Causes of Injuries and How To Avoid Them

Webster’s dictionary defines Safety as the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss.  Safe means free from harm or risk, or secure from threat of danger, harm or loss.  I define Safety as the commitment to myself, my family and my co-workers to apply the conditions of being Safe to everything I do.  My family expects me to come home at the end of the shift and my coworkers expect me to show up at work the next day.


This is my definition today…but what was my definition five, ten or twenty years ago?  My personal safety culture has developed and strengthened throughout the years.  I have learned from, both, my mistakes and the mistakes of others.  I have learned from training classes and videos.  I have learned from age and losing the sense of invulnerability I had in my youth.  But, even with all the training and experience in my life, there is no guarantee that I will not get hurt.

The causes of industrial injuries can be broken down into three distinct categories:

  • Employee error—misjudged situations; distractions by others; neuromuscular malfunctions; inappropriate working positions; and knowingly using defective equipment;
  • Equipment insufficiency—use of inappropriate equipment; safety devices being removed or inoperative; and the lack of such things as engineering controls, respiratory protection, and protective clothing;
  • Procedure insufficiency—failure of procedure for eliciting warning of hazard; inappropriate procedure for handling materials; failure to lock out or tag out; and a lack of written work procedures.

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What are the best ways to avoid an industrial injury?

  • Eliminate the hazard.  This is most effective with new processes.  It can be quite costly in existing processes.
  • Engineering controls are the next best option.  Machine guarding and other types of barriers such as light curtains prevent workers from entering dangerous parts of equipment.  Engineering controls must be maintained and inspected regularly.
  • Administrative controls or safety policies and procedures can be effective with proper training and enforcement.
  • Personal Protective Equipment is the last ditch effort to protect workers.  Items, such as, protective eyewear, gloves or an apron is required when all other efforts fail.  PPE must, also, be maintained and inspected.

The only guarantee is to eliminate the hazard.  All other options require training, inspections and enforcement.  Workers must be trained about the proper use of barriers or disciplined if they remove machine guards.  Employees must be trained in proper procedures and disciplined when they are out of compliance.  Workers must be issued proper PPE and trained in its use and care.  No matter how you choose to avoid hazards, training and enforcement is going to be the key component.

What methods do you use to avoid injuries?  What improvements can you make?

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