Staying Out of the Line of Fire

Ever held a cup while pouring hot coffee into it? Or held a nail for someone else wielding a hammer? In both instances, you’re putting yourself in the line of fire. If something goes wrong, injury could result.

We do lots of things in our daily lives that could result in injury, but don’t. So we can become complacent and don’t even think twice about certain tasks. But being in the line of fire, especially in the workplace, can add up to trouble. It can hurt, incapacitate or, in severe cases, kill you or your coworkers. Here are some ways to improve safety by removing or controlling dangers in your work area.

1. Look for hazards before you start working. At its most basic level, the line of fire is the path of a moving object that could potentially injure you or the potential path of an object that may move. Ask yourself: What can hurt me while I’m doing this task? If you’re unsure, ask a co-worker or supervisor. It’s always good to have a second set of eyes review what you’re planning to do.

2. Eliminate the hazard when possible. Once line-of-fire hazards are identified, take steps to eliminate or control them. The best-case scenario is to remove the hazards completely. An example of this would be pipetting a chemical from one container to another instead of pouring the chemical out of the container.

3. If you can’t eliminate, then control. If it’s not possible to remove the hazards, neutralize them. For example, use a fume hood and proper personal protective equipment to avoid exposure. Consider the following questions: Where is my body located in relation to the hazard? What is the worst-case scenario of my task? How can I protect myself from the hazard?

4. Use best practices for minimizing hazards. There are many easy and effective
methods to eliminate and control line-of-fire hazards. For example, organize the work area to provide unobstructed and easy access to equipment, use signs and stickers for clear labeling, keep pathways clear, eliminate possible pinch points on doors or hand tools, and always use the correct tool for the job.
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