A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Guide to Working Safely in Dangerous Environments

When I was younger, I saw an older man sort of just standing there. Staring. Not at me. Not seemingly at anything. But he looked as if he was very deep in thought. Curious, I asked him what he was thinking about. His answer was very simple and straightforward and has stuck with me forever. Five words, and it applies to literally everything. “What I'm about to do.” I would credit him for the quote, but I don't know this guy. I didn't know him then, and I was a preteen kid. My parents were there, I wasn't afraid to talk to him, but I also didn't want to bother him. So that was our whole conversation. I just said, “Well, okay,” and left him alone. I don't know what it was he was about to do. For all I know, he could have robbed the store as soon as we left. I don't know. That answer though, that answer stayed.

Presently, I work in the ExxonMobil Baytown Complex for a company called Brand Energy and Infrastructure Systems, or BEIS. At our specific location, we preach LPSA – Loss Prevention Self Assessment. If you work in a chemical plant, I'm sure you have a similar system but probably call it something else. Even if you aren't working in a plant, even if you are unemployed, I'm certain you adhere to the principals of LPSA, even if you don't know what it is. I'll expand on that a bit later, but basically, LPSA is thinking about what you are about to do.

Look at the work area; look at the ground. Is it uneven? Is it slick? Are there switches and levers you could bump into? Could you hit your shin, or shoulder, or head on that valve? Just take a moment and look. If you accidentally kick that valve, what will happen? Stare into it, and exaggerate the possibilities. What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the most likely thing that could happen? That's step one. Identify the hazards.

What can you do about it? Can you get some gravel poured into that muddy area? Can you make the sensitive equipment stand out a little more so you don't accidentally bump into it? That's step two - mitigating the potential hazards.

Lastly, act on it. Wear the proper P.P.E. Put some bright tape on things you could bump into, so they grab your attention instead of busting your shin. Put up a barricade to make sure nobody wanders into your work area and gets hit by falling material. It's not just about you, after all. Don't be selfish. Think about the safety of EVERYONE. I don't remember the last time I had a job where I was all alone. Look out for your brothers. Everybody goes home the way they came in. If all hands adhered to the basic LPSA process, we would be accident free. That is step three, implementing the plan to mitigate the hazards. Do what you think you can do to prevent that incident in your mind.

As was mentioned earlier, LPSA is not specific to the plant I work in or the company I work for. That is just the name we gave it. LPSA is being careful; it's thinking about what you are going to do. You did an LPSA when you grabbed a pot holder in the kitchen so you wouldn’t burn your hand. You did an LPSA when you pointed out your neighbor's low tire so they didn't end up stranded on the side of the road, or maybe cause an accident. It is a decision you have made to preserve yourself and others from harm. Not even just being hurt, but costing yourself money or time. Fixing your own mistakes will save you both. Just think about your outcomes before you engage the plan. Think about it. That is LPSA. That is working safe.