Staying Safely out of the Line of Fire

To safety professionals, line of fire hazards occur when a worker is in the danger zone if a release of energy would cause the worker to be hit, struck, pinched, impaled, crushed, caught between objects. Injuries from line of fire accidents range from minor, such as a pinched finger, all the way to a fatality.

Line of fire hazards should be discussed and evaluated during the preparation of your Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or Activity Hazard Analysis (AHA). Consider if your work or task will involve the release of energy in a manner that might cause a worker to have to position their body in a fashion that could cause injury if the energy was suddenly released. For example, when removing bolts from a pipe flange, could there still be some residual pressure in the line that could cause the flange to shift and cause the bolt or nut to be launched towards a worker? Could there be a release of high-pressure fluid or steam in the direction of a worker that could be avoided if the worker was standing in a different location during the work?

When working with hand tools, what is the potential that a worker’s hand or fingers could become pinched by the tool as it is rotated during the task being performed? Should a different tool be used to eliminate the potential line of fire pinching hazard, such as a longer handle on the tool or by holding the tool in a different position?

Lifting, pulling, and pushing operations have a high potential for worker injury when things go wrong and often can put workers in the line of fire. Worker location and body position should always be considered and discussed in the Job Safety Analysis for this type of work activity. “What if” scenarios can be useful discussion tools for evaluating these types of hazards. For example, what if a strap or cable were to become detached or break during the pulling or lifting operation? Where should workers be standing to be out of the line of fire zone in this scenario? When pushing or loading, are workers on the opposite side of the load potentially in the line of fire if the load shifts or topples? Workers should never be positioned or allowed under a load that is being lifted.

Pipe and other rounded equipment and supplies can cause struck by; struck against; caught in/under/between; hazards to workers.

Rotating equipment hazards are always something that should be reviewed in the Job Safety Analysis process. Rotating equipment has the potential of causing injury to hands and fingers as well as causing other objects, such as workers’ clothing to be entangled and pulled into the equipment. Line of fire hazards can be reduced by proper engineering controls such as guards to prevent contact with the rotating equipment.

There are many power tools where worker body position is critical to stay safety out of the line of fire. A prime example is the nail gun.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have safety tips that address line of fire hazards associated with nail guns. Consider the following quote from NIOSH regarding line of fire issues related to nail guns when preparing your JSA:

“Nailing in awkward positions where the tool and its recoil are more &difficult to control may increase the risk of injury. These include &toe-nailing, nailing above shoulder height, nailing in tight quarters, &holding the nail gun with the non-dominant hand, nailing while on a &ladder, or nailing when the user’s body is in the line of fire &(nailing towards yourself). Toe-nailing is awkward because the gun cannot &be held flush against the work piece. Nailing from a ladder makes it &difficult to position the nail gun accurately. Nailing beyond a &comfortable reach distance from a ladder, elevated work platform, or &leading edge also places the user at risk for a fall.” A nail gun is &but one example of the many different power tools that should be &considered for line of fire hazards in your Job Hazard Analysis.

General line of fire hazard mitigation techniques can include, but are not limited to, proper setup of barricades around the work zone. Installing netting or other cover below work area where objects could fall on workers below. Securing tools and equipment by using tethers, so the tools can not go far if a worker does loose grip on the tool, is another possible hazard mitigation technique.

The following video can be used as a refresher on-line of fire hazards during the preparation of the Job Safety Analysis or Activity Hazard Analysis.

A good Job Safety Analysis or Activity Hazard Analysis will identify line of fire hazards in the pre-job planning phase and bring awareness of these hazards to the workforce prior to implementation of the planned tasks. is a fantastic on-line job safety analysis app to assist in preparing your JSA or AHA. Set up a free trial account today and follow us on Twitter @JSABuilder, where we Tweet about Health and Safety, provide Safety tips, and updates on current Health and Safety topics.