Terry McDonald: Site Safety

An official safety manual is an important part of any company’s safety strategy, but where to begin? Read on to learn how to start the process.


A friend mentioned recently that he had been assigned the job of writing a safety manual for his gear cutting shop. He asked if I had any suggestions as to the form it should take. It occurred to me that there are probably a number of people that could write such a document for their companies, but they just have no idea where to start, so I thought it might be a good idea to list the topics that I feel should be covered in such a manual.

First there should be a statement of the company’s policy concerning safety as it applies to the workplace. This must be clear, concise, and contain a statement of responsibility. This is usually the hardest part of the manual because you want it to be a statement, not a manual in and of itself. The manual should then be divided into sections including but not limited to: Material Handling; Machine Operation and Setup; Machine Maintenance; Hazardous Materials; Emergency Situations; Housekeeping; General Conduct in the Shop; Office Environment; Safety Training Requirements, and others as may apply to your situation. There are many sources of information for help on these topics such as OSHA, NIOSH, and your state institutions. Safety standards such as the B11.11 Standard for Gear Cutting Machines are available from many sources also, such as ANSI and the AMT. There is a recent ANSI standard “Z244.1-2003” Control of Hazardous Energy-Lockout/Tagout and Alternative Methods which is great source material. It is available from the ASSE at [www.asse.org]. Your material should also reference MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets), which should be furnished by your suppliers of materials. I have noticed recently that some of my suppliers are making these available on their Web sites rather than sending copies with the materials.

Your safety manual should also assign responsibilities. By this I mean that even though each individual is ultimately responsible for his or her own safe conduct and actions, there has to be a reporting structure for any observed safety issues whether they result in an accident or not. There also must be responsibilities spelled out for proper record keeping of all safety violations, meetings, proposals, training, and their resolution. I think there should also be a record kept in each employee’s file of when they received their copy of this manual and a signature of the employee that they have read and understand the manual.

Another important issue to cover in your safety manual would be signage. Not only is it important to clearly mark hazardous areas, dangerous chemicals, pinch points, and other dangers, it is equally necessary to clearly mark the location of emergency supplies such as first-aid equipment, wash stations, defibrillators, fire extinguishers, and any other materials that would be used in an emergency.

I hope this brief list will be of some value to you, but if you wish to contact me for further information please feel free to do so through the magazine at the e-mail address listed below.

One subject of this month’s issue is noise analysis. While the topic is referring to the noise created by the mesh of gears running together, from a safety standpoint, noise in the shop environment is a very real safety hazard and should be addressed before it causes real harm in the loss of hearing ability in our employees. Earplugs are cheap insurance against loss of hearing, and if your shop has a noisy environment they should be used. I sometimes think that I should provide them to my grandchildren when they’re listening to music in their cars!

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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].