June is National Safety Month, and it gives organizations the opportunity to bring employees together to emphasize the importance of on-the-job health, safety, and worker well-being. It should be a time of reflection to determine how we can improve our programs. One of the most important things we can do is take time to coach others when we see unsafe behaviors, such as walking and texting, taking shortcuts to get the job done faster, or not wearing PPE for one reason or another.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 2.8 million people (yes that says million). die every year due to work-related injuries or diseases. They also note in a recent report that an additional 374 million workers are impacted by non-fatal occupational accidents every year. These are shocking statistics, especially considering the majority of fatalities and workplace injuries can be prevented. The financial impact of workplace incidents is also significant - costing nearly $3 trillion in 2017 according to data from ILO.
In the US alone 5,147 workers died on the job in 2017 or an average of 14 workplace deaths every day. That's 14 people every day who won't make it home to their loved ones.
This is why workplace health and safety is so critical. This National Safety month, take the opportunity to launch your own 365-day campaign to drive continuous improvements and work to embed a strong Safety Culture across your organization. Below, some of our safety experts share their best practices and tips for staying safe on the job.
Working in Extreme Weather Conditions
Mauri Paz, Cority’s Manager of EHSQ Products, has spent nearly two decades working in the EHS space. He emphasizes the importance of taking extreme weather conditions into account:
“It’s absolutely critical that companies establish work/rest schedules during periods of extreme heat or cold. During extreme heat conditions (above 85°F/29°C), remember to factor in what PPE your employees are wearing, the type of work they're doing, and other factors that could put people at an increased risk for heat stress or heat stroke. Companies should also establish a 'cool' area where workers can take breaks and rehydrate. If air-conditioned buildings aren't available, your next best bet is an area that's well-ventilated, shaded, with access to cold water."
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Contractor Safety Management
Companies of all sizes have a need to hire contractors to complete various work onsite. Depending on the work, this can present a number of risks to your company, so it’s important that your EHS teams review and approve contractors before they come onsite.
"Using a single solution to centralize, standardize, and streamline your contractor safety management program is imperative to properly managing risks associated with contractors because it saves times and breaks down silos between operations, EHS, and procurement,” said Melissa Kephart, Cority’s Product Manager for Safety Solutions. "To minimize risks, you should conduct pre-qualification screenings, asses pre-job task and risk assessments, and onboard contractors so that they are aware of your EHS policies and onsite risks, and so you can monitor their work, and evaluate their work after the work is done."
Measure Your Safety Culture
Employee health and well-being programs are at the forefront of an organization's overarching safety culture initiative. From the C-suite to the factory floor, there is an increased focus on safety culture and how that impacts the bottom line. Measuring your company’s safety culture is a way to gain insight into the performance of your day-to-day safety activities as well as gauge employee and management perceptions.
“Cority has developed an out-of-the-box Safety Culture Score to empower companies with knowledge about their operations as well as the attitudes of employees and management," said David Vuong, Manager of Analytics and Business Intelligence Products at Cority. "This provides management with key information to help drive continuous improvement efforts throughout the company."
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Trenching and Excavation
Water, electric utilities, and construction workers are at the highest risk of trenching incidents. OSHA has made this a focus area for enforcement and works with stakeholders to help train companies on the risks of cave-ins to employees. According to Melissa Kephart, “It is paramount that companies have processes in place to keep workers safe while trenching and excavation activities are occurring. This includes: monitoring the area for unstable soils, using trench boxes to prevent collapses, pre-checking the trench before employees enter, having ladders staged throughout to ensure employees can get out quickly, and ensuring employees wear a harness with a safety line attached to it when conditions warrant it."
Confined Space Entry
Entering a confined space presents numerous risks to employees. Laurance Goodman, an Implementation Consultant at Cority, spent over two decades working in the oil and gas sector where confined space entry is considered routine work by most. While it may be considered routine, Laurance noted that companies must first determine if the space meets OSHA’s definition of "permit-required confined space". If it does, employers must post warning signs, create a written permit-to-work process if employees will be entering the area, develop a monitoring and inspection program, conduct routine tests of the atmosphere to ensure that it’s safe for employees to enter, and ensure employees are trained and fitted for any PPE that is needed to enter the confined space.
Control of hazardous energy is consistently on OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards list. Kristiana Dean, Cority Pre-Sales Engineer, spent several years working in the oil sands of Canada, where she learned firsthand how critical Lockout-Tagout programs are to employee safety:
“Operations and maintenance crews are exceedingly busy, but ensuring that electrical equipment is properly de-energized is imperative. It's important that companies note what equipment poses a risk of electric shock, develop LOTO procedures, properly train employees on the procedures and review these procedures on an annual basis."
Kristiana also noted, “Organizations should develop a robust change management program for new equipment so that safety professionals have an opportunity to review the equipment, develop procedures, and train employees before it goes into service. This can save companies a lot of money and aggravation in the long-term.”
Summing It Up
There are safety risks in every organization, and it’s critical that companies take the time to identify them and then implement countermeasures to avoid, minimize, or mitigate these risks. While National Safety month only comes around once a year, it’s key that executives, supervisors and EHS teams stay vigilant every day of the year if they truly want to embed a strong safety culture within their organization. There are no shortcuts to achieving a safe workplace.
About the AuthorMore Content by Ian Cohen