The first safety best practice identified, and one which is essential to any good safety program, is a management commitment to safety.
Some safety practices are essential to being compliant with the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) and for keeping the number of injuries in your company down. Keeping the number of injuries down will also help you maintain low lost days, work injury indexes and experience modification rates for your workers' compensation.
No company can have a successful safety program if the management of that company is not committed to the concept of a safe workplace. Every company has an obligation to ensure, as much as possible, the safety of its employees. Management's commitment to safety can manifest itself in many different ways.
Management should be involved in the formulation, communication and enforcement of its safety program. All levels of management should always be visibly demonstrating their commitment to safety. For example, when an individual from management, at any level, visits a job site, that individual must comply with all safety rules that impact that job site, no matter how brief the visit to the job site may be. If personal respiratory equipment is required before entering a certain area, the management representative must equip him/herself with the necessary PPE. If hard hats are required on the job site, the management representative absolutely must wear a hard hat at all times while on the job site. If there are restrictions for entering a particular area on the job site, the management representative, who may not meet the restrictions for entering that area, cannot afford to think that "just because he is management" the rules do not apply to him.
Leading By Example
Your employees know who you are, and they observe what you do and how you do it. If your workforce believes that you are only giving lip service to your own safety rules, you will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce those rules with your workers. They will be in compliance while you are present, but as soon as your back is turned, they will reason, "Well, management doesn't need to operate safely, neither do we." This attitude will put a heavy burden on your first-line supervisors to enforce safety and possibly force you into a situation where hard decisions will have to be made with regard to disciplining employees, up to and including termination, for violating your safety program.
Another way management can show its commitment to safety is by making sure that all necessary safety equipment is readily available. Safety equipment provided to employees should be at least at a quality equal to that of any other equipment on the job site and better, if possible. We all recognize that running a company does not mean that you have a blank check to spend money on safety issues or anything else. Establish programs and place responsibilities on employees to care for their safety equipment. But, when safety equipment wears out or is unavoidably damaged or destroyed, you must step up to the plate immediately and repair or replace it.
You can show your commitment to safety by ensuring that safety training is held at the same level of importance as craft training. Ensure that a copy of your safety program is available to all employees at each job site and that each employee has his/her own copy of the safety program. Be sure you are observing how your front-line management complies with and enforces the safety program, and be sure that your employees are aware that you hold management accountable for communicating as well as enforcing the safety rules.
Remember, not only do you have a moral obligation to ensure the safety of your workforce, it is also good business to do so.
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2005
issue of NIA News.
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Gary Auman is a Partner in the law firm of Dunlevey, Mahan & Furry in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the University of Louisville in 1969, and a law degree from The Ohio State University in 1976. Since then, his practice has focused on defending employers in workers' compensation and OSHA cases. In 2002, Mr. Auman was awarded the Distinguished Service to Safety Award by the National Safety Council. He has worked with OSHA in its development of safety and health standards, and he has defended OSHA cases in several federal appellate courts. Mr. Auman also represents 4 national and regional trade associations in the construction industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dale Haden, of Performance Contracting Inc., serves as the chairman of NIA's Health and Safety Committee.