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â€œYouâ€™re sure of that, huh?â€ Joe shot back.
Joe was more than ready to talk about fire protection â€” he wanted Willie to do a walk-around with him.
â€œI need to tell you a story, Willie.â€
â€œA few years ago, we had a young maintenance worker. Don was stripping down a wall in the lobby of the main operations building. It was a hot summer evening â€” not much air or ventilation in the lobby. Don had a light switch cover off and was working with some low flash point solvents. He had a couple open containers â€” no plunger cans or safety cans â€” just open containers.
â€œThere was a flash or two on the wall. I guess he brushed against the light switch. Don laughed off the flashes until a big one pushed him back and he jumped â€” knocking over one of the containers.
â€œHe panicked and ran down the hallway. This just fanned the fire into some pretty big flames on his body. Fortunately, one of his co-workers ran after him, tackled him and put out the fire. Don was in the local burn unit for months. Almost lost his life â€” really bad burns over 70 percent of his body. Heâ€™s been damaged for life, physically and mentally.â€
â€œWow Joe, that sounds awful.â€
Joe had Willieâ€™s attention, and thatâ€™s exactly what he needed.
Checking for hazardsâ€œLetâ€™s look over the last walk-around checklist,â€ said Joe. â€œIt will be a good refresher for me and a good review for you.â€
â€œAlright with meâ€ replied Willie.
â€œWith our solvents and spray cans, we have to do a better job keeping them in their fire cabinets. And we really shouldnâ€™t have more than 10 or 15 gallons of solvents out at one time. Even though we use safety cans they need to go back in their cabinets. Thatâ€™s one of the reasons why we use the small squeeze bottles â€” to limit the amounts. And remember the squeeze bottles need to be labeled.â€
â€œGot itâ€ â€” Willie was on the same page.
â€œIn the back of the first stage assembly area, weâ€™ve been getting too much scrap built up. You know, paper, cardboard, and even the bubble wrap and peanuts for packaging. Thatâ€™s why we have more dumpsters now and why we have more frequent pick-ups for recycling. That material can go up really fast. And we need to limit ignition sources nearby.â€
â€œWhat do you mean by ignition sources?â€ asked Willie.
â€œAnything that can start the fire â€” you know, open flames, sparks from grinders, space heaters, power cords â€” hereâ€™s the list, see for yourself.
â€œWith Don in that really bad accident I told you about â€” his group should have covered the light switch from moving or producing a spark or locked-out and tagged the power â€” maybe used some portable lighting that was OK for flammable environments. If he used safety containers or plunger cans he would have never slipped and fell in that mess.â€
â€œYep, even now I can think of more they should have done,â€ said Willie. â€œWerenâ€™t you telling me about Recognize, Resolve and some other stuff like that?â€
Joe needed to reinforce this point.
â€œYep. I was talking about Recognize, Reduce, Substitute, Eliminate and Protect.
â€œWe should always recognize the flammables weâ€™re working with â€” liquids, gases like acetylene and propane. And if weâ€™re using these kinds of products we need to recognize and protect â€” we need to keep ignition sources away or eliminate them.
â€œA good general rule of thumb is to protect by a distance of 25 feet â€” or use a good barrier made for that purpose. If we can, always substitute a less flammable product or donâ€™t use one at all â€” thatâ€™s also part of elimination.â€
â€œThat sounds a little complicated, Joe.â€
â€œItâ€™s really not. Once you have an eye for it, youâ€™ll get used to recognizing the fire hazards around here. Your eyes and mind get trained for it. And I have the inspection form to keep me focused so I donâ€™t forget. Most of the form is in parts: Paper, Wood and ordinary Combustibles; Solvents and Flammable Liquids, Gases, and Ignition Sources â€” Fixed and Portable.â€
â€œI see,â€ chimed Willie, â€œI guess all this becomes clearer and easier to see once you do it, right?â€
â€œThatâ€™s right,â€ said Joe. â€œAnd the more people we get involved â€” like you, like a team, the better off weâ€™ll be. Itâ€™s like having hundreds of eyes all helping out with fire safety! Letâ€™s get started on the walk-through.â€
SIDEBAR: Reducing your risks