15 Epic Safety Fails & How to Avoid Them

Workplace safety is extremely important and it’s something most people reading this page think about on a regular basis. Those who work in this industry often get to a point where they don’t see very many egregious safety failures because companies that employ safety managers typically have at least some standards in place.

Every day throughout the world, however, people make incredibly dangerous (and alright, we’ll say it…STUPID) decisions regarding workplace safety. Taking a look at some of the worst examples of workplace safety fails caught by a camera can be a great way to learn what not to do and how to avoid these types of issues. Get ready, some of these fails are pretty outrageous.

1. Failing to Properly Harness Workers

So, what could go wrong here? One guy kneeling on the ankles of another seems pretty secure, right? WRONG! One unexpected move by either of these two men could result in the person in the manhole getting a serious injury. Even if this manhole isn’t very deep, falling headfirst can result in serious head, neck, and back injuries.

Whenever possible, working head down like this should be avoided. If it is the only option, the worker’s legs should be properly secured using safety harnesses that are attached to an anchored location to ensure he can’t fall or come loose.

2. Unsafe and Insecure ‘Scaffolding’

The wood looks secure, and the heavy machinery can easily hold the weight, so it should be fine, right? Once again, NO WAY! There are so many things that could go wrong here that it is hard to know where to begin. The boards off to the right could slide down since they aren’t secured. The ladder is not on secure ground, and of course, if someone got in and begn moving the heavy machinery, the whole makeshift scaffolding would come tumbling down.

While it may take a little extra time and effort, constructing scaffolding properly helps to ensure that workers can reach the areas they need without putting themselves and the others in the area in unnecessary danger.

3. Improper Safety Equipment

Well, this guy at least had the right idea in mind. He didn’t have access to face protection, so he got creative and grabbed a plastic bucket to protect himself from sparks and possibly flying shrapnel. While his head may have been in the right place, this ‘personal protective equipment’ would provide very little real protection if it were needed.

If it were showered with hot sparks, the plastic could actually melt, causing serious burns to the face. If a nail or other object shot up, it would likely penetrate the plastic quite easily. Having OSHA-approved safety equipment is essential in all work environments.

4. Using the Wrong Tools & Equipment

There are many times when the right tools or equipment aren’t immediately available, so it can be tempting to just grab something that will get the job done in a pinch, even if it isn’t as safe. In this picture, a screwdriver is used to secure the trailer in place. Screwdrivers, however, can easily come loose from bumps and turns, which could result in a runaway trailer, putting many people at risk.

While it might seem inconvenient at the moment, the safety risks are very serious. Using the wrong tools and equipment can put yourself and everyone in the area in significnt danger.

5. Failing to Properly Place a Ladder

Injuries related to falls from ladders are among the most common in the workplace. In this picture we see someone attempting to place a ladder on the stairs, which can be very difficult. If a ladder is not stable, it should never be used. Even if you’re just climbing up one or two rungs, it could fall over and hit other people in the area. Taking the necessary steps to ensure a ladder is properly in place will help avoid these common and often serious injuries.

6. Being Aware of Hazardous Equipment

Before turning on any type of equipment, it is important to take a look around to see what potential hazards might exist. You can almost imagine the scene from this picture taking place. Someone comes in and flips on this multi-million dollar MRI machine, and the scaffolding flies across the room! Thankfully, nobody was on the scaffolding or in the machine as far as we can tell. If they had been, this could have resulted in very serious injuries.

7. No Lockout-Tagout Used

The lockout-tagout procedures were made to help ensure people working on a machine aren’t exposed to potentially deadly electrocution. While this little cardboard sign does convey the right message, it provides very little actual protection.

Implementing electrical safety procedures that ensure the electricity cannot be turned back on while workers are in the area can save lives. Our free lockout/tagout guide could have helped to avoid this serious safety problem.

8. Using Tools in Unsafe Areas

This person has a blade spinning at hundreds of RPMs activated just inches from his leg. In addition, he can’t actually see just how close the blade is to his body, and he is focusing on the wood being cut. This is just a recipe for disaster.

Tools are made to be used in certain areas and with certain precautions. This is most certainly not an example of how a saw like this should be handled. In addition to the most obvious issue of having the blade near his leg, he also doesn’t appear to be wearing any type of eye protection!

9. Terrible Choices Related to Forklift Safety

This one almost seems too outrageous to be true, but from what we can gather, it actually happened. Hopefully nobody has ever seen a forklift safety violation this egregious, but even smaller safety concerns related to forklifts can cause serious injuries or even fatalities in just seconds if someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our free forklift safety guide is a great way to avoid these types of issues.

10. Non-Working Safety Devices

Having safety devices that do not work can actually put people in more danger than having no safety devices in place at all. In this picture, someone might run toward this alarm in an emergency and then have it do nothing. If the alarm wasn’t there at all, the individual would have likely run to another area, which hopefully would have been safer. Keeping all safety equipment and devices in proper working order is an essential step in workplace safety.

11. Failing to Check Areas Before Beginning Work

It is critical to know what the results of your actions are going to be in the workplace, especially when working with heavy equipment. It is hard to tell from this picture if the person driving the dozer didn’t realize someone was in the whole, or if they knew and were doing this intentionally for some insane reason. Neither would surprise me.

12. Not Being Aware of Surroundings

The person in this picture is making a lot of sparks, which are going directly into the two cylinders, which very likely contain something that is potentially explosive. Before beginning any activity in the workplace, people need to be trained to look around them and identify any potential hazards. Only once they are sure it is safe should they begin taking action.

13. Missing Safety Equipment

If you see a small fire in this facility, where do you think you would run to? The area with the big red sign and arrow that says FIRE EXTINGUISHER right? Well, if so, the building would certainly burn down. This extinguisher had clearly been used at some point and either not put back or not replaced. In either case, this is not just a safety hazard because the extinguisher is not where it belongs, but also because the sign actually leads people to believe that it is there, which could put everyone in danger.

14. Terrible Placement of Safety Equipment

FIRE! SOMETHING’S ON FIRE!! Don’t worry…I’ll grab this conveniently placed fire extinguisher and put it out….Oh wait, nobody can possibly reach this fire extinguisher without a ladder, which would be impossible to place safely. This picture is a perfect example of why proper placement of safety equipment is almost as important as having the safety equipment at all.

15. And Finally…Oh My God…Where Do we Even Start…

Ladder safety violations. Check. Electrical safety violations. Check. Fall prevention harness missing. Check. Improper personal protective equipment. Check. Wow! This image has examples of almost every type of workplace safety violation you can imagine. Perhaps if the employer had a copy of our free OSHA inspection checklist, they would have identified these issues and prevented this atrocity from occurring.

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