Terry McDonald: Site Safety

Workplace safety doesn’t have to take a lot of time, energy, or money, just an awareness of the importance of education and attitude.

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This column is dedicated to safety in the gear-cutting industry, and while safety is of the utmost importance, it is typically a very boring and time-consuming topic. We’ve all seen piles of literature on safety, and our usual reaction is “everybody knows that,” or “do these people think I am made of money?” This column is going to try to make the topic of safety understandable, enforceable, and attainableãwithout breaking your checkbook.

Safety affects us all. If one of our coworkers is hurt on the job, we all suffer. The cost of insurance goes up — again — and our reaction to the injury is that we become overcautious, we slow production, and time is lost commiserating with the injured party, the human-resources people, and the safety committee. The supervisors also get involved looking for the root of the problem, and there is usually a program instituted to assure that the injury does not occur again. All of these steps are costly, and they directly affect our bottom line.

Too often our stance on safety is to post the required warning signs and posters, tell our people “don’t do that,” and hope for the best. Obviously, not all accidents can be prevented. However, with proper training and enforcement, most of them can be. Some of the simpler things we can do that will help are:

  • Obtain a copy of the ANSI B11.11 Standard, and verify that equipment meets this standard. If the equipment does not meet the standard, contact the manufacturer for assistance.
  • Supply the operators and/or setup personnel with the proper safety equipment: i.e. eye protection, hearing protection, a clean environment, and hand protection for handling sharp cutting tools.
  • Make sure the operators and setup personnel are familiar with the nearest first-aid station.
  • Verify that the operators and setup personnel are properly trained in the use of the equipment.
  • Make sure that the operators and setup personnel use the proper procedures when setting up and operating the equipment.

    None of these suggestions require any large expenditure of money or time, and they can save so many of the small, irritating accidents that can plague any company. Notice that all of these items require the involvement of the supervisor; this is one area of training that can often be neglected. The supervisors simply do not have the time to learn all of the things listed above, yet if they do not, none of them can be applied or enforced. It is imperative that the supervision be trained as well, if not better, than the personnel they are supervising.

    In the coming months, this column will cover areas such as OSHA, maintenance personnel, where to obtain the information needed, new safety equipment that’s available, and various laws, regulations, and rules that apply to our industryãas well as the basics of safety. There are many aspects of safety that should be considered.

    I was recently in a plant located in the state of Wisconsin. While there hasn’t been a lot of snow this year, it has been cold and dark and, therefore, depressing. I noticed that none of the operators, setup people, or their supervisors were in a very good mood. I assumed this was also due to the poor economy. This attitude contributes directly to the accident rate of a company. A person that is depressed or generally unhappy is not concentrating on their job and is much more likely to be hurt in a careless accident. This is a situation that’s hard to defeat. All of us must show concern for our fellow employees and make the workplace a happy one that the employees will be glad to come to and where they can get away from their problems rather than have them amplified. The management and supervision of maintaining a good attitude and positive reinforcement to the employees can achieve this. We can pat them on the back, give them training as a break from their normal duties, keep them well-informed on the condition of the company and future plans, and make them feel that they are a part of the picture.