Terry McDonald: Site Safety

One of the worst mistakes you could make during trying economic times would be cutting your safety program, which would expose your company to major liability.

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All we hear on the radio, see on television, or read in the newspapers and on the Internet these days seems to be bad news about the economy. It would appear that all of manufacturing is in big trouble, and that we’re all in a situation where we must cut payroll and expenses wherever we can in order to survive. You know all about this, of course, but I want to express my concern that you might feel that your safety program is an easy target for cost cutting. In reality, our safety programs are absolutely the last place that should be considered for cutting costs. In times such as these we’re requiring our employees to accomplish more while working the same, or even fewer hours. In tight times we ask a lot of our employees—more, even, than we do in good times. It only makes sense, therefore, that it’s even more important that we have a good, active safety program in place. Our employees deserve the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), the best possible safety training, and our utmost attention to any possible hazardous situation. This is true in the best of times, of course, just as it is right now.
Unfortunately, when money is tight, it’s the little things that get put off—or cut off altogether. If your employees do not have the proper ear or eye protection, it’s easy to look for the cheapest possible alternative instead of searching for the best PPE. This is not the way to save money, because this approach leaves you wide open to tremendous liability, and only one accident can literally put your company out of business. That’s why it’s even more important in trying economic times to be sure and put safety first.
In the last issue of Gear Solutions we discussed seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. A large part of this disorder is caused by stress, which is becoming more common in workplace settings and elsewhere. I recently read that approximately 80 percent of all adults in this country suffer from some level of stress. Are there things we can do to alleviate some of the stress that we’re under? There are a number of Web sites that have good information on combating stress in the workplace. 
Among them are www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/stress and www.stress.org/2001harris.pdf. These two sites are a start, but there are many more available once you start looking for information on this subject. With the economy such as it is, and everyone’s 401K tanking, stress is a very real hazard in today’s workplace, so we need to do all that we can to help our employees combat stress.
In other matters, how many of you actually keep up with OSHA requirements? There is a new administration in power now, which will bring an infusion of people with new ideas into the safety environment. Will you be able to keep up with the changes we know will be coming? Many have felt that for the last number of years OSHA has been held down from really tackling the problems existing in the workplace due to lack of funding and backing from the administration. I expect there will be major changes in the next few years, and we all should be prepared to deal with them. I think that regular trips to www.osha.gov will have to be a major item on your agenda. Will it help, or just cause more paperwork? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if we don’t keep up with OSHA regulations we are exposing our company to a slew of problems, not all of which can be solved by simply paying a fine. So stay informed, and save your money for safety equipment!  
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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].