Making a Commitment to Worker Safety

Making a Commitment to Worker Safety

Telling the truth when it can cost a company some of its profit has never been a popular choice. Yet that is the position that safety officers find themselves in if they wish to do their job. While they will not typically contact the local media for an expose, they are expected to let higher-ups know when the company is in violation of OSHA regulations – even when fixing the problem can cost thousands of dollars.

Most people would not covet such a job. And whether or not your company has a safe work environment is highly dependent not only on the safety officer doing his job, but the ability of supervisors to listen to his input, even when it goes against a company’s financial efforts or traditional manner of conducting business.

The April 2013 ASSE journal, “Professional Safety,” has published an article that lends validity to this uncomfortable truth. In “The Dissenting Voice – Key Factors, Professional Risks and Value Add,” author Dave Rebbitt, CRSP, CHSC explains the link between an organization’s structure and its commitment to worker safety.

Top-down authoritarian structures do not tend to tolerate the type of dissent that needs to occur for organizational change to happen. This is particularly applicable in the area of safety.  When an organization rewards compliance and conformity, it will be difficult for safety officers and other employees to speak up about unsafe conditions and advocate for change.

Organizations with dual-authority matrix structures or other less hierarchal power structures, however, tend to tolerate greater dissent or even embrace it.  In such companies, employees often feel a greater sense of empowerment and are better able to bring safety issues to the attention of management without fear of retaliation. According to the article, this type of organization tends to have better safety records.

Professional safety officers should consider the structure of the organization before taking on a new position, keeping in mind that they are likely to be far more effective working for a company that finds value in dissent.

Those in positions of power should consider if the organizational structure is putting their workers at risk — and act to remedy the situation.

Preventing Fires at Construction Sites

Preventing Fires at Construction Sites

Don’t wait until you actually have a fire on-site to start your fight against fire. Use the following tips  help keep construction sites free from the threat of fire:

  • No smoking – have and enforce a no smoking policy on the construction site.
  • Loss control plan – the written loss control plan should comprehensively address the risks of fire exposure and include specific objectives to be enforced by management on the job site, general safety measures, and a named person to be in charge of on-site safety coordination.
  • Inspections and logs – project managers should do daily on-site inspections of all materials and equipment, the work area, and any other nearby location with potential hazards. A running log should be kept of these daily inspections.
  • Hot works – cutting, brazing, welding, and other hot works operations should have a person designated to observe the working area, as well as areas adjacent to it. The person should maintain a line of sight and watch combustible products, sparks, and slag. The surrounding areas should be inspected for a minimum of 30 minutes after the hot works operation ceases.
  • Portable heating equipment – place all portable heating equipment on non-combustive platforms or flooring. Use recognized standards and/or the manufacturer’s specifications for ensuring the appropriate maintenance, fueling, and clearance.
  • Enclosures – construct temporary enclosures with designated paths for transporting materials. For the best results, only construct the temporary enclosure with non-combustible approved materials and locate it away from overhead exposures.
  • Flammable materials – the labeling and identification requirements of gas and flammable liquid containers should be reviewed carefully before they’re brought on the construction site. Make sure that safe storage areas for flammables have been clearly designated and that the area includes surrounding barriers and signs.
  • Firefighting equipment – keep firefighting equipment on-site and easily available at all times. The project manager should ensure that there is always a reliable water supply available for the equipment to connect to and that the equipment will adapt to local fire department equipment if necessary.
  • Rooftops – roof vents should be adequately cleaned to decrease sources of ignition like lint. Additionally, a minimum of one portable fire extinguisher should be located at-level during rooftop operations. Make sure the extinguisher has sufficient capacity for the fire risk.