Terry McDonald: Site Safety

As the economy recovers, and companies shift from treading water to moving forward, be sure to equip new employees with the training they'll need to remain safe on the job.

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Hooray, it’s a new year, and we hope that it will be considerably better for all of us in the industry. I know that over the last two or three years we have all had to make some drastic changes in our operations, and while none of us enjoys having to lay people off it seemed to be the only way to survive the downturn. Now that things are looking better we will hopefully be able to bring back the good help that we had to lay off. But what about all the trained help who’ve managed to find a new job? They will not be available, so we will have to search for replacements. This means another training curve will have to be undertaken. As we are all anxious to ramp up our production, it becomes very easy to neglect some important aspects of training such as safety. I would like to emphasize the importance of safety training to all the new hires we are making. Safety training is at least as important to your operation as the ability of your employees to make good parts. It will not only help keep production flowing by eliminating time off for injuries, but it will improve your bottom line. How is that, you say? All you have to do is look at the jump in health insurance rates and those we are paying for workman’s comp insurance, and it is evident that when our employees are well trained and practice safe work practices it will cost us less. Please do not neglect proper safety training for all new hires, as well as for your established employees.

Another thing that occurs with the first of the year is that the new OSHA regulations and fines go into effect. As I indicated in an earlier column this year, the present administration is increasing OSHA’s presence both in terms of frequency of inspections and amount and enforcement of fines. It behooves all of us to keep up to date on the requirements that OSHA enforces. There are new updates on incident reporting, personal protective gear, and a number of changes in the record-keeping requirements. A topic that OSHA seems especially sensitive to is fall protection. How does this apply to gear shops? Well, while manufacturing gears we do not as a rule have to be elevated, although some of the large gears cut today do require the operators, setup people, and especially maintenance people to be at elevated heights. But we all have maintenance to be done on our facility, and this often involves working at heights we are not accustomed to. Whenever something like this occurs we want to make sure that our employees—or even an employee of a company hired just for the repair—is properly protected. These fall protection requirements are changing quickly, so spend some time keeping up to date. It applies to all of us. Personal protective gear is another area that gets prime attention and is subject to almost constant updates and changes. This is another area that you should spend enough time to remain current with.

One more area I would like to address in this first column of the New Year is commonsense practices such as getting your flu shot. If this is something you have put off, schedule the time to take care of it now. It is so simple—the shots are offered in drug stores as well as many community centers and various help centers, so you do not even have to visit the doctor. It is inexpensive and almost always covered by insurance, so there really is no excuse. You will not get the flu from getting a shot, so go ahead; it just might save you a very uncomfortable experience later, and may even prevent death. Also, are you up to date on CPR procedures? There are a number of new techniques that are now recommended. The old CPR classes that you and I attended only apply to a small number of the occurrences that happen. For instance, sudden attacks require that chest compression only be applied at a rate of 100 times a minute. I suggest that you spend some time updating yourself and your employees as to the latest recommended procedures.

Lastly, I would like to belatedly offer each of you my best wishes for a prosperous and happy New Year. I hope that each and every one of you has a safe year ahead! 

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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].