Why are we still having accidents?
Check your Standard Practices and your Safety Culture.
So you’ve got all your required OSHA programs in place: Hazard Communication, Lockout/Tagout, Confined Space, Personal Protective Equipment, etc. You completed all of your required training last year. Your safety program looks great on paper, all the elements are there. But you are still too many having accidents. What gives?
Look at the Data
Where are the predominant areas where incidents are occurring (look at everything, not just OSHA recordables) Are there any trends that can be identified based on location, activity, production schedules, employee tenure, day of week, time, etc.?
What are your Standard Practices?
The written procedures may say one thing, but what’s really going on in the work area? Are people taking shortcuts? Is the procedure out-of-date or maybe it doesn’t even work as it’s written? Look at what people are actually doing, not what the procedures say they should be doing.
Talk to your employees, find out what their issues are and get their ideas for improving safety in the area. Challenge the notion of “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
Hazards and Controls – Do you automatically jump to PPE?
Is there any kind of organized effort to evaluate the real hazards of tasks and identify reasonable controls? Or do you simply slap PPE on everything and everyone? This solution can cause employees to be so bogged down with equipment that they are hindered from doing their tasks effectively.
The hierarchy of hazard controls should walk through a series of steps to find the right control that works in a given situation:
• Elimination – Can we get rid of the hazard completely?
• Substitution – Is it possible to trade out a hazardous material or equipment for one that is less so?
• Engineering Control – Can something be designed to create a barrier between the hazard and the person?
• Administrative Controls – Through policies and procedures or training, can we limit the exposure or educate the workers to perform tasks in a way that minimizes the risk?
• Warnings – Are our signs and alarms effective?
• Personal Protective Equipment – Have I looked at all other options?
Anytime a hazard is identified, there should be some measure of interim control implemented until the final solution can be completed. PPE should be the hazard control method of last resort!
What is your Safety Culture?
It’s important to recognize the true culture of your organization. Every workplace has a Safety Culture, but it may not necessarily be a good one. Some important questions to ask yourself are:
• Do we sacrifice safety for the sake of production?
• Do supervisors and managers ignore safety issues and hope they’ll go away?
• Do employees or supervisors walk by a safety hazard and not even notice it?
• When someone puts themselves at risk (either knowingly or unknowingly) does another person intervene to stop them?
• Do we talk a lot about safety in meetings, but when push comes to shove and the product has to get out the door, do we forget about it?
• Is safety a value or a priority in this company?
In order to take a safety program beyond the “looks good on paper” phase, an organization must start facing the tough decisions and be willing to challenge their pre-existing notions about their everyday practices and their attention to safety.
Management commitment, employee involvement, worksite analysis and hazard recognition and controls are the elements needed to truly eliminate accidents and build a strong Safety Culture where safety becomes “The way we do business.”
Posted on Mon, February 20, 2012
by Leslie Rex Stockel, CSP