Is The Focus of Safety Professionals Off?

July 7, 2015
A business must work toward eliminating problems that cause accidents, not just attempting to prevent them.

Safety is a concern in all businesses. From the convenience store on the corner to a major manufacturing facility, safe work habits are a constant source of discussion. Safety meetings and the appropriate use of safety equipment are one part of an overall safe working environment. The problem comes from focusing on the wrong elements of making a work environment safe.

Safety: A Goal or Part of the Job?

Safety cannot be the buzzword of the day; it must be a core business concept. It is the result of working correctly, understanding the job and using the right equipment without taking shortcuts.

Workers must understand risks and hazards, not just be lectured in procedures. Most workers do not intend to injure themselves; more commonly, workers are injured because of a lack of knowledge.

A business must work toward eliminating the problems that cause accidents, not just attempting to prevent them. To do this, the business must know where the problems initially are occurring. Whether the cause is a lack of training or improper equipment use, solutions are available.

Looking for the Cause of Accidents

Many safety experts focus on the end cause of an accident. Unfortunately, to have true safety success, safety professionals must dig below the surface and identify the root cause of a problem. To look at one common safety concern, OSHA reports that slipping, tripping or falling account for the majority of all general business accidents. This category also makes up 15 percent of all accidental deaths.

To understand what a root cause is, a slip-and-fall injury on a wet floor may not just be the result of a wet floor. This accident often is the result of a series of mistakes:

  • A bucket of soapy water was spilled on an already slick floor.
  • The worker involved did not have time to use wet floor markers or did not know where the markers were located.
  • The worker who fell was hurrying and carrying a large stack of boxes that interfered with his vision.
  • The worker was wearing safety shoes, but the soles were worn out and no longer provided slip protection.
  • The area was poorly lit and the worker was distracted by excessive noise.

Preventing a Problem or Eliminating the Source

A business must put the cart behind the horse and eliminate the source of the problem. In the wet floor example, an employer may try to prevent an accident by requiring slip-resistant footwear and the use of floor markers. But what if the floor markers were not placed and the footwear did not provide the expected protection?

In this example, the business must look at all of the problems that led up to the accident and determine the right ways to eliminate the sources. Perhaps more training is needed in order for employees to know where the wet floor markers are located. Workers need to understand that placing the markers is part of their job duties — not just an afterthought.

Better lighting should be installed and steps should be taken to reduce noise levels. Flooring that is subject to water should be treated with a slip-resistant coating. Workers should not carry items that interfere with vision; carts could be used to eliminate this problem.

Use of PPE

Another reason for accidents is the lack of use, or improper use, of personal protective equipment (PPE). OSHA does not just require the use of PPE; the agency also requires employers to train workers in the use of the equipment. Employees must know when to use PPE and what the limitations are.

When an accident occurs involving PPE, a business must get to the root of the problem. The equipment may have failed because it reached the end of its useful lifespan. The equipment may not have been fitted correctly. If the equipment is not being used, additional questions must be asked. An employer may find that the equipment is not comfortable, etc.

Spending money on a safety program will not make anything safer. To fully eliminate a problem, a discussion with the employees doing the work will provide better results than simply telling the employees to work safely. Instead of a lecture, safety professionals must understand all aspects of a job to see where and how safety failures can occur.

While achieving a zero accident year may be the goal in the minds of management, it is not a realistic goal. Accidents will happen. The goal is to reduce the severity and number of accidents. Safety must be part of the business culture while making the work easier for everyone involved.

Amber Carpenter is the product specialist at Eaton Filtration Online.

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