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Better visibility protects gin workers

An investment in bright red and yellow reflective vests for cotton ginyard workers could help prevent injury and possible death from module truck accidents.

“Unfortunately, these accidents have become more common in recent years,” says Larry Davis, safety director for the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at Memphis. “Making these employees more visible, and an increased emphasis on training can help reduce module truck-related accidents.”

When a module truck is backing up to unload, the driver may be unaware that an employee is behind the vehicle. “In 1992, a man was killed in this situation, and there have been a number of close calls involving module trucks,” he told ginners at the northwest district meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at Clarksdale, Miss.

“The fluorescent vests help workers to be seen, but it's very important to continually drill into drivers that they're not to start backing up until they're told the area behind them is clear.”

Electronic backup alarms are also a useful tool to warn ginyard employees when a truck is backing up.

Davis says all gins should also have in place a drug/alcohol testing program for drivers that meets Department of Transportation standards. “We've got a lot better at detecting these abuses through testing programs, but every year we catch six or eight drivers with cocaine or marijuana in their system.”

Crystal meth use is becoming more prevalent, Davis says, and sometimes will not be detected in standard drug screens. Gin owners/managers need to be alert for any symptoms of drug abuse by drivers, he notes.

The SCGA's safety award program, started four years ago, has helped bring about “widespread improvement” in the number of gin accidents and deaths, he says. “Every year, we raise the bar on what's expected, and our ginner members have done an outstanding job of creating safer workplaces.

“Regrettably, we still have instances of hands caught in lint cleaners, or other machinery-related injuries. Many are caused by distraction, mental lapses, inattention. Training programs should stress to workers that they should always be alert to the dangers of machinery in operation.

“The three bedrock principles of a good safety program are (1) guards in place on all machinery; (2) frequent safety training sessions; and (3) accurate records for everything related to safety.”

Gin safety starts with the owner/manager, Davis says. “If they put safety first, and continually reinforce it through training, the potential for accidents is greatly reduced.”

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