Safety is not simply an act, it’s a culture. A valuable safety culture tends to produce safer work environments. Sure, there are one or two safety professionals on a job site, but it is the responsibility of everyone on that site to be responsible for their own safety and the safety of others. This all sounds great, but how do you cultivate a safety culture?
A Stop Work Authority (SWA) policy is a key aspect of a safety culture as it gives all employees the responsibility and obligation to stop work when there is a condition that could result in an incident or injury.
Sometimes, when individuals are focused on one portion of their work, it’s easy to get tunnel vision; as a result, they many not see a dangerous situation around them. An Inspector or Quality Assurance Representative (QAR) is an individual that has a vantage point of being outside the work being performed and is able to understand and evaluate a potential hazard.
On a recent project, a contractor was excavating foundations for high voltage electrical equipment. The crew of four were digging a rectangular hole 8 feet wide by 12 feet long by 6 feet deep. As a Quality Assurance Representative walked over to the area the excavation crew was working in, he noticed something was not right. The crew had a shoring box in place while two men were inside the hole working. However, the shoring box was only 4 feet tall and it needed to extend above the height of the perimeter; making it more than 3 feet shorter than it was required to be.
Along with the short shoring box, the inspector identified there was not a means of egress or a ladder inside the excavation. The inspector immediately approached the supervisor and expressed his concerns about the unsafe situation. Work immediately halted and the unsafe situation was remedied by installing taller shoring and including a ladder to comply with OSHA requirements. Due to the inspector’s observation and the appropriate SWA, the unsafe situation was resolved and the chance of an incident happening greatly diminished.
Stop Work Authority is a key component to a safe work environment and a strong safety culture. Having a person able to observe the work from an outside perspective helps alleviate the tunnel vision workers sometimes get when focused on one task. QARs and Inspectors perform a variety of functions on a project, including providing an extra eye to safety and participating in an SWA.
In future Stop Work Moments we’ll continue to discuss real life situations where implementation of an SWA prevented a safety incident as well as hypothetical situations that may help you be better prepared and equipped to prevent incidents.See other posts in this series here: