Avoiding the Line of Fire

In an attempt to mitigate potential injuries and incidents, many companies have engaged in more robust discussions when it comes to workplace safety. While once populating quick discussions when preparing to attack a specific task, these conversations have manifested into regular parts of pre-job planning, hazard assessments, and continual tailgate meetings in the field. 

Several factors and components serve as the basis or guidelines for properly staging and engaging in these talks of safety. Identifying hazards serves as the goal, but methods to avoid these hazards have surfaced as an important role. Not all hazards can be removed from the workplace. As a result, specific actions must be taken to avoid exposure. Avoiding the line of fire has grown into a common defensive action that can be applied to many, if not all, workplace scenarios. 

What is the Line of Fire? 

Initially known as a military term, Line of Fire is a term that describes putting one’s self in harm’s way. The obvious countermeasure can easily be identified as simply not being there to receive contact. If a valve is in the open position, the best way to avoid contact with exiting fluids is to not be standing in front of that exit point. Simply put, avoid contact by not being there to receive it. 

Line of Fire incidents play a major role in injuries and accidents. In fact, they rank in second place and fall right behind the common slips, trips, and falls incidents. Identified as unsafe behavior, succumbing to Line of Fire instances account for between 80 to 90% of all workplace incidents. 

Causes 

Rooted from unsafe and irresponsible behavior, Line of Fire incidents occur due to a variety of contributing factors. They include a lack of awareness, insufficient training, and complacency. 

When studying these contributing factors, an elementary assessment can be rendered. Each of these contributing factors are based on the individual’s perception and response to the working situation. The resulting injury could have been avoided had these factors been removed from play.

Education Wins the Battle 

All reasons for falling victim to Line of Fire incidents could be avoided. This is not to say that the dangerous activity would have never happened had the employee avoided it initially. The open valve still would have let fluids escape had the employee been standing in front of it or out of the way. The difference is that had the employee been struck by the contents; then it would have resulted in an incident of injury or fatality. Stepping aside and not being struck by the exiting contents would result in a Near Miss. 

The secret lies in identifying the hazard prior to it surfacing and leaving a devastating result. That identification process only occurs through education. The workforce must be taught and instructed on what to look for in the field and how to counter its potential negative outcome. 

That increased awareness birthed from education can conqueror complacency. By fully understanding the ramifications of decisions made, a better choice can be made that results in avoiding the Line of Fire. 

The individual who receives a lengthy training process on the work being conducted and, for instance, the effect of contents exiting our valve example, now has a grasp of the dangers associated with the work at hand. Instead of not paying attention in the field, their awareness level should be increasingly high, allowing better decisions to be executed in the workplace. 

Education should receive a healthy dose of attention from companies, especially in hazardous environments like construction. A surplus of knowledge and a plethora of understanding and information reported in the pre-job planning process goes a long way in reducing Line of Fire incidents and ensures a safe return home at the end of the workday. 

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with nine years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and Masonry Magazine. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]

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