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Effective Safety Planning Part 4: Hazard Prevention and Control

Posted on 23 December 2015 by cradmin

Welcome to part 4 of our six-part series on Effective Safety Planning for small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Last month, we examined the second point of the four-point safety program recommended by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), which detailed how to conduct a worksite analysis and job-hazard assessments (JHAs). This month, we delve into the third point: hazard prevention and control.

Hierarchy of Hazard Controls

After you have successfully identified all of the hazards your employees face in the workplace, the next step is to prevent or control the risks. Many employers believe that this simply involves buying personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers, but according to OSHA’s established hierarchy of hazard controls, PPE is a last resort that should only be applied when three other methods of control of failed.

The hierarchy of hazard controls is often represented by a five-tiered pyramid. Controlling and preventing hazards starts at the top of the pyramid because as you work your way down, the methods decrease in effectiveness. Starting from the top, the five methods are Elimination, Substitution, Engineering Controls, Administrative and Work-Practice Controls and PPE.

hazard control Use


Elimination and Substitution

The most effective method available for controlling hazards is to simply remove or eliminate them so that employees are no longer exposed to a safety or health risk. Of course, this is not always possible because the equipment or process is intrinsic to your business. For instance, a fabrication shop cannot operate without cutting equipment, and all cutting equipment carries some form of risk.

Many hazards can be successfully eliminated by redesigning your facility or processes. Following are a few examples of eliminating hazards through design:

  • Redesigning equipment so that it does not create excessive noise, temperature or pressure
  • Redesigning a process so that toxic chemicals are no longer necessary
  • Redesigning a workstation to make it ergonomic and reduce physical stress

If the equipment, process or workstation cannot be eliminated, the next-best method is to substitute it for something that does not pose a hazard or that is less dangerous. For example, if you are using a chemical, say for polishing or sealing a slab, you can research whether a different product is available that does not include the ingredients that make it toxic.

Engineering Controls

If a particular hazard cannot be eliminated or prevented through substitution, the next methods that should be tried are in a category called engineering controls. Engineering controls are basically redesigns that prevent or reduce human exposure to specific hazards and include three specific types: enclosure, barriers and local ventilation.

The most effective engineering control you can implement is enclosure because it controls how employees are exposed to health-and-safety risks. Some equipment, such as robotic or programmable saws, can be completely enclosed even during production. Other types of equipment require human operators or a human presence during production, but keeping this equipment enclosed when not in use may prevent or reduce hazards during maintenance or for people simply passing through the area.

Examples of enclosure controls are as follows:

  • Moving parts of machinery are enclosed and inaccessible while it is operating.
  • Toxic substances, such as liquids and gasses, are contained until they can be detoxified or safely disposed.
  • Toxic chemicals and substances are enclosed in glove boxes so workers can conduct their jobs while remaining separated from the hazard.

If a hazard cannot be enclosed, then a barrier should be constructed to prevent exposure. Fences, ropes and chains are all examples of effective barriers, but local ventilation is also considered a type of barrier for hazardous gasses or airborne substances. In addition, baffles can be used as barriers to reduce or eliminate noise hazards.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are essentially work practices aimed at reducing employees’ exposure to hazards. Examples of administrative controls include adding relief workers or rotating workers through different jobs to keep exposure under hazardous levels. For instance, silica dust becomes increasingly hazardous the longer a person is exposed to it. If a job can be split up between two or three people, it is often safer than if one person is performing it for a longer period. Another administrative control that can be implemented is to establish a system of targeted breaks or activities.

Personal Protective Equipment

As mentioned above, PPE is the best-known type of hazard prevention and control. However, it is also the least effective. PPE includes protective clothing and gear such as respirators. To ensure that PPE is being used effectively and is not creating additional hazards, training is often required. In addition, workers may need to undergo thorough medical examinations to determine whether the PPE is not adversely affecting their health. This is particularly the case with respirators, which puts increased strain on the lungs and pulmonary system. According to federal and state law, all workers required to wear most types of respirators must first be cleared by a licensed physician. The physician is required to retain all medical records while the employer is required to keep clearance certificates or another form of proof that they have passed the physical exam. For specific information on PPE use and implementation, you can read OSHA Standard 1910 Subpart I. However, you must be aware that many states have implemented standards that are more rigorous than those at the federal level.

For further information about the standards in your state or about compliance in general, please contact your regional OSHA office, which can be found at the end of OSHA’s Q&As for Small Business Employers. All you have to do is ask for the consultation department. Despite popular belief, asking OSHA for information about compliance will not trigger an actual compliance inspection. Such practices by the administration are banned by federal law. The consultation department is required to keep all information confidential are banned from sharing it with the health-compliance or safety-compliance departments.

Be on the lookout next month for Effective Safety Planning Part 5: Training for Employees, Supervisors and Managers

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Effective Safety Planning Part 2: The Four-Point Plan

Posted on 21 October 2015 by cradmin

Every day in the United States, 17 workers are killed in occupational accidents, 137 succumb to fatal, job-related medical conditions and more than 17,000 suffer from injuries sustained while working. Aggregating the losses for the year, the cost to the U.S. economy is more than $170 billion. Chances are that your business has experienced a bit of these losses, but they can be reduced to a bare minimum by establishing a four-point safety plan as recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Last month, we took a look at the ultimate goal of safety planning, which is establishing a culture of safety in the workplace. It is generally regarded that maintaining a strong safety culture is the most effective way of reducing worker injuries and fatalities. However, developing a culture of safety is more easily accomplished by following the OSHA-recommended Four-Point Safety Program:

  1. Commitment from management and employee involvement
  2. Full worksite analysis
  3. Hazard abatement, prevention and control
  4. Safety training for managers, supervisors and employees

Commitment from Management

The first step in the establishment of an effective safety plan is to obtain a commitment from everyone in the company, starting at the top. As an owner or manager of the business, when you take a genuine interest in the safety and health of your employees, you employees will be more likely to reflect your sentiment. You must create a clear and uncompromising safety plan that covers everyone equally with no exceptions, and you must actively enforce it at all times.

Business owners and managers must demonstrate leadership in keeping a safe workplace by providing training, resources and motivation and by holding everyone accountable for safety, including themselves. A written plan starts with training management to be effective safety leaders.

The best way to create safety leaders is to elevate safety above everything else. Safety should not merely be another duty that must be accomplished. Rather, it should be among the company’s chief values or part of the mission statement. Safety and health should be an overriding concern that plays into every situation every day of the week.

Benefits of Management Safety Leadership

Effective safety leaders can make a huge difference in a business. Management leadership can increase productivity, cut costs and improve morale in the workplace. OSHA has found that companies enrolling in one of its Voluntary Protection Program’s (VPPs) report a decrease in lost workday cases by up to 80 percent. In addition, studies show that for every dollar saved on direct medical expenses or insurance compensation, up to $50 are saved on indirect expenses, which may include hiring and training new workers, delays in production, equipment repair and much more. A prime example of the benefits of a proactive safety program comes from a major Ford factory that experienced a 13 percent increase in productivity and a 16 percent decrease in wasted materials.

Actions of Effective Safety Leaders

When managers are committed to workplace safety, they will take many of the following actions:

  • Post the company’s official safety policy near the required OSHA Workplace Poster so that it is easy to find and read.
  • Hold employee meetings concerning safety and health issue, goals and procedures.
  • Visibly and explicitly show support and personal involvement in the company safety plan, such as reviewing reports and conducting follow-ups when accidents occur.
  • Personally follow all laws and safety rules that pertain to employees.
  • Immediately halt hazardous activities or activities held in unsafe conditions.
  • Encourage all employees to become involved in workplace safety, especially those who have specialized knowledge.
  • Assign specific safety responsibilities to employees as outlined in the safety plan. Try to disburse duties in the same way that you would assign production duties.
  • Provide the people, time and training necessary to ensure all responsibilities can be carried out.
  • Make everyone accountable for the responsibilities that have been assigned to them.
  • Ensure that all responsibilities are covered and completed adequately.
  • Review safety accomplishments and accidents at regular meetings held at intervals of no greater than one year.

Employee Involvement Is Crucial

One of the top reasons for making your managers effective safety leaders is to encourage employee involvement in your workplace safety and health program. The best way to reduce health and safety issues is to share responsibility for them with everyone. In this way, you can tap the unique knowledge and resources that your employees provide. In addition, employees will have greater interest in and appreciation of the company safety plan the more involved they are in establishing and maintaining it, and they will be less likely to engage in unsafe activities that can affect your bottom line.

Following are just a few of the advantages of getting employees involved in workplace safety:

  • Employees will hold a vested interest in their own safety and their duties in keeping a safe workplace.
  • Group decisions are more likely to be followed.
  • Employees are more apt to support programs that they have helped create or maintain, and without employee buy-in, safety will be compromised.
  • Employees who are encouraged to share ideas and expertise are generally more satisfied and productive than those who are told to keep quiet.
  • The more involved employees are with the safety plan, the more they will learn about how to avoid injuries and dangerous situations.

Employees can be encouraged to participate in workplace safety in several ways:

  • Become members of safety committees
  • Conduct onsite safety inspections
  • Analyze workplace hazards
  • Develop safety rules
  • Participate in accident investigations
  • Become safety observers, safety coaches or safety trainers
  • Report hazards
  • Provide ideas for reducing or eliminating hazards

Be on the lookout for next month’s Health & Safety Watch where we will continue our theme with Effective Safety Planning Part 3: Workplace Hazard Assessment.

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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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