April 26, 2011

C’mon Folks, Safety is Your Number-One Shop Priority

By Paul Bieber

There is nothing that destroys shop productivity, moral and company profits more than a serious injury to a worker in your shop.

That’s it. A very strong statement that is absolutely true. No middle ground on this one. Wherever you are in this crazy economy: busy, slow or in between, you will be impacted by an accident.

Three things you can do:

  1. Work to prevent accidents
  2. Lessen the injury when an incident occurs
  3. Work to reduce the impact to your company after an accident occurs

This week, let’s work on prevention, and in the next couple of weeks we will hit the other topics.

So, let’s prevent accidents–

  • Accept that all accidents are preventable. They are. If you say that accidents are inevitable in our industry, you will have more accidents and more headaches in your shop. This will bury you.
  • Start by taking all clutter out of your shop. Remove every trip hazard on the floors. Ensure that the shop stays clean. Reduce your inventory to give yourself more maneuvering room in your shop. In today’s economic times, distributors will bring you stock in a flash. You don’t need to save every cutoff for a a year hoping you will use it.
  • Make sure all of your equipment works properly. Saws should be clean to prevent kickback. Class cutting tables should be flat and true to prevent improper break outs. Trucks should be inspected daily, making sure all safety equipment is in place and being used…such as seat belts.
  • All personnel, including you, should be drug and alcohol tested on employment and randomly.
  • All flammables should be kept in approved areas, areas that will reduce explosion risks or damage.
  • Extension cords should not be used for heavy shop equipment. Make sure all cords are intact and have no nicks in them. Don’t overload your circuits.
  • Set the tone of the shop. Comment on each and every situation that is unsafe and follow-up that it is taken care of.
  • Call your worker’s comp or liability insurance company. Most will have a safety expert that will walk through your shop and point out details that you will have overlooked.
  • Some states offer free safety inspections, through their state managed OSHA programs. These are not recorded on your safety record and can be very helpful. Check first for your state’s status (if inviting them in can cause citations) before you invite the team in.
  • Give your employees safety gear and make sure they wear and use the gear. Set the example. When you go in the shop, wear your safety glasses and hard hat. When you drive, wear your seat belt.
  • Don’t allow talking on cell phones in the shop. They distract all workers. No headphones playing music should be allowed. They cause distraction and prevent people from hearing safety shout-outs. Don’t allow horseplay or practical jokes on the shop floor.
  • Have plenty of light in your shop. What you can’t see in a dark corner is a hazard for cuts and tripping.
  • Have your dumpsters emptied regularly. An overflowing dumpster is a major cause of accidents.
  • Have as few chemicals in your shop as possible. Where you do, make sure they are labeled and everyone knows how to use them, and how to clean them after a spill.
  • Train your people properly. Most accidents occur with the youngest seniority employees. Also, don’t let your senior people take shortcuts because they “know it all”.
  • Have fire extinguishers, eye wash stations, first aid kits and any other safety gear checked and cleaned annually. Train all employees on proper use.
  • Designate a first-responder in your company. Train him or her in first aid and blood-borne pathogen procedures The Red Cross is a perfect organization to go to for help on these.
  • Make sure every foreman and supervisor has medical gloves and that gloves are in a plastic bag and hung on every column in your building.
  • Don’t handle glass too big for your shop. If your doors are 84″ high, it is unsafe to bring in a 96″ lite tipped on an angle.

Now for the big ending…the best accident prevention tool is: Common Sense. Don’t do what looks dangerous. Don’t take safety short cuts. Don’t let people work above their skill level. Don’t say, you’ll only do this once and tomorrow you will do it in a safer way.

Do be conscious of safety every moment you are at work. Train your workers to work safely. Investing in safety is as important as investing in any other part of your operation.