Understanding the Roles & Responsibilities of “Health and Safety”

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That’s the Way We Always Do It!A common reason given by employees when asked why unsafe practices occur. Many of us feel we have a pretty good health and safety system in place. However most of us can think of at least one example of when we chose to do something we knew was unsafe or in violation of a company safety polity. Too often, the justification is either we have done it before or we have seen others take the same risk. Yet as we all know, at some point our luck will run out.

Always Done It

Companies of all sizes are vulnerable to this attitude. For large companies with many employees, the number of unsafe acts occurring on a daily basis can add up quick (YIKES!). For smaller companies, loss time from even a single person can have devastating impacts to productivity.Let’s examine what could be causing you or your co-workers to be willing to take these risks.Look at the list of behaviors/attitudes below. Now evaluate and mark those which are clearly evident within your company. Each check mark counts as 1 point. Add up the check marks and total your score.

  •  Management (all levels) is commented to safety and health
  •  Management demonstrates that commitment
  •  Management communicates safety and health
  •  Management sets an examples for safety
  •  Managers are held accountable for safety
  •  Employees are equally committed to health and safety
  •  Employees demonstrate that commitment
  • Employees set an example for each other and speak up when they see something unsafe (help others work safely)
  • Employees are involved in safety

Total Score ____________

Remember only place a check mark by those attitudes you are confident exist at your company.How did you do? Do you have more boxes checked or unchecked? Use this simple exercise as a quick gap analysis of Management Leadership and Employee involvement (both foundational elements of an effective safety system).When you see an opportunity for improvement, look to your self first. Be the change you want to see in your company’s safety culture.Next time you tell someone, this is how we do it here, be talking about acts of safety and following your companies safety best practices.

Experiences Beliefs Actions

The Speed of Safety

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Most of all companies want to be safe. They want their employees to go home at the end of each day injury and illness free. And yet these same companies and their employees make decisions which put them at risk. Sometimes the risk is small and as we all know sometimes we take some pretty big risks. Two common justifications for taking risks, both large and small, are time and money. Building safety into the job/process will increase costs and slow us down.The idea that safety costs us time and money seems logical, but is it really?According to the U.S. Department of Labor “businesses spend $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses — expenditures that come straight out of company profits. But workplaces that establish safety and health management systems can reduce their injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent. In today’s business environment, these costs can be the difference between operating in the black and running in the red.”Injuries and illnesses increase workers’ compensation and retraining costs, absenteeism, and faulty product. They also decrease productivity, morale, and profitsIn addition to cost savings related to injuries and lost time, time spent up front planning work processes, including hazard analysis, safe work practices and work place examinations, are shown to increase productivity and therefore decrease (you guessed it) time and operating costs.A Harvard Business Review study, found “the companies that embraced initiatives and chose to go, go, go to try to gain an edge ended up with lower sales and operating profits than those that paused at key moments to make sure they were on the right track. What’s more, the firms that ‘slowed down to speed up’ improved their top and bottom lines, averaging 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over a three-year period.Everyone agrees safety saves lives and reduces injuries. However research also shows it saves time and money as well.

Slow Down Speedup

OSHA’s New Silica Rule for Construction—What You Need to Know

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OSHA estimates approximately 840,000 workers are exposed to silica dust levels which exceed the permissible exposure level (PEL) under the new standard. Exposure can occur in common construction tasks such as grinders, drills, vehicle mounted drilling rigs, mills, jackhammers, masonry saws, crushing machines, demolitions, etc.Excessive exposure can lead to cancer, respiratory diseases, kidney diseases and other severe health issues. The new law is projected to save hundreds of lives each year.What do you need to do to protect your employees and to be compliant with the new standard:
  • Establish and Implement a written exposure control plan
  • Designate a competent person to implement the plan
  • Measure/Monitor actual exposure limits (for activities with PEL’s at the actionable level)
  • Reduce/eliminate exposure
  • Offer medical exams to workers required to wear a respirator more than 30 days per year
  • Train workers on which work activities create silica exposure and methods to limit the exposure.
  • Keep records of exposure rates and medical exams
  • Companies must be compliant with the new standard by June 23, 2017.
  • Laboratory examinations of exposure samples must begins June 23, 2018
Construction companies have options. Companies which fall under the construction standard may adopt exposure control methods identified in Table 1 of the new standard. Table 1 lists proven control methods for common at risk construction activities. Companies implementing these controls can avoid the measuring and laboratory examinations provisions of the standard.Get ahead of the compliance date by reviewing the new standard and identifying tasks which put your workers at risk of exposure. Then developing and implementing your exposure control plan.

Silica Standard Quote Protect Workers

Safety Versus Compliance

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Too often we mistake compliance for safety. Although safety and compliance are complimentary and are both important components of a safety management system (SMS), our primary focus should always be on safety. Safety is defined as the freedom from danger, risk, injury or loss. Compliance by contrast is the act of conforming, acquiescing, or yielding.Regulatory compliance standards prescribed by MSHA/OSHA?DOT/EPA etc are great resources. We should use these guidelines as inputs to our Safety Programs. After all the government spent and continues to spend billions of dollars to provide us with the basics on how to avoid injury in the workplace. No need to reinvent the wheel right?So, if the government has spent all this time and money writing and enforcing the standards and essentially “helping us” stay safe, why do we often feel achieving compliance is like using a hammer to turn in a screw?The reason is simple, compliance is the wrong tool for achieving safety. The government guidelines are generalized. Yes they are based on extensive studies, but when was the last time OSHA visited your workplace and asked you to help them write a standard? This is where safety comes in!We are the foremost experts on our processes, our people and our values. This means we are also best to identify and evaluate potential risk and also the best to determine how to design our processes to eliminate or mitigate these risks. No one can keep us safer than we can keep ourselves.This is why things such as having a safety manual or obtaining your OSHA 10 certification are merely the compliance pieces of an overall safety management system.Here is a comparison of the key areas of an SMS within a safety based culture versus a compliance only based culture:

Safety vs Compliance Matrix

On-Line or In-Person

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Federal and state health and safety regulators continue to view training as the life blood of an effective safety culture. At the same time companies are evolving from viewing their health and safety programs as a necessary evil to one of its primary organizational pillars. As a result, the number of training options continues to grow…..and…Options are good! The more options at our disposal the more likely we are to find the one which best fits our company culture. On the other hand, with more options come a greater accountability to understand the efficacy of each. One increasingly prevalent option is online safety training. Online training does offer advantages such as low cost and flexibility. However, as with any option, be sure to also consider potential risks. According to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health “Training involving behavioral modeling, a substantial amount of practice, and dialogue is generally more effective than other methods of safety and health training. The present findings challenge the current emphasis on more passive computer-based and distance training methods within the public health workforce.”In-person instructor led training incorporating interactive and hands-on techniques often offers the greatest levels of retention and preparedness. Other benefits include:Practice – employees have the opportunity to try a task more than once and address their mistakesPrevention – of dangerous mistakes and accidents from first time skills application on a live work sitesImmediate Feedback – from instructors, other trainees and self-evaluation based on activity resultsAccommodates multiple learning styles – combination of presentations, videos, discussions, role playing and hands-on activities appeal to multiple learning modalities When it comes to selecting health and safety training for your employees be sure when they step away from their training they take the intended knowledge and skills with them.