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Don’t Get Caught With Your PSDs Down

Boots on the Ground Series

Personal Safety Devices: when you need them, they are not where they’re supposed to be…

In 2016, a study was conducted on recreational boating fatalities. Of all the drowning accidents in the U.S., 83% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket at the time of their death. I have seen many a boater stash his or her life jacket nearby them on the boat, but not on them–as if that was going to do them any good in the event of an emergency. When you really need the life jacket, if it’s not already on you, then it’s too late. This seems like basic common sense, and yet I see countless experienced boaters who choose not to wear their life jacket on a regular basis.

A few years back, I was at a client’s refinery doing a unit audit, and part of the unit was shut down for cleaning. There were a lot of contractors in the unit– about 40 or so. The contractors were outside and came up to me on their way to the shelter.

“Our personal H2S alarms just went off,” they told me.

personal safety device

personal safety device

And sure enough, their monitors were all beeping. Then we hear the unit alarm sound off. The contractors are going to the mustering point upwind, as they were directed to do. And there are operators coming out of the shelter without any supplied air (SCBA)!

Now that is really bad. That needs retraining. You don’t go out into an hazardous area in alarm without your fresh air gear.

I was at another plant and they had a new style of multipurpose gas monitors. Those monitors were so darn sensitive that any time the operators got into a bit of steam, their monitors would react. And it was the company’s policy that the operators had to go get a physical exam every time their monitors went off.

Needless to say, the operators started taking the PSDs off so they could go about their job without the hassle of them going off every time they got around some steam. But when they needed those devices the most, the monitors were sitting on some table or I-beam somewhere. There had just been a big accident in Canada around that same time. Several people were killed. All their monitors had been sitting on the dash of a pickup truck at the time of the explosion.

This seems like such a simple, obvious thing. But this safety risk that I see us taking day after day– it’s a serious thing. People are bypassing safety procedures for one reason or another, and we need to examine how we follow safety protocols and how we enforce certain rules around them.


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Posted by: Gary Pitman