When working in any type of facility with moving equipment, it is important to make safety a priority. While some dangers are obvious, others are often overlooked and can result in significant injuries. One example of this is working near moving machinery with loose clothing. Whether it is an un-tucked shirt, a tie, an unbuttoned jacket or even loose shoelaces, these things can get caught in the moving machinery and pull individuals into harm’s way.
There are many examples each year of people working with heavy equipment, and getting injured or killed because of their loose clothing. Take, for example, the 2009 death of Martin Valencia from Dos Palos:
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”SafetyToolBox- Loose Clothing Kills” quotestyle=”style02″]Martin Valencia was working on a farm around 11 a.m. in the 6300 block of Eucalyptus Avenue, near Dos Palos. Valencia and another man, who was operating the tractor, were digging holes. A spinning bolt on the drill caught his jacket and pulled him toward the shaft and into the hole. The machine crushed his body before it could be turned off. He was pronounced dead at the scene.[/sws_blockquote_endquote]
These tragic accidents are made all the more troubling by the fact that they could have been avoided had those involved practiced proper safety regarding their clothing.
All Loose Articles are a Risk
When going through any training or education with employees, it is important to make sure everyone understands that any loose articles on their person can cause injury. Most people know to check for their ties and even loose jackets, but there are many other risks as well. Loose or baggy pants, for example can cause serious risks. They might not get caught in a machine, but they can cause people to trip and fall, which can be deadly in many facilities.
For people with long hair or beards, the risk is also quite significant. Most people don’t give their hair a second thought, but if it gets caught in a machine, it can cause serious injury or even death in just seconds. Keeping hair tied up securely and snugly on the head is essential for workplace safety.
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Facilities that have people working outside will need to take special care to ensure everyone is aware of the different dangers of loose clothing during different seasons. During the winter, people will often be wearing bulky coats that could restrict movement. Winter clothing also often has material that hangs out, such as hoods or attached gloves. During the summer, looser clothing may be much more common.
Identifying the types of risks that are present during each season will help everyone to take any steps necessary to stay safe. It is important to balance the need to wear appropriate clothing for the weather, with keeping everyone safe from hazards associated with loose or bulky clothing.
All Moving Parts are a Hazard
Another problem many people have when it comes to avoiding the dangers of loose clothing is that they only consider it when working next to particularly dangerous equipment. The fact is, however, that just about any type of moving equipment can be a hazard. Something as simple as a hand-held drill, for example, can catch someone’s sleeve and cause injury. These smaller pieces of equipment might not be fatal, but they can cause injuries and damage clothing very easily.
Watch for Hot Surfaces
In addition, loose clothing is at a greater risk of catching on fire while working near hot equipment. Whether it is a welder or someone who works with a machine that reaches high temperatures, loose clothing can quickly catch on fire. This is a risk that the entire facility needs to be aware of, because someone’s clothing catching fire will put the entire area at significant risks.
Alerting People to Risk with Safety Signs
One way employers can help keep everyone safe from these types of injuries is to use safety signs (like these safety signs) or vinyl labels (such as this) that alert people to the dangers of loose clothing. Every machine that has moving or spinning parts, for example, should also have a sign in the area that reminds everyone to check their clothing prior to entering. This is a simple and affordable way to help ensure everyone has a reminder of this important safety tip before getting close to machinery.
Another great solution to the problem of loose clothing at work is having a set dress code for everyone who works with any type of dangerous equipment. Many facilities provide employees with the clothing they need to wear at work. This is a nice benefit to the employees, and also helps keep everyone safer while at work. Providing uniforms to employees provides an added level of control for the company, which means there are fewer risks associated with working for the company.
Proper Clothing as Part of Overall Safety Efforts
The bottom line is, when it comes to the dangers of loose clothing at work, everyone needs to work at staying safe. Keeping everyone aware of the risks, and showing them how to avoid any accidents or injuries should be included in every facilities overall safety program. Bringing it up in safety training sessions, and using common safety alerts like signs in the facility will help keep it on the minds of everyone in the area. By ensuring everyone is aware of the risks, and has regular reminders, it is much more likely that people throughout the facility will take steps to ensure their clothing stays in place, and doesn’t cause injury.
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