The Southeast Arkansas Human Resources and Safety Committee hosted a seminar Tuesday to teach people about safety in the workplace with an eye toward preventing accidents. About 95 people attended the seminar at Southeast Arkansas College. It featured several governmental agency speakers including Ralph Hudson, deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Labor. Hudson asked people to be mindful of safety in using machines and equipment.


“Our approach is to provide basic information with respect to safety and how the workers in Arkansas can work in a safe manner [and] recognize particular risk factors,” Hudson said.


Hudson showed a video of accidents in which one person suffered an explosion in one’s hands and another person’s head was crushed between two stationary objects. He asked people to care more about not being injured or killed versus fearing the prospect of losing one’s job. Arkansas Department of Labor safety administrator Clark Thomas gave a presentation about dangers regarding commuting to work. He said each person is empowered to protect oneself and to help one’s colleagues.


“[We are here] to make companies aware that government is there to help,” Thomas said. “We hope the end result will be a reduction in accidents, injuries and deaths. This conference is designed to make individuals self-sufficient in identifying unsafe acts and unsafe conditions.”


Thomas said there is another seminar about violence in the workplace with the goal of preventing it through recognizing volatile people. Thomas advised people to call police immediately when a colleague is making threats and to avoid confrontations.


“You do want to make sure the people in charge are notified of any issue that is abnormal,” Thomas said. “The bottom line is you do not want to do anything to aggravate the situation. Knowing how to talk to the person in a calm manner is defusing the situation.”


People who suffer from emotional problems and who have been dismissed from their jobs may blame their former managers or former colleagues, he said. That sets the stage for confrontations, he said. Thomas discussed roofers who need to take multiple safety precautions.


“If you work on a roof, you want to prevent fall hazards and wear personal-protective equipment that prevents falls,” he said. “Or you want to make sure you construct a barrier called guardrails that prevent people from falling.”


Thomas advised construction crews on highways to install clear signage, to set up physical blockades to close lanes to motorists, to wear reflective vests and to direct motorists away from closed lanes. He said people who work with electrical equipment need to ground their equipment to prevent electrocution. Carlos Reynolds is the area director for the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He discussed fatalities in the workplace from falls, crushing accidents and electrocutions.


“Safety and health is everybody’s job,” Reynolds said. “That’s why the Arkansas Department of Labor has these worker safety conferences not only in Pine Bluff but across the state.”


One fatality in the workplace is one too many, he said. Eleven people in Arkansas died in the workplace during the last federal fiscal year, he said.


“We like to see great attendance at these conferences,” Reynolds said. “People will take this information and share it. They may be indirectly saving someone’s life.”