Safety First

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

During a recent visit to a client, I took a tour of their new warehouse. Before the tour, we were talking about who would lead the safety initiative at the company.

We decided that the human resource manager should be the person to oversee safety in the workplace.

So how does the HR manager, or any other manager who is delegated the responsibility, influence safety in the workplace?

The answer is simple: proactively. Let’s look at a number of steps that a manager responsible for safety in a manufacturing, distribution or service firm can take to reduce the potential of a workplace accident and a worker’s compensation claim.

Step 1: Be sure that you have a comprehensive safety and health program that includes the following elements: senior management commitment; employee involvement; hazard assessment; hazard prevention and control; and employee training.

Step 2: Maintain a comprehensive and up-to-date safety analysis of health hazards in the workplace. 

Step 3: Require all employees to attend training sessions regularly and keep a record of the specifics of the training and which employees attended.

Step 4: Develop a proactive, preventive maintenance program for all machines and other equipment. Have someone regularly review the program to ensure it is accomplishing its goals.  All defective equipment should be taken out of service immediately. 

Step 5: Consider use of an active safety committee, including rank-and-file employees. If proactive, it can be very helpful.  

Step 6: Communicate the company’s commitment to safety and health unequivocally and clearly to all employees at meetings and in the employee handbook. Such a commitment flows from the top down. 

Step 7: Provide employees with all necessary personal protective equipment that you determine to be necessary or wise as a result of your workplace hazard analysis, the dictates of chemical manufacturers and their material safety data sheets and manufacturers’ requirements outlined in their equipment manuals. Be sure to train all new and newly assigned employees in the proper use of the equipment. Have an experienced employee, a competent person, do the training. Periodically retrain as necessary to ensure compliance.

Step 8: Ensure that all chemicals and other materials are properly

secured and stored away from heat and other volatiles. 

Step 9: Properly dispose of all obsolete materials. Many products can be poured down a drain; others need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Use an approved, licensed waste disposal firm and carrier to handle and dispose of these materials. 

Step 10: Invite your liability and workers compensation insurance carriers to tour your facility and make recommendations on how to improve occupational safety and health. Be sure not to allow your insurance carriers to put in writing any recommendation that you do not believe you can or should follow. Be advised that OSHA will use any such written recommendations against you. 

Step 11: Inspect and test your fire extinguishers on a regular basis. Train employees on the proper use of the extinguishers and on your emergency action plan. Maintain an up-to-date emergency action plan.

Step 12: Consider training a group of employees in CPR and other first aid. Have the training done by a certified firm and recertify employees on an annual basis. 

Step 13: Investigate all accidents and near misses, and review the investigation reports with supervisors of the departments in which the accidents or near misses have taken place. Work with the supervisors to be certain that necessary corrective action is taken.

Step 14: Maintain a binder with copies of all purchase orders for safety products or training programs. 

Step 15: Be certain that your hazard communication program, your chemical lists/inventory and the material safety data sheets you have received are up to date, are filed appropriately in each department, and can be accessed by employees within the work shift in which the employee asks to see them.

Finally, make safety in the workplace a priority by adding "maintenance of a safe workplace" to the standards by which you evaluate the performance of your supervisors. By doing so, you indicate your seriousness about workplace safety and health and hold them accountable for reducing accidents and workers compensation claims. Publish your safety statistics, like the number of days a shift, department or the whole facility has worked without an accident. Require supervisors to hold weekly or monthly safety meetings with the employees for whom they are responsible. 

Promoting and focusing on safety and health in the workplace will result in a reduction of workplace accidents, which will protect your employees, the greatest asset you have, and eventually reduce your workers compensation insurance premiums.

Cary Silverstein, MBA, is the president and CEO of Fox Point-based Strategic Management Associates LLC. He can be reached at (414) 352-5140.

– September 16, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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