Terry McDonald: Site Safety

Seeking input from your employees is one of the best ways of helping you create—and update—a comprehensive and effective safety plan.

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Well, here we are again, it’s springtime. As I write this column—which was composed in early April, by the way—I am looking out the window at the snow that is coming down. Of course, we know it won’t last long, and soon the flowers will be blooming and the grass will need mowing. As beautiful as it is, it’s also the season that asthma and allergy sufferers dislike the most. We must remember as employers that some of our employees probably suffer from this illness, and it is important that we understand that this will very likely diminish their ability to perform all of their duties to their usual standards. We must do everything in our power to make the workplace as allergy free as possible. Simple air cleaners can help, and they really aren’t too expensive. They also move the air in the shop, which can be a good thing. It’s also a good policy to keep tissues available in the workplace, as well as a trash can for disposal of the used tissues. Little things like that can really improve your employee’s morale and help them keep working through this period of heavy pollen production.

I have been wondering, what do your fellow employees think about your company’s safety program? Do they understand it? Do they agree with it? Do they feel that it is just another excuse to have meetings, and they are not fully a part of the program? I find that one of the hardest things for a safety leader to do is to convey the fact that the things they are doing and saying should be taken seriously and adhered to by everyone in the company. When discussing safety issues, either with an individual or the entire company, it is imperative that the language be such that the audience is convinced that the issues are in their best interest, and that they have to be involved themselves in order to ensure the best safety practices for everyone. The old cliché that goes “if you are not part of the answer, then you are part of the problem” is probably one of the truest statements that can be made regarding your company’s safety practices. It is important that in explaining the purpose of the company’s safety standards we make sure that our audience realizes that these standards are there in order to make their jobs easier, not to cause them additional work or to make the company look better. It is important to appeal to their self esteem and personal fulfillment so that they want to be a part of their employer’s good safety record. A big part of accomplishing this has to do with listening. It is amazing how well the actual workers understand the hazards of performing their duties, and if their thoughts are recognized and acted upon, the level of cooperation that you will get is even more impressive. In other words, do not enter into any safety discussion with the attitude of “this is the only answer, and it must be done my way.” You will be surprised by the great input you will receive if you really listen to the workers’ comments. I have found this to be my best source of information when it comes to creating a solid, workable safety program.

On another note, I recently read a article on what one should do if the lights go out in an industrial environment. Many of our facilities are constructed without much natural light available, if any. How do you evacuate your workers if the lights go out? They have actually instituted laws on this in the state of New York since the 9/11 incident, and I suspect that this will become common everywhere in the near future. The article was about the installation of “photo luminescent” materials to guide people out of buildings in the case of a power outage, a fire, or a similar situation. I recommend that you read the article in Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, it was very enlightening… pun intended!

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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].