Planting season is finishing up or has finished by now in most places. As spring draws to a close and summer is knocking at the door, most ginners are getting into the full swing of repair season. This is when gins replace the things that wore out during the past gin season or that were patched up to get through the season. It’s also a good time to add new equipment and technology to the gin.
This is the time we really need to pay attention to safety. A lot of the severe accidents we see in gins happen during what we refer to as “non-routine activities.” These are things we may only do once in a while or once in a lifetime, such as putting in new overhead equipment, replacing cyclones, replacing fans or adding a module feeder. All these things are necessary and a normal part of running a cotton gin, but no two are exactly the same.
What Front Of Mind Looks Like
We talk a lot about safety. We try not to preach about it, but it’s difficult not to sometimes. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be one of those times.
Safety is a mindset. It’s not just a set of rules that needs to be pencil whipped. Rules are important, but the rules aren’t the point. The reason we keep talking about safety and your associations spend a lot of resources on it is to help keep safety in people’s minds. If it’s in the back of your mind when you start to move that fan, it might take a while to eventually creep to the front.
What do I mean? Well, take the example of moving a fan around. To do it safely, you need a machine that’s capable of lifting the fan, strong enough straps or chains, space to move around and a plan. Safety in the back of your mind looks like having a plan and a clear path to move the fan. Safety in the front of your mind has a different look.
Safety in front of mind looks like knowing the weight of the fan, making sure the strap or chain is rated properly and inspected, that the lift device can carry that weight according to the manufacturer, PLUS a clear path and a briefing on how it’s going to work. It also means having a back-up when things aren’t working as expected. Safety in front of mind is our goal. We want you (ginner, manager, supervisor, employee) to think about the risks, the ways to fix those risks or minimize them before setting out to do something.
Too many times we’re tempted to grab a frayed lifting strap or sling because “it worked fine last time.” Or we think we can get someone to hang on the back of a forklift as counterweight because “it’s just 15 feet out the door” to set it down. We don’t stop to think about the consequences if it fails — if the plan doesn’t work.
Learn From Mistakes Of Others
If you ever need to take a few minutes of entertainment and chuckles, look at YouTube or your favorite video site and watch some “OSHA is this safe” videos. Search for crane or forklift fail videos. The sites are FULL of videos. Most are fortunate that no one got hurt, but a lot of money was spent on fixing the screw ups.
Then think about the things you do every day, particularly during the season. Let those videos and the lessons learned from other people’s mistakes move to the front of your mind BEFORE you tackle a job you or your crew haven’t done before. Have a plan and think about what can go wrong and the consequences of that. We want all of you to have a safe and profitable repair season.
Dusty Findley, CEO of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association, contributed this article. Contact him at 706-344-1212 or email@example.com.