If you look up “line of fire” in the dictionary, it means “the place where bullets are being shot.” While this is not a hazard in many workplaces, other types of “line of fire” hazards exist in most, if not all work environments. “Line of fire” hazards exist whenever the path of a moving object intersects with a person’s body.

Consider These Examples

  • A worker in the path of moving equipment or vehicles (forklifts, end loaders, trucks, rolling stock).
  • A worker next to unstable materials that could shift or collapse (granular commodities, bulk bags, pallets, boxes).
  • Working next to objects under tension (cable, rail, and barge winches, mooring lines, conveyor belts).
  • A worker in close proximity to stored energy (hydraulic, steam, gravity, pneumatic).
  • A worker under suspended or supported loads that could fall (overhead crane and forklift loads, end loader bucket, etc.)

The key to avoiding “line of fire hazards” is to identify, eliminate, or control these hazards whenever possible by implementing the strategies within the hierarchy of controls. Identification is best achieved through job hazard analysis efforts. This involves breaking jobs or tasks into steps and identifying the hazards within each step. Consider implementing the following strategies to address “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.
  • 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.

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Joe Mlynek is a partner and subject matter expert at Safety Made Simple, Inc. He has over 25 years of experience in safety at the corporate level and as a consultant. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and Occupational Safety and Health Technician (OHST). Joe can be reached at [email protected]