It occurs to me that in all of the safety columns I have penned for this publication, I have not expressed my thoughts on a major safety topic. This topic is first aid. I know that some of you, particularly the larger companies, have well-trained safety personnel in your employ. But much of the gear industry is comprised of small shops that have only the necessary people in place to perform the production tasks required. Many of these shops buy a first aid kit, put it in an accessible place, and consider themselves ready to treat minor injuries. Well, I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t even come close to being prepared.
For starters, what should be in that first aid kit? Each organization that I have visited has different hazards that employees are exposed to, in addition to all of the common ones. The companies that market the “over the counter” first aid kits have no knowledge of your organization’s activities and can only provide the basic necessities that anyone should have available. It’s up to you to provide any of the specific items your company requires to protect its workers. A good place to start looking might be your Material Safety Data Sheets, since there may be specific items needed for exposure to the chemicals in use at your facility. It also makes sense that companies where employees are dealing with sharp edges should have more bandages on hand, and those with dusty environments should probably stock up on eyewash. Common sense can help you assemble the perfect kit for your particular industrial environment.
A company must have the proper first aid supplies readily available should a emergency occur, of course, but it is even more important that you have a first responder—i.e. the “go-to” guy or gal—who is properly trained in the latest first aid techniques. Think about it like this: Who in your organization would you trust to possibly save your life in the event of being seriously hurt or having a sudden illness such as a heart attack or stroke? Do you have someone with the proper training in your organization that you could rely on? First aid training has advanced exponentially in the last few years, and those of us who once felt that we’d had enough rudimentary training have probably been passed by due to the changes in emergency procedures. This type of training is available from so many sources, and at little or no cost, so there is really no excuse for not having trained first responders available no matter the size of your business. Resources include the American Red Cross and local fire departments, and many hospitals and clinics offer classes to interested parties. There are also companies that charge for providing training. Some sessions are offered online via e-learning, both free and for a fee. The time spent training your personnel in first aid is more than worth it even if the knowledge acquired is only used once. This training must be ongoing, of course, because the changes that we see in procedures must be kept up with in order to do the most good.
On another note, one of the topics covered in this issue of the magazine is the chamfering and deburring of gears. We have discussed the possible hazards associated with these activities in past issues, and if you’ve missed them they can be downloaded at www.gearsolutions.com—as can all of my columns, from the very first issue. There is also a article on plastic gearing, which brings me back to my thoughts concerning possible hazards pointed out in Material Safety Data Sheets. Many times the dust created in cutting the different plastics is not good for us, and often the combination of coolant and plastic can create a hazard. When cutting plastic we must research the material for possible hazards that we may not consider on a normal basis. I suggest that you insist on a complete MSDS report on the materials used and be prepared to protect your employees, if necessary.