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A successful summer job experience starts with SAFETY

Today we're featuring workplace safety expertise from Carmen LaTorre, an Advanced Engineer from Owens Corning Science & Tehcnology...

This is a very exciting month! The start of the wonderful summer weather also means the start of fun and challenging internships and full-time jobs for many Ohio State engineering students.

During your first week on the job you will most likely be given some type of safety orientation. Right now when you think of workplace safety, what comes to mind? A pair of safety glasses and some ear plugs? How about a lab coat and gloves? Or perhaps steel toed shoes and a hard hat?

While these may be the most familiar and common safety items you will hear about and use during your work experience, the irony is that personal protective equipment (PPE) is the VERY LAST line of defense in a proactive safety culture. The primary objective is identifying and removing the hazards as best as possible in the first place so that the need for PPE is greatly reduced or eliminated.

There is a popular and widely used system for controlling hazards in a workplace called the “Hierarchy of Controls”. In its most basic form, there are five levels of control of hazards. These are followed in order, starting with the most effective at preventing workplace injuries.

  1. Elimination – remove the hazard completely from your workplace.

  2. Substitution – use a safer alternative material, tool, or piece of equipment.

  3. Engineering controls – adapt tools or equipment to reduce the risk.

  4. Administrative controls – change work practices, enhance training opportunities and standardize procedures.

  5. Personal protective equipment (PPE) – this should be the last option after you have considered all other options for your process or task.



So what can you do as a new employee starting out on a new project, using a new material or piece of equipment, or creating a new process? Remember that you have are a fresh set of eyes on many of the existing procedures at that company, so use it to your advantage. On the manufacturing floor, ask “is there a safer way to run this task to avoid a human interface with the hazard?”. When in the lab, ask “can I use a different chemical or material which is less dusty, flammable, or hazardous and meet the same objective?”. In design of new equipment, ask “where can somebody injure themselves on this unit, and what can I build into the design to keep this from taking place?” At your desk, ask “Is there a more ergonomic position for me to be sitting in while typing this report?”.

There are myriad other questions to ask, but these examples give you a feel for the change in thinking that will allow you to successfully identify and control hazards in a broader context. When you heighten your awareness of hazard recognition and begin thinking critically about how to remove your exposure to hazards in the first place, you benefit, as well as your colleagues and company. By taking a holistic approach to safety considerations, you demonstrate your commitment to an injury-free workplace and build a safety foundation that will serve you well in your career as an engineer.

You can find more information Hierarchy of Controls at


"Safety is not a gadget but a state of mind."
-Eleanor Everet



Authored by an ECS guest.