Doing nothing can lead to great costs
When you fail to address a small safety issue – say the repair of an electrical cord – what does that say about your approach to the bigger safety issues? How does it affect the level of responsibility your employees are willing to take for following safety and other guidelines?
Don’t skip the job safety analysis
We see many employers skipping the job safety analysis. It takes time, and the benefits aren’t immediately evident. Still, the benefits can be substantial.
We had a client who didn’t analyze the safety of a particular crane operation. An employee disconnected the crane, not realizing the danger he introduced by leaving a product free-standing. When he returned to re-connect the crane, the product collapsed, and he was severely injured. The company had a workers’ comp claim of more than $1 million, plus a significant OSHA fine, not to mention the time lost on that project and in dealing with the aftermath of the accident.
A 20-minute analysis and training effort could have avoided it all. Fortunately, the worker recovered, and we were able to help the client come up with a plan for managing that risk in the future. Based on the plan, OSHA reduced its fine.
Involve those who are doing the job now
It may be hard to calculate the risk on the front side to justify the extra time for a job safety analysis. But it’s the right thing to do. Anytime you acquire a new piece of equipment or apply an existing piece of equipment to a new task, you should analyze the safety issues.
- Conduct a roundtable assessment with those who are doing the job.
- Observe the work as it’s happening and note the critical safety steps.
- Review your analysis of the equipment and the task every year for any changes in the process or use of the equipment.
Include seemingly low-risk decisions, too
You should get into the habit of consulting with Safety on every purchase, even something that seems like a low-risk decision. For example, we heard about a company that purchased uniform shirts with a new, breathable fabric. The look was great, and the employees appreciated how cool the new shirts kept them. But they realized later that the fabric was not flame resistant – posing a serious risk. No one was hurt, but their new shirts were a total loss.
In another case, a client purchased several new end-controlled rider pallet trucks. Only after using them for a while did they notice a pattern: employees were getting their feet caught on the backside of them and having accidents. They had to get rid of the trucks, which cost $14,000 apiece.
Apply controls to manage risk
Making safety review a cultural norm will always pay off in the long run. If you’ve done an analysis and applied risk management controls, OSHA may view the situation in a better light.
Risk management controls could include:
Cutting cement is a common situation where risk control is needed. Controls are needed to help reduce the amount of dust employees inhale. For this, your controls could be:
- Make the environment safer by using wet-cutting techniques or dust mitigation systems (engineered control)
- Rotate workers to spread out the length of exposure (administrative control)
- Add extra personal protective equipment, such as respirators, to lessen worker exposure (personal protection)
These simple steps to address visible safety issues can protect you in the long run. And they can increase your employees’ respect for following the safety process so they become partners with you in managing your risk.
by Aaron Paris, ASP, Director of Safety