Terry McDonald: Site Safety

Developing a safety program is commendable, but if it isn't reviewed, updated, and discussed in a consistent manner then you're not getting the return on your efforts—and the protection–that you should.

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How consistent is your safety program? Do you hold training and brainstorming meetings that focus on safety? Do you change your signage regularly, and do you conduct periodic inspections? Do you have a schedule for reviewing your safety manual and adding any necessary updates? Are your safety leaders consistently held responsible for their participation in these activities, and are they supported by management? If you can honestly answer yes to all of these questions, then I want to be the first person to congratulate you. You are doing an outstanding job, and I would imagine that the safety record in your facility is exemplary. But if you are like most of us and are somewhat lacking in the consistent application of the safety program, I would like to say that one of the most critical areas is consistency—always has been, and always will be. If you don’t have a schedule of dates and times when everything mentioned above are planned to take place, then you are not being consistent. If your safety program isn’t consistent, then it may as well not exist at all. And your employees, as well as your employers, have a right to expect that degree of protection on the shop floor.

I have a suggestion that may help you keep up to date on your safety schedule: Try providing a feedback sheet to all attendees at each of the safety sessions that you hold. This will have many benefits such as providing a record of attendance, a source for future subjects to be covered, and a scorecard on how well the sessions are being received. As facilitators we all need feedback to be assured that we are covering the necessary topics and not just providing a break to the attendees. You may even consider having the attendees fill out the feedback form during the break rather than at the end of the session, as this may allow you to tailor the session to address needs immediately instead of having to wait for the next session. I have also seen an advertisement for a software product called “Workplace Accident Investigator” by J.J. Keller & Associates that looks like it might be a valuable tool [www.jjkeller.com]. If any of you have used this product, I would appreciate your comments. I can be reached at both the number and e-mail address listed at the end of this column.

Just some updates: In the month of May OSHA issued fines totaling $931,450.00. This was split between six companies. I also saw that there was a debate in the U.S. Senate concerning OSHA’s failures to investigate and remedy corporate-wide health and safety violations. This was introduced by a partnership of seven unions called “Change to Win.” Keep this in mind.

The “Tooth Tips” column in this issue of the magazine discusses robotics. This is a method of part handling that is becoming more and more of a factor in our gear-manufacturing world. What does this mean to the safety of our employees? Well, it certainly will insert a whole new way of thinking when it comes to safety. First of all, robots will eliminate some of the dangers we now face in our part-handling methods—such as burrs, sharp edges, and excessive weights—but it also brings a whole new set of hazards to the table. For instance, how do we make sure that our employees are not harmed or otherwise injured by these robots? Remember that robots will continue to move until they reach the end of their programmed move or are shut down, so guarding becomes much more of a requirement. Robots can only “see” an employee or obstruction if it is equipped with a vision system, and even then the software has to be advanced enough to recognize an obstacle that can cause a safety hazard. Robotics also makes the lockout/tagout procedure mandatory. Anyone working in the area of the robotics can only be completely protected when power is absolutely disengaged. Do I think robots are a bad thing? No, absolutely not. Robotics is a viable and useful technology that will continue to make our jobs easier, faster, and better, but with the addition of robotics we must concern ourselves with the safety of our employees. This is a new area for most of us and it deserves our utmost consideration, as we do not want to create hazards for our employees that we don’t even recognize.