"Line of Fire" Hazards

May 24, 2021

“Line of fire” hazards exist whenever the path of a moving object intersects with a person’s body. Consider the following examples:
  • A worker in the path of moving equipment or vehicles (forklifts, end loaders, trucks, rolling stock, etc.).
  • A worker next to unstable materials that could shift or collapse (granular commodities, bulk bags, pallets, boxes, etc.).
  • Working next to objects under tension (cable, rail, and barge winches; conveyor belts; etc.).
  • A worker in close proximity to stored energy (hydraulic, steam, gravity, pneumatic, etc.).
  • A worker under suspended or supported loads that could fall (overhead crane and forklift loads, end loader buckets, etc.).
The key to avoiding line of fire hazards is to identify, eliminate, or control these hazards whenever possible. Identification is best achieved through job hazard analysis. 

This involves breaking jobs into steps and identifying the hazards within each step. Consider implementing the following strategies to address identified “line of fire” hazards. 

These strategies are listed in order from most favorable to least favorable.
  • Elimination involves physically removing the hazard from the work area. For example, relocating unstable objects on the top level of a storage rack.
  • Engineering controls involve isolating workers from the hazard. For example, using barriers to separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic or guards around moving machinery parts.
  • Administrative controls involve changing the way work is performed. For example, implementing lockout/tagout procedures that require dissipation of stored energy prior to servicing or maintaining equipment or implementing red zone procedures around railcars.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) involves protecting the worker with various forms of PPE. For example, utilizing eye and face protection when working near liquids under pressure.

Source: Joe Mlynek is president of Progressive Safety Services LLC, Port Clinton, OH: joe.mlynek@progressivesafety.us, and content creator for Safety Made Simple Inc., Olathe, KS; joe@safetymadesimple.com

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