Whether You Measure in Yards or Metres, One is the Magic Number
New workers, particularly young new workers, often lack the experience to know how closely they can approach a potential hazard without putting their safety in danger.
If they guess wrong, as many inexperienced workers have, it’s incredibly easy to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, with tragic consequences.
So how close is too close? Bill Dickerson, a senior health and safety advisor for a major Ontario electricity producer who has a passion for young worker safety awareness, has developed an innovative answer to that question. He calls it the Magic Metre or for our readers in the United States, the Magic Yardstick.
“The Magic Metre or Magic Yardstick is a visual image new workers can use to protect themselves from all kinds of hazards,” says the 25-year safety professional. “A Magic Metre is the distance from your nose to your fingertips. It’s almost like a 360 degree bubble all around you, including up and down.”
When delivering high school safety talks or new worker orientations, Dickerson offers the following 11 practical applications for the Magic Metre:
1. Noise: If you have to raise your voice above a normal talking level to be heard one Magic Metre away, you are likely exposed to (a sound pressure level) over 85 decibels and require hearing protection.
2. Moving Equipment: When working around moving equipment such as chain drives, conveyors, etc., if you maintain a Magic Metre from your outstretched fingertips, you are unlikely to fall into the equipment or contact a pinch point. The same concept works for hot pipes, electrical hazards, etc.
3. Biohazards: If you maintain a Magic Metre from a fellow worker with a cough or cold you are likely beyond the “sneeze spray zone.” Maintain the same Magic Metre from blood and body fluids and products unless protected.
4. Tools: Protect yourself and others by maintaining a Magic Metre or “safety bubble” around yourself when using power tools, hammers, axes, etc.
5. Chemicals: From the material safety data sheet (MSDS) determine how many Magic Metres are required between you and chemicals you may be exposed to.
6. Workplace Violence: Maintain a Magic Metre between you and an angry customer or co-worker. Position yourself to minimize your exposure as a target, and protect vital areas.
7. Eye Protection: Wear your safety glasses or goggles within a Magic Metre of any process that could result in flying objects.
8. Fall Protection: A worker may be seriously hurt in a fall or poorly planned jump of even less than a Magic Metre. You require fall arrest protection if your feet are two Magic Metres above the next level.
9. Lifting and carrying: The safest zone for carrying loads is within the Magic Metre from your knees to your shoulders.
10. Call Before You Dig: Don’t dig (including hand digging) within a Magic Metre of either side of a utility location marker (hydro, gas, telephone, etc.).
11. Falling Objects: Almost anything that falls a Magic Metre onto you will hurt!