I’ve been thinking about ways that we can simplify our safety systems and procedures. What made me think about this was a conversation I had recently with the owner of a small company concerning his safety program. He was concerned about the amount of time and energy that would be required to maintain the program he’d instituted to protect his employees. This really made me start thinking about alternate ways that can be utilized to reduce the amount of time required by an accident, or even just a violation of the safety procedures adopted in a small shop. Most of the owners or managers of small enterprises that I know of want to do the right thing insofar as a safety program is concerned. Due to the busy nature of their jobs, however, finding the time to research the causes of accidents or to explain the importance of established safety procedures—or even punishing the lack of concern shown when established procedures are not followed—can take an extraordinary amount of their time that could otherwise be used to increase sales or production.
So how do we help these small shops that don’t have the resources to employ one or more individuals to concentrate on the safety program alone? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately, and I have come up with a few suggestions. I’d like to solicit any help you can offer, however, so please contact me at the e-mail address listed at the end of this column if you have any input you’d care to share. Here are my suggestions:
1) Use signage. The signs don’t have to be elaborate, or polished. With today’s easy to use computer programs anyone can make signs that make your safety concerns obvious and easy to understand. The key, as I see it, is making sure the sign’s message is clear and that it’s placed in a spot that’s highly visible. The signs should point out the obvious hazard, and the correct way of combating it. Make your signs as concise as possible, because you do not want employees spending lots of time reading it. It’s intended to be a reminder, not a trainer.
2) Provide training. I know, training your people takes valuable time away from the production floor. However, when you consider the time lost when an employee that has not been adequately trained has an accident that results in an injury to themselves or a fellow employee, the amount of time spent on proper safety training is a small loss of production compared to the alternative.
3) Formal safety manual. Again, I know, creating a proper formal safety manual is a time consuming project, and as I have noted in previous columns it is and should be an ever-evolving project. There are many Web sites that sketch out the bare bones of a proper manual and offer the information free or for a minimal fee. If you are creating your first safety manual I strongly urge that you do a little surfing online to find these helpful sites. Their help will actually take hours off the time needed to create a proper manual. Don’t forget that many of these sites are government sponsored, or belong to government agencies, and if you use and reference them it may go a long way toward helping you in the case of an inspection or even a nasty lawsuit. Remember that this is only new to you. Many others in your position have gone through similar processes, and now you can benefit from what they learned along the way.
4) Create checklists. This may be your biggest timesaver. Every time you have a safety meeting, training session, review or—God forbid—have an accident follow-up, there are certain items that must be covered. It is very difficult if not impossible to remember every item off the top of your head, and very time consuming to have to go through your safety manual in its entirety each time to be sure you covered everything. I therefore suggest that you create short checklists for each of the scenarios that may occur so you can be sure that critical questions are asked and answered. This will really save a lot of time and make your job easier.
I hope these suggestions will help you in some way, and don’t forget that I would really appreciate your input! Any comments you can provide will appear in a future installment of this column.