emergencies. (Provide information on these jobs and personnel involved from the University's plan) We're counting on you to stay in control and perform these tasks before getting out of the building.
Remember - even if spills or fires are unlikely in your immediate area, these and other types of emergency situations can arise. If you have any questions or concerns about hazards in your area, let me know. Beyond that, you need to know how to prevent these risks from becoming accidents and know how to respond if prevention fails.