Terry McDonald: Site Safety

Equipment maintenance keeps your machines running smoothly, but have the personnel assigned to the task received the proper training to handle it safely? Put safety first and avoid unnecessary injuries.

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Do you put safety first in your workplace? Are you a safety conscious person… and I mean really safety conscious? I don’t know anyone who’s not in favor of safety, but I know very few people who actually put safety first. We don’t really consider safety before production, for instance, nor do we really consider safety before costs.

We don’t really consider safety before quality, and we don’t even consider safety before we hire someone or purchase a new piece of equipment. So, is “safety first” a viable consideration? Well, let’s consider what we mean when we speak the words. Most of us merely state the phrase with the same conviction we say other things, such as “money isn’t everything” or “cleanliness is next to godliness.” In other words, it’s something we’re supposed to believe in, so we pay it lip service without the slightest intention of truly making it a priority. Safety seems to pretty much be an afterthought these days, and I believe that we as a society are worse off because of it.

“Safety first” means just that: Before we commit to any course of action in our lives, it behooves us to consider the possible hazards associated with the intended course of action. How do we promote this attitude in ourselves, and also in those we have influence over? I have a few suggestions. Each day as you sit down at your desk, or approach your machine or workstation, take a pad of paper with you and label the first page “Safety Suggestions” at the top. Then, write the number one on the first line. Leave it blank for a moment and consider what the first thing is that you’re about to do. As you consider the first order of business ask yourself if there isn’t a way the task could be accomplished more safely. The answer doesn’t have to be groundbreaking revelation. It may be as simple as “I’d better put oil dry on that spot on the floor,” or “Maybe I should recommend better hearing protection with this new machine,” or “I should remember to wear my safety glasses when I’m in the shop.” Whatever your thought is, write it down on the first line. Now number the second line, and if you come up with another safe thought, write it down. Keep doing this throughout the day; trying to dream up safer ways of approaching your activities, and then writing them down. The next morning, do the same thing, but make an attempt to write down more safety-related thoughts than you did the day before. In other words, see if you can increase the number of entries you make each day. While this procedure may seem awkward at first, you will be amazed by how many quick little things you can do that will make your time spent on the job simpler, and safer. One result of this exercise is that you will have compiled a written record of safety tips that everyone on your shop floor can utilize. The best result, of course—besides increased safety—is that you’ll finally be able to say that yes, you are actually putting safety first.

One topic covered in this issue of the magazine is ongoing equipment maintenance. While this procedure contributes to workplace safety in and of itself, how much thought goes into the safety of the employees who are actually performing the maintenance? Does your company require the use of a lockout/tagout procedure? Are your maintenance personnel equipped with the proper tools to perform the required maintenance? Are the tools used maintained properly? All of these factors must be addressed before you can be sure the work is being done in the safest possible manner. One factor that doesn’t seem to be considered very often is the training of the maintenance personnel. In my business I constantly work with various maintenance personnel, and I find that they usually have a minimal amount of training on the equipment they’re expected to keep running properly. I find this to be a very haphazard method of maintaining machinery of any kind, and I would suggest that each employer make a concentrated effort to give these technicians all the training they need. After all, anything they overlook as a result of lacking proper training can be very costly, but more than anything it can be dangerous.

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is partner and manager of Repair Parts, Inc., and a current member and past–chairman of the American National Standards Institute B11.11 Subcommittee on Safety Requirements for Construction, Care, and Use of Gear Cutting Equipment. McDonald writes this monthly column specifically for Gear Solutions magazine, and he can be reached at (815) 968–4499 or rpi@repair–parts–inc.com. The company's Web site is [www.repair–parts–inc.com].