SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Do You or Your Supervisors Really Care About Worker Safety?
As our country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic,
we all must take a new look at our programs
and how we conduct ourselves at work. As we head
back to work each day, our minds are often occupied with
things we’re going to do after our shift ends. Social Distancing,
stop by the store, have dinner with a friend. Binge-watch
the many tv seasonal shows or your other favorite tv
show or maybe you go out for a walk or take your children
to the park to enjoy your free time with them. And while
we think about all of these wonderful things, we are fully
expecting that we’ll be able to go home and do them as
planned. But all of that could change in an instant.
No one goes off to work thinking that someone is going
to get injured or killed that day. And yet it happens. Workplace
accidents claim thousands of lives each year, and
leave hundreds of thousands of workers injured. Take a moment
to see what kind of accidents OSHA is investigating
by following this link https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/
enforcement/. I bet you will find machine guarding
as being a part of this list.
Whether it happens to you, a loved one, or an employee,
a workplace accident or illness can drastically change the
course of your day, your evening, and your life.
Recently I worked on six legal cases representing employees
who had received amputations on machinery that were
not properly safeguarded. I fired one major client because
we found 685 machines that were unsafe in their plant but
they wanted us to change the report. This same company
was averaging 36 machinery amputations every year. Do
you know why anyone would want us to commit fraud? The
reason was that they were selling
company to company and the
CEO of this company did not
want the buyers to know how bad
the machinery was in that plant.
I have been in the safety, health and
environmental field for the last fortysix
years and I have conducted thousands
of audits, investigated hundreds
of serious accidents and fatalities and
do you know what I found out? That
in virtually every case the leaders of
the company, all the way down to the
workers, did not know what was in
their safety manuals, that management
did not conduct Job Safety &
Health Analysis (JSHA) or they did
not receive training in the owners/operator’s
manuals and until someone
was seriously injured.
My answer is this “No” not as
long as the company was making
money. But most people are ignorant
of the hidden cost of those injuries
no matter how small they may be. Do you as an owner
of a company want to make money? Then ask any of your
supervisors if they can answer various questions out of the
safety, health or environmental manual without them having
to look them up. Safety & Health policies are the lifeblood of
a company and if you or your workers do not know what
these documents state, then like the COVID-19 virus, sooner
or later it is going to hit your company and its profits.
What Is Workplace Safety?
For many business owners and managers, workplace safety
is about keeping up with various industry standards and
OSHA regulations. Safety is viewed as important, but primarily
from a CYA perspective, with the main goal being to make
sure the company is officially in compliance, and won’t be hit
with costly fines or lawsuits. But workplace safety should be
about more than just meeting standards and avoiding penalties.
It should be about working smarter and safer to ensure
that everyone gets to go home at the end of their shift.
A safe work environment is a productive one. No matter the
size or type of the business, procedures for safety in the workplace
are a necessity for all staff. Safety measures protect employees
as well as equipment and business property. Avoiding
or minimizing injuries and damage to equipment and facilities
will result in fewer expenses and more profit for a business.
Workplace Safety Hazard Identification
Identifying workplace safety hazards and issues is the first
step in protecting employees. Common work safety concerns
can include ergonomics, presence of hazardous chemicals, me-
chanical problems, noise pollution, restricted visibility, dangers
of falling and weather-related hazards. Issues with nonergonomic
equipment may cause human health problems,
including sore backs and carpal tunnel syndrome. Chemicals
can explode, causing burns, or pose the danger of poisoning.
Mechanical safety issues can occur related to the operation
of any machine in the workplace. Noise and visibility
issues can compromise an employee’s hearing and sight.
Falls resulting from poor housekeeping or negligence can
cause serious injury and death; procedures should be in
place to prevent them. Ice, snow and rain can create hazards
of their own; employees need to be trained how to operate
equipment safely when weather conditions are bad.
Workplace Safety Policies
Each business should have a safety policy in place, created
either by management or in a joint effort between
management and staff. Every employee has a role in carrying
out the safety policies. A safety handbook should be created
identifying safety issues and spelling out consequences
of not following the appropriate safety procedures.
Importance of Safety Training
Training is necessary so that employees will know the importance
of safety and how to practice safety in the workplaces.
Depending on the type of equipment used, the training may
be required by a federal mandate. For example, any workplace
that operates a forklift must provide training for employees for
its safe operation. Training can come from outside experts hired
to teach classes or employees specially trained to perform
Workplace Safety Equipment
Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be
available to anyone who comes in contact with a potential
work safety hazard. This can include hard hats, protective
eyewear, earplugs, shoes, gloves and clothing. Even an office
worker who delivers a message to a work area near a potential
safety hazard must put on the appropriate PPE.
Benefits of Workplace Safety
Safety in the workplace results in fewer accidents, which
results in fewer costs for worker’s compensation, less down
time for employees, and less retraining time for workers
otherwise needed to replace an injured worker. Avoiding
damage to equipment will result in fewer repair costs.
Worker performance is improved when workers know how
to prevent injuries and have confidence in management's
active role in protecting their safety.
If you have any questions regarding
Safety & Health or Machine Safeguarding,
which is still in the top ten OSHA
citations, contact me. My lawsuits all
say that management may have had
programs in writing but rarely are they
following them and we live in a world
where we have a throw away worker
society. If someone gets seriously injured
they do not feel the pain but the
injured employee does and some will
never go home to their families.
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.