AbleToTrain by Willing & Able

10 Steps to creating a safe workplace – part 1

As with most professions, safety professionals frequently begin their careers in positions where they are responsible for the day-to-day operations of a jobsite or facility. Someone else is in charge of the “big picture,” whether it’s the Corporate Safety Director or another member of a company’s management.

However, many safety professionals will eventually advance to the next level. They will be expected to ensure the safety of an entire enterprise, not just a single work location. If those professionals who find themselves in this circumstance lack the necessary expertise or experience to focus on a larger range of concerns, they may be bound to failure.

So, what should a safety professional focus on when attempting to create a safe work environment? Of course, there are numerous solutions to this issue, but here are ten critical factors to consider in order to ensure the success of your program:

  1. Management involvement

A safety program that lacks management commitment is akin to a municipal law that lacks the support of local officials; it lacks teeth and will almost certainly never be enforced. As a safety professional responsible for building an organization’s program, you must quickly assess the level of support you have at each level of management. If the top brass isn’t on your side, you can bet that your line managers aren’t either.

If the firm’s executives do support you, urge them to make an announcement – whether at a company meeting, in individual meetings with members of management, or even in an official note – that they support the safety program and demand full participation. If they don’t, you’re in for a tough sale, and you’ll need to find out how to get them on board quickly.

  1. Employee involvement and buy-In

Sure, some people prefer to come to work, be told what to do, complete their tasks, and then leave. However, the vast majority of people are more likely to follow guidelines in which they believe they have a say. This does not imply that you must ask every member of the workforce to contribute to the development of the safety plan, but it does imply that you should make them aware of their importance in the plan’s development. Let’s face it: no one knows a machine better than the guy who has been using it for 25 years. He is familiar with its idiosyncrasies and disposition. He knows how to use it correctly, but he also knows how to use it incorrectly.

This is useful information when installing safety measures, and it lets the operator feel that his knowledge is respected. Suggestion boxes and the all-important Safety Committee are two other ways to get employees involved. Some firms make a tremendous error by limiting this committee to members of the safety department and management, leaving vast amounts of untapped expertise and experience on the plant floor.

  1. Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol)

Some facilities believe that drug and alcohol misuse is a personal issue that will go away if they simply turn a blind eye to it. Worse, I’ve seen some contractors with a beer fridge in their workplace, giving the impression that drinking on the job is not only OK, but also encouraged.

This is a disaster waiting to happen. Drug and alcohol misuse must be stopped in its tracks by enforcing a clearly established policy that is routinely implemented. If you test Joe when he goes to the medical clinic, you should likewise test Mike, unless you want to file a lawsuit.

Pre-employment, random, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion are the four basic methods for testing for drug and alcohol usage. Again, once you’ve established your policy, it must be followed by everyone.

Random testing must be carried out with great care in order to avoid claims of discrimination or harassment. If you decide to use random testing, there are organizations that will execute the program for you to avoid the possibility of someone alleging you are targeting them.

Finally, for “for-cause” or “reasonable suspicion” testing, you must have supervisory workers who have been educated in Substance Abuse Recognition. To safeguard yourself and your firm, attempt to have two trained supervisors independently conclude that the employee is suspected of being under the influence before sending them for testing.

  1. Education

You can’t expect an individual to work properly if they’ve never been trained in the correct safe working methods. What appears to you to be common sense may be the furthest thing from common sense to another.

As safety experts, you and I know this is false and, perhaps, because of our education and experience, believe it should be common sense. In order to create a safe work environment, you must first establish which areas require training based on both statutory requirements and your own hazard assessment. When OSHA arrives on a jobsite for an inspection, one of the first questions they ask is, “Where is the training documentation?”

  1. Make a plan

By winging it, no safety program has ever been successful. Some are fortunate for a time, but those who leave safety to chance will always have incidents. There are several stages of planning: having a documented corporate plan, a site-specific plan if necessary, participating in pre-construction meetings, participating in daily pre-work meetings, doing JHAs (Job Hazard Analyses) or other hazard assessments.

You’ve made headway if you can persuade your bosses that it’s far better to plan ahead of time than to have you stop working. Don’t be excluded from pre-construction meetings. This is an excellent opportunity to learn how the steel erector intends to achieve fall protection and how they intend to maintain it as the project progresses. Morning meetings may provide you with the opportunity to learn that a specific business unit intends to have one of its employees operate a machine that is supposed to be out of service. Participate early and frequently.