Who packs your parachute?
One of the fundamentals of looking after your safety equipment such as: fire-fighting gear; trips and alarms; lifting gear; lifts and hoists; evacuation gear; breathing apparatus; safety showers; and some PPE, is to inspect and test that the equipment is, indeed, in working order.
Lives might depend on it, and doing this testing has the effect of increasing awareness of the importance of the equipment. It is like a parachute. When you need it, you want to be 110 percent sure that it will open. No guarantee with “return the faulty item”, no questions asked.
In the world of skydiving, the parachutes are either packed by the mothers and wives of the jumpers, or by the jumpers themselves. One could say that the person, who has a vested interest in the parachute opening when it’s supposed to, is the one making sure that it really will open. Do you know who packs your parachutes?
Consider the safety shower – like the kind in use at chemical plants.
How does one test a safety shower without getting drenched? Invariably, where safe testing of equipment has not been designed into the operating process/procedure, there is no other way but to activate the shower by actually stepping onto the plate in order to see the water spraying out of the shower heads …
The Unilever plant at Maydon Wharf, Durban, is a world-class example. There is a testing jig which gets hooked onto the shower. By depressing the long lever, the shower is activated and the person doing the testing can stay completely dry – a simple, smart and practical solution.
In your business, identify three of the most critical safety systems or equipment in your plant or process. Take a close look. Are these clearly identified and marked? Who does the testing? How often and how are they actually tested? This inspection should include the records of tests, with the findings and corrective actions signed and dated.
If a real test is not possible, then go back to the drawing board and change the design so that testing becomes possible. If this is still not an option, then other solutions like redundancy or installation of back-up safety devices need to be considered.
By completing what is a fundamental safety process, you are bound to find some nasty surprises …