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Safety is a Partnership

 Let’s take a minute and think safety. Everyone out there has a responsibility when it comes to the safety of a company. Employees have their role and management has its role. These roles can overlap sometimes but in the long run safety is everyone’s concern.

 

Safety conciseness in the work place is a fairly new phenomenon. That doesn’t mean that previously safety was not a concern or something didn’t people take seriously, but it hasn’t been until recent years that safety has jumped from the back ground to the forefront of concerns for both employers and industry as a whole. With profit margins extremely tight and no room for unexplained or unexpected expenses, companies have to take every step necessary to ensure they can flourish in this highly competitive industry. Every dollar counts and downed equipment or injured employees are expense that can cripple a company running close to the edge, and are an expense even the best run companies don’t need.

 

Management and owners are taking safety seriously these days. Gone are the days when safety guards could be found lying on the ground around the equipment, adjusted so they were “no longer in the way”, or just plain missing all together. Today it is becoming more taboo to not where your safety equipment such as safety glasses, a safety harness for heights, safety boots and ear plugs just to name a few.

 

So, what has that meant for costs in a shop? Of course there have been some increases to cost, but in the long run the increase to the safety features doesn’t compare to the savings in injuries or time wasted in the shop. The number of serious injuries and time lost due to injury has been on the decline, which is good news for both employers and the employees. For example years ago it was not uncommon for a technician to visit the hospital more than once or twice to have debris removed. More recently the number of people attending physicians care for the same reason, while not completely eliminated, has dropped drastically in a large part due to the fact that technicians are not only encouraged to wear safety glasses, in some cases can be written up or relieved of duty for not wearing them.

 

The emphasis on safety has changed from the bulk of the problem being on the shoulders of the employee, to being on the shoulders of management. Employees have more resources and more recourse when safety issues arise. An employee can refuse to work in unsafe conditions and ask for investigations without the fear of losing their job.

 

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all employees and to establish health and safety committees with representation from the employees to ensure all reasonable measures are taken to address the safety concerns from all points of view. Giving everyone a voice to communicate their concerns goes a long way to create a spirit of cooperation and togetherness, as opposed to the confrontational atmosphere between worker and management of the past.

 

What other measures have employers taken to ensure the safety in the workplace? Training is a big one. As expensive as training can be, it can pay off with big dividends in the long run. When employees know what is expected of them and what to look out for injuries and damages can be avoidable. An employee who has been trained and licensed to run a forklift, for instance, is much less likely to damage freight for even tip it over due to overloading, lack of attention, or simply not knowing the difference.

 

Employers are also cleaning up the shops to help control costs of injuries and wasted time. A shop that is clean, neat and tidy is a much safer shop than one where cords and tools are laying all around causing trip hazards. Housekeeping is generally one of the most overlooked but easiest ways to save both time and money. When everything has a home and is put back in that home when the technician is finished with it, fewer tools are lost or broken, less time is spent running around looking for tools and there are less trip hazards lying around the shop floor.

 

It is not always about working harder but working smarter. When tool benches and peg boards are laid out is such a way that the technician needs to walk twice as far to get what they need to do the job it cost time and therefore money. Keeping tools organized by doing things such as drawing the outline of the tool where its home is on the peg board not only lets you find it faster but lets you know when a tool is missing as wells. Cords and hoses should be kept coiled in retractable housing so they aren’t lying all over the floor. Once again this reduces the trip hazards and extends the life time of the cord or hose by reducing the chance of kinks, splicing or fraying from incorrect or misuse. If things are neat and tidy and easy to put a way it’s much more likely the use will put away than if tools are just tossed on shelf with no sense of belonging.

 

Keeping floors clear of obstacle is only part of the problem. Keeping floors swept is also a concern. After all how are you supposed to see the painted lines for designated hazard zones if you don’t clean the floor?

I have titled this blog “Safety is a Partnership”. I hope I have demonstrated this opinion throughout the contents, but just in case I haven’t let me state it clearly now. Every employer has the responsibility to provide a safe work environment for its employees by providing the tools and knowledge required for their particular environment. Every employee has the responsibility to use those tools and the knowledge required to make the work environment a safe one.

 

What is the best way to make this happen? Employees need to be empowered to make the right decisions and take the right course of action for each job. Employees need to feel the company (management) is listening and responding to their concerns. Every single person who works for a company needs to feel they have a voice and that voice is heard.  After all who better to help manage the hazards and safety of the employees than the employees themselves? Aren’t they the ones working in the very places and doing the very jobs we’re talking about?

 

That doesn’t alleviate the responsibility of the employee, however. The best practices and safety measures in the world don’t do anyone any good if they are not followed. Safety glasses won’t help if they are sitting on the bench beside you when debris flies into your eye. Each person has the responsibility to know the safety rules and regulations and to follow them.

 

Safety really is a partnership between management and employee.

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Adam Cwilewicz
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June 15, 2016
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