By their very nature, accidents are unplanned events, but they can have a significant impact on human safety and property, especially in industrial settings. For example, a petrochemical plant accident may result in the loss of life and the destruction of an entire facility. However, the process of accident investigation could lead to the implementation of proactive techniques designed to reduce or eliminate accidents and any injuries or property damage caused by them. Causes of Accidents A chemical plant accident, and any other type of industrial accident, always has a cause that can be traced back to human error in the form of dangerous behavior or hazardous conditions. Identifying some of the most common causes of industrial accidents is the perfect way to start learning how to reduce them. Some of these causes are as follows:
- Mistakes - Workers who are tired or distracted may make mistakes that can compromise the safety of everyone in the plant. The most common mistakes include the improper use of tools, disregard of safety protocols and oversight of environmental hazards.
- Lack of training - Employees who are not properly trained in the use of equipment or in safety procedures often cause accidents. Most of the 4.3 percent of workers affected by industrial accidents in 2009 suffered from a lack of proper training.
- Improperly maintained equipment - All equipment must be maintained periodically to ensure smooth operation. When these procedures, which are usually published by equipment manufacturers, are not followed, the likelihood of accidents skyrockets.
Investigating Accidents Proactive accident prevention begins with accident investigation. Unfortunately, this can take place only after an accident occurs. Supervisors should work closely with employees to identify all of the causes of an accident and to determine the most effective solutions to prevent it from happening again. The process of investigating an industrial or chemical plant accident consists of five parts: identifying the specifics, analyzing the procedures followed, checking the conditions, identifying unsafe behaviors and implementing corrective procedures. Each accident, no matter how small it may seem, must be taken seriously during the investigation because it could lead to a greater tragedy in the future. Not only must specific circumstances be noted but also specific measures or recommendations must be made. In addition, the investigation should begin as soon after the incident as possible, and all reports should be reviewed in detail. Identifying Potential Hazards Another way to deal with accidents is to use a foresight process to actively identify where and when accidents are likely to transpire. Employees must be involved in this process because it is impossible for supervisors to monitor and evaluate the behavior of everyone throughout the workday. At best, research samples may be aquired at random intervals, and the data obtained can then be analyzed. Whenever the potential for an accident becomes clear, corrective measures should be implemented before it happens. A standard procedure for taking this proactive approach to accident reduction includes the following six steps:
- Select, at random, one specific employee conducting one specification operation.
- Observe the behaviors of the worker, the equipment being used and the procedures being followed.
- Note whether any changes in behavior or procedures occur while the safety audit is being conducted.
- Assess the working conditions and the condition of any equipment in the area.
- Ask questions to determine whether the worker is fully trained. However, refrain from any coaching during the interview, and do not criticize any of the answers.
- Write a summary of the safety audit, and develop a course of action aimed at preventing accidents.
No guarantees can be made that these procedures will eliminate industrial accidents, but being proactive can save workers from unnecessary injuries and the company from unnecessary losses and expenditures. If an industrial accident does occur, always seek the advice of an experienced industrial accident attorney to protect your rights in the event of injuries.