Safety in the Workplace Q and A with Michael Courouleau

In Professionals on December 24, 2012 at 8:36 am
Michael Courouleau

Michael Courouleau

Michael Courouleau is an environmental and safety professional with extensive experience in industrial safety.

Q: We’ve come a long way as far as workplace safety. What are some areas that people might still neglect?

Michael Courouleau: Accidents during disaster recovery are still very common.

Q: What special hazards does a disaster recovery situation present?

Michael Courouleau: Electrical dangers, collapse or partial collapse of compromised buildings, stress and overwork from trying to get a facility reopened as quickly as possible.

Q: Do floodwaters present a special set of dangers?

Michael Courouleau: Absolutely. Floodwaters are contaminated to start with, making the threat of infection pretty extreme.

Q: What precautions should workers and crews take in post-hurricane situations?

Michael Courouleau: Supervisors should be mindful of not taking shortcuts or getting in too big a hurry. That’s how injuries happen. Crews should be very wary of flooded buildings in terms of structural safety and electrical hazards.

Q: Are floodwaters breeding grounds for insects?

Michael Courouleau: Yes, crews should be careful of not only mosquito bites, but also snakebites and even leeches in flooding situations.

Q: What’s another seldom-thought-of danger in the workplace?

Michael Courouleau: Combustible dust is a huge danger in places like grain elevators.

Q: What can be done about it?

Michael Courouleau: Ventilation, water mist setups, sprinklers, airborne dust density monitoring and fire suppression setups are all very important.

Q: What kinds of materials can become combustible dust, in the right concentrations?

Michael Courouleau: Flour, grain dust, sawdust, sugar, sugar byproducts, tobacco, metal shavings, even dried blood can be potentially hazardous combustible dust.

Q: What are the points in the process where combustible dust can be found in greater concentrations?

Michael Courouleau: Places like loading and unloading points or transfer points will typically stir up more airborne particles.

Q: What sorts of systems should be in place at those points?

Michael Courouleau: Air monitors are typically used there, keeping tabs on airborne dust and sending readings back to a control console.

Q: How do those work?

Michael Courouleau: When densities reach a certain point, water mist systems will kick on to reduce the concentration. Some systems will even automatically shut down machinery to give dust time to settle.

Q: Aren’t there ignition sources as well?

Michael Courouleau: Yes, there’s a special set of precautions to be taken with things like motors and switches.

Q: Can static electricity be an ignition source?

Michael Courouleau: Yes, natural fibers should be worn in these settings.

Q: What is a general piece of advice you can give?

Michael Courouleau: Remember that knowledge is power when it comes to safety in the workplace. Educate your workforce on safety protocols, keep MSDS sheets available, and offer incentives for workplace safety.

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