Working as a forensic technician is challenging, especially in terms of safety issues. So avoiding simple accidents and working safely warrants attention. This month the Safety Guys alert you to the potential significant physical hazards present at crime scenes and in the workplace. What do we mean when we say “physical hazards?” Obviously, they include conditions and situations that might lead to slips, trips, and falls as well as the constant threat of bites, scratches, and injuries from insects and animals. But, in addition to these common issues we want you to start thinking about the not so obvious hazards such as electrical safety hazards and high noise areas.
Let’s Start With the Easy Stuff
Many injuries arise from poor housekeeping. Slips, trips, and falls are too common and easily avoided. Begin with organizing the storage areas. Be watchful not to create hazards with your material storage. Stack and interlock stored supplies, containers, and other materials that are tiered. Limit the height so that they are stable and secure against sliding or collapse. Minimize chaotic accumulation of materials in storage areas that could cause tripping, hinder access, or present a fire risk.
Next, perform a general facility inspection concentrating on walking/ working surfaces, lighting, and egress pathways. It is imperative that emergency exit routes remain clear and unobstructed at all times. Make sure floors are smooth and free of cracks or lips that could catch or trip. Inspect storage racks, hand trucks, and other equipment to ensure good mechanical condition. Pay special attention to the castors. Note the lighting conditions and measure illumination in those areas that seem dim. Compare results to those recommended by IES and ANSI.1 Ensure all lights within seven feet of the floor are protected against accidental breakage. Slip plastic protective tubes over florescent bulbs prior to mounting or install screens or plastic diffusers onto the fixtures. Finally, note areas with special lighting requirements and train employees to allow for eye adjustment before working in those areas.
You Might Be In For a Shock
While performing your facility inspection, keep an eye out for electrical hazards. Frequently found problems include improper use of extension cords or cords with cut, torn, or frayed insulation; exposed wiring; missing grounding plugs; open electrical panels; and over-loaded circuits. Less obvious hazards are present on work tables, fume hoods, or biosafety cabinets and wet vacuum systems. Pay close attention to wet areas. First, equip all electrical power outlets in wet locations with ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCI, to prevent accidental electrocutions. GFCIs are designed to “trip” and break the circuit when a small amount of current begins flowing to ground. Wet locations include outlets within six feet of a sink, faucet, or other water source, and outlets located outdoors or in areas that get washed down routinely. Specific GFCI outlets can be used individually or install GFCI in the electrical panel to protect entire circuits.