Tag Archive | "health and safety"

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Effective Safety Planning Part 1: Establishing a Culture of Safety

Posted on 17 September 2015 by cradmin

No fabricator I know desires to put his or her employees at risk, but at the same time, many do not take all of the precautions recommended by workplace safety organizations, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The two major reasons for this are misunderstanding accepted safety protocols and cost. However, it is possible for fabricators to minimize risk in the workplace without digging into profit, and it all begins with establishing a written safety plan.

Avoiding Losses Through Safety Planning

When workers are injured on the job, the expenses for which employers are liable are very steep. In fact, occupational injuries cost U.S. employers about $170 billion in expenses and lost profits each year.

When your shop operates according to a sound safety plan, minimizing the impact on worker health and well-being, you can expect to experience several benefits, including all of the following:

  • Low premiums for workers’ compensation insurance
  • Decrease in direct medical expenses
  • Reduced overtime expenditures

When your employees are happy, healthy and safe, they are more apt to be on your side in all business endeavors. This indirectly benefits your company in a number of ways:

  • Higher quality products and services
  • Increase in productivity
  • Improved morale
  • Improved worker-management relations
  • Reduced turnover

The Purpose of a Safety Plan

While safety plans are great for spelling out company policy and letting everyone know about specific operating procedures in a variety of situations, the true purpose of a written and practiced plan is to help develop a culture of safety. Government agencies and private researchers have found that a company’s safety culture is the highest determining factor in the number of health and safety incidents experienced during working hours. Because of this, development of a strong safety culture in the workplace is vital in protecting employees and revenue at the smallest possible cost.

What Is Safety Culture?

Safety culture is a shared atmosphere in a workplace consisting of beliefs, attitudes and procedures that can shape the behavior of everyone in a company. Safety culture ranges from poor to strong, and it is created and nurtured by many of the following:

  • Standard operating procedures
  • Attitudes of management and employees
  • Moral values
  • Workplace myths and stories
  • Priorities of management
  • Personal and company accountability
  • Employee motivation and involvement
  • Job and safety training

In companies with a strong safety culture, everyone feels responsible for their own safety and the safety of others, and they deliberately practice all safety measures on a daily basis. In addition, employees in a strong safety culture will easily identify safety hazards, communicating their existence to supervisors. Supervisors, in turn, take all of the necessary steps to eliminate hazards promptly as they are identified.

Establishing and Improving Safety Culture

In most companies, strong safety culture begins with a strong and inclusive organizational culture, but improving safety culture also has the additional benefit of strengthening organizational culture because the process brings everyone together to meet a shared goal. Creating a strong culture of safety is not at all difficult because it directly benefits everyone, from the owner to new trainees, and no one is more aware of this than your frontline workers, which makes employee buy-in a simple matter.

Employees are more apt to jump aboard implementing safety procedures than they are to get behind initiatives focused on improving product quality, increasing productivity or expanding profit margins. However, building a strong safety culture indirectly improves quality, productivity and profit.

Getting employees to buy into safety improvements is simple when compared to top management buy-in. Many managers and supervisors resist under the idea that it will create more work and hurt productivity. However, it is essential to have all top managers aboard before safety culture can be improved. This may require one or more meetings in which planning is discussed and costs analyzed. In most cases, upper management can be swayed by educating them as to the bottom-line costs of safety incidents.

Tips for Building Safety Culture

  • Continue working on buy-in at all levels in the company. The goal is to create a community that fosters open communication and willing acceptance. Try to spell out the exact reasons for building a safety culture and how it will improve the business for everyone involved.
  • Build trust. Both workers and managers need to trust in the bigger picture and trust each other to make the workplace safe.
  • Perform a self-audit. An initial self-assessment will provide you with a benchmark that lets you estimate just what needs to be done to develop a comprehensive safety plan.
  • Form a committee. The most efficient and effective way to develop and implement a safety plan is by forming a focused safety committee.
  • Create vision and mission statements. These will guide every effort in establishing a strong safety culture.
  • Begin training. Key personnel should be given opportunities for general safety and health training.
  • Assign responsibility and hold people accountable. Specific roles in creating and maintaining a safe workplace should be clearly defined, and the people assuming those roles should be held accountable for following through with their duties.
  • Develop a system for receiving and discussing feedback at all levels in the business, and give recognition where it is due.

Next month we continue on the theme of Effective Safety Planning with Part 2: Establishing a Four-Point Plan.

Find more articles on safety in the countertop shop here.

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CountertopResource.com Introduces Health and Safety Watch

Posted on 14 May 2015 by cradmin

a-frame slabsAs many of you know, last March we created and opened a new Countertop Industry Survey, and it has quickly grown to be one of the largest surveys of its kind for the countertop fabrication industry. We hope to learn a number of important facts about our audience and the information you need to make your business the best it can be. The survey doesn’t officially close until tomorrow, but we are already listening to what you have to say and implementing your ideas as they roll in. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, you can do so by clicking here: 2015 Countertop Industry Survey.

One common recommendation that we have received thus far is to bring you more information about health and safety in the workplace. To this end, I have personally been hard at work making new contacts interested in writing professional pieces on the topic, and I have been in contact with the media representatives of Oregon OSHA for further information on accidents and compliance requirements.

While researching health and safety topics, I was alerted about an accident that occurred here in Portland at a large fabrication shop, which will remain nameless in order to protect the company and those involved. According to my sources, several slabs fell on a warehouse worker during transport, causing serious injuries to the employee’s leg and ankle. While this particular accident was minor, it could’ve been much more serious.

From 1984 to 2006, a total of 46 fatalities have occurred in the United States associated with the handling and storage of stone slabs. Three of them, which were associated with slab racking systems, occurred in New England states during an 18-month period.

shib081208_fig2Following are just a few examples:

During the course of business, it can be easy to get caught up in production and demanding schedules, and we may forget about the safety of our employees and others who may be in our warehouses or fabrication shops. It only takes a split second and one overlooked safety procedure for an accident to occur, resulting in serious injuries or even death.

Looking at this issue from a humanitarian point of view, it is impossible to replace a human life, and looking at it from a business standpoint, some companies never recover from the monetary losses, insurance expenses, lawsuits and the social stigma that result from such incidents.

In order to provide a starting point for stone and countertop fabricators, federal OSHA released an official Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) shib081208_fig6regarding the Hazards of Transporting, Unloading, Storing and Handling Granite, Marble and Stone Slabs in 2008. The information in the bulletin is neither a standard nor a regulation but simply a piece of advice “intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.”

According to this SHIB, safety issues occur at four key points for fabricators:

  • Unloading slabs from containers – Employees have been killed when removing wooden supports provided by suppliers to keep slabs from shifting within a container.
  • Storing slabs in a warehouse – Improperly designed or improperly used storage racks, particularly A-frame racks, present a serious danger.
  • Handling and moving slabs – Slabs are often moved using dangerous equipment, including hooks, chains, cranes and industrial trucks.
  • Loading slabs onto trucks – Employees loading slabs onto trucks are exposed to several hazards, such as being caught, struck or crushed.

The SHIB also goes on to provide several general recommendations plus specific recommendations for the storage and in-house transport of stone slabs. A few of the important general recommendations are as follows:

  • Create a safety plan, identifying all potential hazards, hazardous equipment and safe work practices.
  • Develop and implement safety procedures for loading, unloading, storing and handling slabs.
  • Ensure that workers are using the proper equipment for each job.
  • Inspect all material-handling equipment on a regular basis, and repair or replace defective equipment.
  • Train all employees on the proper safety procedures.
  • Observe employees to ensure they are following your safety procedures.

For further recommendations on safe slab handling and creating a safe workplace, you have several options available. Oregon OSHA and many other state OSHA offices offer free, confidential consultation services for small and mid-sized businesses. I have been personally assured by my state’s OSHA representatives that the consultation department is in no way tied to enforcement, and no citations or penalties will be imposed for violations discovered during the course of a consultation.

In addition, you may take advantage of the resources provided by trade associations, such as the Marble Institute of America. Finally, numerous private consulting firms are available near you that will provide consultation and training focused on OSHA compliance and insurance management for a fee. Be on the lookout for a new Health and Safety Watch article right here at CountertopResource.com next month in addition to all of our regular monthly information on the latest news in the world of countertop fabrication.

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