Are your employees getting a good start on safety?

Did the new year bring new employees to your organization? Do you have a plan for introducing them or future new hires to your workplace safety efforts?

The best way to demonstrate safety as an organizational value to new hires or transferred employees is to provide a safety orientation right from the start. Doing so sets expectations for and provides a solid base for future safety performance.

You’re probably wondering what you should include in your safety orientation. The following are a few items to consider.

  • A review of your safety policy and rules
  • A review of specific safe work practices and procedures
  • Dress requirements
  • How to report injuries
  • How to seek first aid
  • How to report unsafe conditions, unsafe practices and near misses
  • How to respond during fire and emergency situations
  • Housekeeping standards
  • Discussion of specific work hazards
  • Use and care of personal protective equipment
  • Hazardous material identification and safe use (material safety data sheet)

These are just a few examples to get you started. You should tailor the orientation to your organization’s specific procedures and areas of focus.

Remember, the orientation is strictly the beginning of the safety process for employees. It’s critical to evaluate their knowledge and understanding of safety procedures on a continual basis. This includes regular training, for example:

  • Safety meetings.
  • Industry updates.
  • Focusing on specific safety issues.
  • Explanation and training when changes in work practices occur.

If you’re looking for additional resources to bolster your orientation and ongoing training efforts, our video library also has an extensive collection of workplace safety and health videos you can borrow or stream for free.

Getting your employees started on the right foot can help them achieve safety success early on and into the future.

Workplace fatalities are so last century

By Bernard Silkowski, CSP, Director of Loss Prevention Operations

In the course of 20 days that ended on Jan. 14, six employees died on the job in central Ohio.

The news reports indicate that four suffered crushing injuries at three separate manufacturing sites and a loading dock, one fell off a ladder while replacing light fixtures in an office, and one was caught in machinery at a commercial car wash.

The fact that these six deaths occurred in such a short period of time in one part of the state serves to heighten attention to workplace safety. Plain and simple: No worker should die because of a workplace injury.  Sadly, 5,147 workers throughout the U.S. did in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Transportation-related accidents account for more workplace deaths than any other injury causation. In the past year, Ohio workers also were buried in trenches, electrocuted, and struck by falling trees, lumber, and other objects. Others fell off roofs and walls, slid into an auger, and drowned when the equipment they were operating fell into water.  How could this happen?

We should be outraged because proven means to prevent workplace fatalities exist.

Going above and beyond compliance

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations exist because they work. Employers should embrace them and treat them for what they are: minimum compliance requirements. Going above and beyond compliance reduces risk even more. Building safety into processes rather than treating it as an add-on or afterthought reinforces safety expectations and embeds it in the culture. In most cases the benefits go beyond improving safety to increasing quality and productivity as well as reducing workers’ compensation and other costs.

Public employers, this applies to you, too. In fact, injury rates are higher for public employers than private employers. Why? Work is still work and hazards are still hazards. Whether in the private sector or government the same principles of sound safety management apply.

But we trained the employee, you say. She didn’t follow the procedure. He didn’t use common sense. What were they thinking?

All employers have the duty to provide safe and healthful workplaces, and that starts with becoming intimately familiar with OSHA standards to learn the requirements that apply to their work activities. This duty goes beyond simply training employees and handing them personal protective equipment and written safety procedures. It also means managing the process to ensure employees understand the training, wear the PPE and follow the procedures. All the time. It means assigning tasks only to persons who are trained and qualified to perform the work safely.

Assess hazards and be proactive

Critical to all this is performing hazard assessments that identify potential hazards and determine the most appropriate measures to protect the workers. “What could possibly go wrong?” is a good question to ask, while paying particular attention to high-energy and high-consequence hazards such as struck-bys, caught-betweens, chemical exposures and electrical contacts. We all make mistakes and have bad days, so providing robust protection allows for those eventualities. The hierarchy of controls can guide every work planner in choosing effective means of protection.

Two other resources can help employers improve the safety of their workplaces: employees and safety and health professionals. Employees bring to the table their intimate knowledge of the work and practical insights about how to do it more safely.  Safety professionals bring:

  • Understanding of the nuances of regulatory requirements, human error, and injury causation.
  • Skills in hazard assessment, analysis, and facilitation.
  • Knowledge of risk reduction methods, best practices and human behavior.
  • And the entire body of knowledge that makes safety a profession.

Trained to help employers reduce and manage risk, safety professionals can spot the traps that can lead to injury in otherwise well-intentioned efforts. They help everyone see what could possibly go wrong.

Way back in 2000, I was grocery shopping in New England and noticed this saying on the back of another shopper’s company T-shirt: Workplace injuries went out of style in the last century. I was heartened because I thought that reflected a changing attitude toward workplace safety. It’s 19 years later and we’ve made progress as a nation and state but not enough. We should be outraged that workplace injuries and fatalities are still occurring when the means to make major reductions are in the hands of every employer.

Want help “selling safety” within your organization?

Register for our free webinar!

By Cari Gray, CSP, BWC Safety Consultant Specialist

It’s almost time – are you ready? I know, I know… you’ve stayed awake at night wondering why BWC’s safety folks have been silent in the safety webinar education world.

Well, your wait is finally over because we’re hosting our very first safety webinar. And I wanted to let you in on the ground floor.

At 1 p.m.  Jan. 17, you can join me (yep, they’re letting me lead the first one) to discuss what “selling” safety means, how to “sell” safety to different levels in your organization and a high-level intro on measuring safety culture.

Selling safety is an important topic that applies to every company size and business type. After 20 years in the safety field, I have found that safety is sales. You read that right – if you have ANY safety responsibility, you are officially in sales and you are selling to all levels of your organization (or at least you should be).

Join me to learn techniques for selling safety and discover simple ways to measure safety culture. I’ll also let you know about BWC’s free resources to help you achieve workplace safety success.

Register today to discover beginner techniques on embracing safety within your organization and the resources available to measure your safety culture.

This program is approved for 0.1 IACET CEU as well as one-hour (general) recertification credit through the HR Certification Institute.

Have you heard? Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable

By Jeffrey Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor

Hearing loss is something that can affect any of us not only at work, but in every aspect of our lives.

However, because noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) happens gradually over time, many of us don’t give it the attention it deserves.

That’s why the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) designates every October as National Protect Your Hearing Month. The NIDCD urges you to learn ways to protect yourself, your family and co-workers from NIHL. The following simple solutions from the NIDCD can go a long way toward protecting you from NIHL.

Turn down the volume
Set maximum volume limits on electronics and keep the volume low on music devices and TVs. Sounds at or above 85 A-weighted decibels (comparable to heavy city traffic) put you at risk for NIHL, especially if they last a long time. These days, earbuds are a common concern.

“There’s nothing wrong with earbuds that are producing sound at a low, nontoxic level. But earbuds are bad when you turn them up too loud,” says Dr. James Battey, director of the NIDCD. “My rule of thumb is, if an individual is standing at arm’s length from you and they can hear your earbuds … that noise is probably over 85 decibels and if delivered for a long enough time will cause noise-induced hearing loss.”

Move away from the noise
To reduce sound intensity and the impact of noise on your ears, increase the distance between you and the noise. Think of this simple step when you are near fireworks, concert speakers, or in a loud restaurant.

Wear hearing protection
Sometimes you can’t easily escape the sound, whether you’re at a movie theater, a concert, a sporting event or a noisy work environment. Earplugs or protective earmuffs can help. There is a single number required by law on each hearing protector called the noise reduction rating (NRR). The higher the NRR number, the more effective the protection. Be a good hearing health role model by wearing them yourself. If you don’t have hearing protectors, cover your ears with your hands.

In the workplace, think about the types of equipment or jobs that can cause hearing loss, such as:

  • Circular saws.
  • Chain saws.
  • Firing guns.
  • Air-powered ejection equipment.
  • Air-operated equipment without mufflers.
  • Metal stamping.
  • Machining operations.

Once you have identified the potential sources of loud noises, be sure to take the proper steps to protect yourself and your co-workers from the danger. The good news is NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. If you understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health, you can protect your hearing for life.

BWC can help
Our industrial hygienists can help you identify NIHL hazards in your workplace with on-site consultations. The BWC Library also has plenty of resources, including videos, about noise and hearing conservation.

Safety is brewing in a growing Ohio industry

By Bernie Silkowski, Director of Loss Prevention Operations

Since 1912, Ohio’s workers’ compensation system has helped workers and employers cope with workplace injuries. But central to our mission is preventing those injuries from ever occurring in the first place.

Fewer accidents and injuries mean safe, healthy, skilled and productive employees.

While all jobs come with some element of risk, our job in BWC is to make sure risk is measured and mitigated wherever possible.

BWC does this through our Division of Safety and Hygiene, which is staffed by workplace safety, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics professionals who help employers develop and maintain effective safety-management programs.

We keep a close eye on industry trends and aim to reach new and growing employers as quickly as possible before safety becomes a major issue.

We understand that while employers in emerging industries want to prioritize safety, they are still perfecting processes and learning important lessons as they grow. They are often budding entrepreneurs with a small staff and on a shoestring budget who want to keep their employees safe but may not know how.

This is true of many craft brewers. Most are newer operations and many were started by homebrewers operating a business for the first time. In fact, nationwide, one-third of all craft brewers have been in business less than three years.  In Ohio alone, there are nearly 300 craft breweries with 65 more known to be in the works!

Staff in these craft breweries wear multiple hats and hold a vast array of responsibilities. Many of these breweries simply can’t afford to employ a full-time safety specialist as do large regional and national breweries. Reaching these employers early will help build a culture of safety in the industry into the future.

Yesterday BWC joined OSHA, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, the Brewers Association, and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (District Midwest) in creating the Ohio Craft Brewery Alliance to lend our respective expertise to help this rapidly expanding industry grow with safety in mind.

BWC will leverage our professional safety staff to help develop safety programs and connect brewers to free resources and services and BWC’s one-of-a-kind safety library.  These BWC consultants from our local loss prevention offices and the OSHA On-Site Consultation program will perform safety management consultations, conduct walk-thru inspections, identify hazards, and link brewers to specialized, on-site or online safety training.  As always, our assistance is at no cost to the employers.

For their part the brewer associations will openly share all information, resources, and best practices freely with all craft brewers nationwide including those who are not members of the associations.  All signatories agree to participate in forums and other opportunities to promote safety.

Ultimately, brewers who work toward a goal of identifying, correcting or mitigating hazards and fostering a proactive approach to safety can create a safer work environment. These measures may also help lower costs for workers’ compensation.

We’re excited to be a part of this alliance to help elevate safety in Ohio’s craft breweries.

This is the type of commitment we need to build a culture of safety in every Ohio workplace.

Special thanks go to Keith Bullock, OSHA On-Site Safety and Health Consultant, for coordinating the alliance with all parties. Keith and other BWC consultants are available to advise breweries and direct them to the necessary programs and resources. Breweries can call 1-800-282-1425 to request assistance.

Have you inspected your forklift lately?

By Cari Gray, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

Every day at many work locations, powered industrial trucks (aka forklifts) are sadly being neglected and unloved. Sounds extreme, but it’s true.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard states, “Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service … Such examination shall be made at least daily.” OSHA continues, “where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift.”

So, let’s break down when and what to inspect, and who should do it.

First and foremost – inspections MUST be done.

Inspections need to be done when you put a powered industrial truck (let’s call them forklifts from here on out) in service.

This means inspecting new forklifts and those that have been sitting around unused more than one day. Beyond that, if you use a forklift more than one shift in any given day – you need to inspect it at least after each shift.

OK, so now that’s a little clearer and we know when to inspect – let’s talk about WHO must inspect. Often the forklift operators are the inspectors – and that’s perfectly acceptable. It makes sense for the person who is most impacted to do the inspection. However, sometimes a supervisor or a maintenance employee does the inspection., That’s fine, too. Just make sure the inspector is trained, the inspection’s getting done and it’s getting done right.

Now, let’s cover WHAT we should inspect for. First things first – you need to make sure you are inspecting anything the manufacturer recommends. Yup, you’ve got it – that means you need the manual for the equipment. I know, I know, you have a really old forklift, or maybe you bought it used from an auction … who has the manual? Well, you should. I If you don’t have it, you need to find it – look online, contact the manufacturer or a dealer … but find it. Once you have it, I suggest making a copy and squirrelling away the original so you don’t have to go through this again.

After you use the manufacturer recommendations, you need to consider things that OSHA details out for training. You’ve got it right – OSHA does not give a list of what should be inspected, however it does list mechanical things you need to train your folks on … so it makes sense to inspect for those things. These include:

  • Safety guards.
  • Batteries or fuel systems.
  • Steering systems and wheels.
  • Load backrest extensions.
  • Brakes, horn and lights (if present).

Additionally, you should look at housekeeping – seriously housekeeping on a forklift! Your truck should be kept “clean, free of lint, excess oil and grease.” Now, I’m not expecting the equipment to be clean enough to eat off, but it should not look like a pig sty. You should also include any other safety and operational items that you and your company deem inspection-worthy.

I recommend you create your own checklist to include all these things. You can find dozens of samples online, but don’t just use one without carefully looking at it.  You can update and customize this checklist as needed, it’s yours … so make it look like it!

The OSHA standard also says you need to train your employees on “any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.” Bottom line, if your forklift operators are doing the inspections, they need to know how to do them. A great way to train them is to go out and do the inspection as an exercise during the operator training on a real-life forklift. You can also use this YouTube video that we created (I helped) to aid in the training of forklift inspection.

The last item to keep in mind about forklift inspections is: if you find something unsafe, you DO something about it. OSHA 1910.178(p)(1) says: “If at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating condition.” Don’t ignore unsafe conditions you discover on a forklift. I know, you need to get the job done, but if you have an incident because your forklift is unsafe, it will take a lot longer to do the job and you may hurt someone. That’s not worth it!

The last thought I will leave you with is, consider the dreaded concern of “pencil whipping.” I know you would never do it – but sometimes the importance of an inspection is forgotten and in our rush – we grab the inspection sheet and check off it’s “all good” without even looking at the equipment. If you are the inspector and you are reading this: DON’T DO THAT – that’s silly. If you administer the inspection program, don’t allow others to take shortcuts either.

You can do things to prevent accidents – do spot checks, ask questions and double check. Make forklift inspections a priority!

Time’s running out to apply for our Safety Innovation Awards!

Attention Ohio employers! The application deadline for the 2018 Safety Innovation Awards is just around the corner. To spotlight innovative Ohio employers and their ingenuity, we’re once again seeking entries for our Safety Innovation Award Program.

This annual program awards cash prizes from $1,000 to $6,000 to employers that develop innovative solutions to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses to their employees.

Public and private employers may apply online on our website by Sept. 30.

Finalists will attend Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2019 (OSC19) in Columbus on March 6-8, 2019, to present their innovations to a judges’ panel and the public.

OSC19 attendees will determine the recipient of The People’s Choice award. We will present the awards during a ceremony at Safety Congress. Learn more about last year’s winners in the video below.

In addition to cash prizes, finalists and their innovations are:

  • Spotlighted in the Safety Congress event guide seen by thousands of attendees.
  • Featured in an area entirely dedicated to them in the Expo Marketplace at OSC19.
  • Honored in a ceremony at Safety Congress.

We can’t wait to see the ingenious and creative innovation you’ve developed to keep your workers safer and healthier on the job. Apply today!

If you have any questions about the program, email bwcsafetyinnovations@bwc.state.oh.us or call us at 1-800-644-6292.