Last time, we presented the first four safety-expert recommendations, and we conclude with the remaining three.
5. Inspection, Maintenance:An inspection is simultaneously a “carrot” and “stick.” When a safety supervisor makes frequent appearances in work areas, employees recognize the organization is committed to safety, and they will be motivated to participate. For the small number of employees who are less than fully committed, the prospect of being “caught” doing a task unsafely is a deterrent. Safety standards often enumerate which inspection and maintenance tasks should occur daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annually or annually for a workplace to be “in compliance.” Materials and systems should be maintained regularly to expose replace aged or worn materials. Guards, interlocks and warning signs should be checked regularly, and every inspection should be documented.
6. Accident Investigation:When accidents occur – no matter how minor – an investigation should be performed. When the accident is due to a simple failure to follow procedure, findings can be documented in a relatively simple manner. When the incident is due to a more complex sequence of errors or failures, a root-ause analysis should be performed. If an in-house investigation is not possible because of limited expertise or time availability, outside specialists should be retained. A lessons-learned notebook or website should be available to employees so mistakes can be avoided in the future and safety procedures can be re-evaluated. Relevant investigation findings can be incorporated into a mandatory risk assessment, which is performed when a new system is designed and commissioned.
7. Training:Although worker training is important, it ranked at the bottom of the list of safety specialists polled. Clearly, employees must have the knowledge they need to perform their work, and they must have the skill and insight to recognize a potentially unsafe situation. However, training alone will not ensure a safe workplace. Workers should be instructed in the importance of company procedures (e.g., lock-out/tag-out), but they should also understand the importance of engineering controls (e.g., guards and safety devices) and why they should never be defeated.
Fortunately, the safety habit is contagious, and “catching” it can make all the difference.