Is your manufacturing facility a safe place to work? You may feel prepared to answer with an immediate “yes” if you don’t happen to have a questionable record of recent injuries and incidents. But a lack of incidents does NOT mean you’re operating a safe workplace. It might just mean you’re either lucky, or you’re relying on the judgment, reflexes, and skill of your employees to keep themselves and others out of harm’s way. That’s not the path to success. Instead, consider tightening up your layout, procedures, and policies so your workers and visitors are safe even in the event of off days or lapses in attention. Start by creating a safety checklist that each employee can adhere to at all times.
Here are a few simple guidelines.
First, divide universal items from individual ones.
Every employee who enters your workplace should have a list of shared rules and protocols. These will all be the same, and everyone will follow them (from part-timers to executives) with zero exceptions. For example, you may need all workers to sign in, or to wear helmets while inside the building. You may need every incident to be reported, no matter how small. And you may need every person who touches a machine to be certified on that machine. Keep these checklist items separate from the checklist items that apply to specific, individual jobs.
For individual checklists, gain input from relevant workers.
Start with OSHA requirements, HR data, and manufacturer guidelines for specific machines. But don’t rely on these three things alone as you create your safety checklist for individual jobs. Walkthrough the job with an employee who holds that job. Gain insight into every detail that may impact employee safety. What happens if the machine isn’t cleaned properly between uses? What if the floor of the work area is wet? What if the lighting is too low? What are the steps that must be taken by the company and by the worker to keep this job safe?
Gain buy-in from management, employees, and HR when changing official policies.
Don’t require an employee to take certain cumbersome safety steps if you aren’t prepared to enforce those rules. For example, if requiring an employee to slow down for safety makes it harder to meet productivity quotas, the quotas must be changed or employees might not comply. Don’t put anyone in the company into a catch 22; instead, make sure rules and policies work for everyone before you put them in place.
Allow flexibility in the process.
Be ready to revisit your checklists again and again, adding, removing and editing items that need adjustment. Let science and experience be your guide. If a new rule seems like it SHOULD make the job safer, but it actually adds complications that make it more dangerous, revisit the rule. For more on how to support workplace safety, contact the experts at PSU.