Special Topics in Safety Management

Blogger Suggests Simple but Powerful Safety Tips

Sometimes safety ideas are so powerful they bear repeating. That goes double when they’re simple to understand and implement … like these.

If you think effective safety has to be complex and expensive, think again.

We’ve found a safety thinker, consultant Mike Strawbridge of Cleveland, Tennessee, who uses mostly common sense to reach a safety goal in almost any setting.

In fact, Mike, who blogs under the identifier paralympicsgames92678, made so much sense to us that we felt we had to discuss his thoughts here, as well as add some of what others think along similar lines.

Here’s an expanded version of what he suggests.

–Cleanliness Counts. Mike maintains that a clean work area is not only safer but also promotes productivity. Anyone who’s ever compared a NASCAR garage with the typical gas station knows that. By working in a well-ordered and grease- and litter-free shop, mechanics get both greater safety and more reliability and performance from their cars, and their whole operation.

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–Design the Safety In. Strawbridge maintains that engineering controls and machine guards are far more effective for ensuring safety than making workers put on personal protective equipment. “PPE is hard to police and uncomfortable to wear,” he writes. Strawbridge is backed in this observation by a survey of safety professionals done at last year’s National Safety Council Congress. Some 87 percent said they’d seen workers not using PPE when they should have been, largely due to complaints of discomfort in its use. It was one of their top safety issues.

–Let Employees Be Safe. Mike feels many employers start by thinking their workers are unsafe as a matter of course and that they, therefore, need elaborate incentive programs to “bribe [workers] not to stick their hand in the machine.” Others have also made this point—essentially that expectations breed results. If you start by expecting safe behaviors instead of bonehead moves, and effectively communicate that notion to employees, you have a better chance of getting what you want.

–Teach Workers to Do. This one is so simple it’s startling. Strawbridge suggests making sure workers get the full, necessary instructions to do their work properly. Often, he feels, management concentrates its efforts on telling workers what NOT to do, leaving them to figure out on their own what the proper steps are.

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–“Think Horses, Not Zebras.” This classic advice from the medical world means deal first with what’s most likely, instead of expending your efforts on more unlikely problems. Many employers get so caught up with the idea of preventing the most extreme disasters that they never focus on the simple situations far more likely to crop up.

–Care. Here’s another obvious but important concept. If you show your workers you’re looking out for them by, for example, removing unsafe equipment while it’s still producing, you send a powerful message of what’s foremost in your mind. Workers are more likely to respond by caring more about your needs.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll offer more of these sensible but strong and solid tips for a safer workplace, as well as describe a program that allows you to check whether you’re covering all the safety bases.