Safety Dummies

Using this inexpensive tool creatively will raise workers' awareness and stimulate safety discussions.

When someone has a work-related incident or illness, one of the most critical steps toward preventing future incidents like it is to let all other workers know as soon as possible what happened. Quite simply, you make other workers aware that an incident has occurred. The information passed on to employees would naturally come from an effective accident investigation, but sometimes an immediate visual warning that reduces the chance of injury while more permanent fixes are being developed and implemented is needed. It’s also important to let workers know what is being done to prevent the issue from happening again in the future. And while there is no substitute for close interaction and open communication among all employees in a facility, one quick, easy way to communicate incidents and raise safety awareness is through the use of a dummy.

There are a number of sources on the Internet where you can buy mannequins at very reasonable prices.Used ones can be bought for about $100 plus shipping.

You could get one of the mannequins and, if your company has uniforms, you could dress it in a company uniform. Hold a contest and get employees to give the mannequin a safety-related name — Safety Sam, Careful Charlie, whatever—and award a small safety-related prize to the winner. Stand the mannequin somewhere so that all employees will have to walk by it during their shifts. Beside the time clock is one good choice for placement.

If an injury occurs, use some basic first aid supplies to “doctor” the mannequin in the appropriate area. For example, if an employee has a laceration to the right index finger, you could bandage the mannequin’s right index finger and hang a note on it explaining the “what, when, where, why, how,” and the corrective action that was taken to prevent recurrence. (Notice that the “who” is missing from the list.) In this case, a good location for placement would be in the work area where the accident occurred.

Cheap LED technology makes it possible to get small, battery-powered blinking lights that can be attached to “new injuries” on the mannequin as an attention grabber. Employees reporting to work on shifts following an accident will have at least a high-level account of what happened, and discussion is sure to follow.

Of course, the more injuries that happen, the worse the mannequin will look. If it starts to resemble a mummy, well, there may be room for safety improvements in your facility!

PPE Demonstrations
If your safety is already pretty good or the mannequin is just standing around (pun intended), you can get creative and press it into service for other safety awareness tasks.

Your company’s required personal protective equipment can be placed on the mannequin as a visual aid or reminder.Announcements can be held in the mannequin’s hands for display. Have the mannequin hold a smoke alarm in one hand and a battery in the other when it’s time to change smoke alarm batteries at spring and fall time changes. Put a note in its shirt pocket with a brief reminder.

Want to solve a problem? Use the mannequin to track ergonomic issues. Move it into an area that has musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) issues and hold a workshop so employees can discuss their work-related aches and pains. Have employees put colored stickers on the mannequin to illustrate the location of their own painful body areas. A good source of colored stickers is the packs of colored “dots” used to mark prices on items at yard sales. Use green stickers for pains that go away after a few hours of rest.Use blue stickers for more severe pains that go away after a weekend of rest. Use yellow stickers to denote pain that never really goes away. Red stickers could mark pain that causes waking from sleep or interrupts other life functions. This creates a “body map,” which can be used to identify problems that can now be investigated further and ultimately corrected. Employees and management can see trends and realize the magnitude of problems that may not otherwise be obvious.

After the initial workshop, you will be able to see by the location, color, and number of stickers where the employees hurt and how many cases currently exist. Employees can see they may not be alone in their discomfort. Once the stickers are in place, expand the workshop to ferret out the causes of the pain. MSDs have very common causes, some of which are repetition, forceful exertions, vibration, contact stress, improper grip, poor postures, and contact stress. Good solutions are available for all of these.

Seeing the Big Picture
Now you have found the aches and pains, along with the causes. The mannequin has created a way to find the two previous points. All that is left is fixing the causes by using sound safety practices, such as the hierarchy of controls. Eliminate the hazard, substitute safer procedures, use administrative and work practice controls, and, finally, resort to the use of personal protective equipment if the prior steps of the hierarchy of controls didn’t eliminate the hazards.

When data is collected in one work area, move the mannequin to another and repeat the workshops.Collect data there and move to the next work area.Use the collected data to construct a “site map” so you can see the big picture more easily. Because you are getting site-specific data, focused corrective actions and training can then be developed and used to improve the safety of your entire workforce.

If you get a mannequin and explain what’s up to your workers, you have put safety in their minds. You hold a contest to name the mannequin, and you’ve again put safety in the workers’ minds. Every new injury or first aid case puts safety in their minds once more. Hold a workshop to identify ergonomic issues, and you have put safety back into their minds yet again. Also, you have done some team building.

You have raised safety awareness each time. The big idea for using the mannequin is to stimulate thought and discussion about safety. Team with others for new ideas! If safety is discussed regularly, it increases awareness.Awareness contributes to the overall culture of work sites and is a key component of accident prevention.

Your imagination is the only limiting factor in finding possible ways to use the safety dummy. Give it some thought. Could this idea be used, or improved and used, at your facility as an innovative way to advance the safety culture by raising awareness?

This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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