In September 2008, ASA signed an Alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide ASA’s members with information, guidance, and access to training resources that will help them protect employees’ health and safety by addressing exposure to hazards associated with material handling, forklift operations and hazard communication. This article is the first in a series designed to help ASA members embark on a path to an effective safety program – one step at a time.

This all sounds good but how to begin? What is step one? The first step is for you, the Management Team, to decide to incorporate safety into your corporate culture. This is the most basic and fundamental decision and commitment that must be made. Once the Management Team commits to the concept of safety and its importance, the next steps come easily and logically. 

The Management Team must determine their status with respect to safety and OSHA compliance.  What is your experience modifier if you have one?  This will help you to understand where you stand in relation to others in the same industry.  If you do not know what your experience modifier is, talk with your insurance agent to get your current information.  Review what has happened in the past by gathering data from incidents for the last five years.  This data is available from workers’ compensation submissions to your insurance carrier or your OSHA 300 logs. This information provides you with an awareness of past events and can point to trends.  

For example, is there a specific area where more injuries occur, are accidents occurring at the beginning or end of a shift, or are employees performing one specific task when injured? Examination of work stations where many of the injuries have occurred may be useful, or observation of work processes may yield important information which can explain why so many injuries are occurring. The Management Team may want to turn to their insurance carrier’s safety engineers or private safety engineers for assistance in trend analysis, hazard assessment and recommendations for modification of processes to reverse the trends that were found.

The Management Team must also determine how fully they are complying with OSHA requirements and recommendations. The compliance calendar the Safety Committee is currently developing can be a first step in this area. Click on the Safety Training button on ASA home page to find information on specific requirements for your industry.  Safety Engineers can also provide useful compliance guidance.

Once the initial assessment is completed, the Management Team must properly allocate resources to cover the projected implementation costs of the safety program. This upfront cost can be tempered by the realization that, according to studies, for every dollar you invest in safety, you can expect a $4 to $6 return. Implementation costs may include such items as training materials and seminars, modification of work stations, purchase of personal protective equipment, purchase of equipment to enhance safety in the performance of jobs, and employees’ time away from the job to participate in training or planning. 

The Management Team is now ready to begin communicating their commitment to safety through a kick-off campaign as well as involving employees in the program through the formation of a Safety Team. The Safety Team should be made up of both managers and employees selected either from volunteers or through recommendations from managers. The Safety Team members will be the leaders of the safety effort and serve as champions of the cause for safety. The responsibilities of the Safety Team include such things as reviewing the results of the management assessment and conducting more refined hazard assessments and compliance evaluations, developing and implementing a plan to meet the identified safety and compliance needs of the Company and assessing the effectiveness of the plan implementation.  

Education tools have been developed to assist you with your safety efforts.  These tools are called Toolbox Talks and can be found on www.asa.net by clicking on the Safety Training button on the home page. There is one for supervisory personnel who will be conducting the Toolbox Talks and discusses how to most effectively use the Toolbox Talk templates. Another Toolbox Talk is entitled “Making Safety a Priority” and can be used in your kick-off campaign.

Incorporating safety into the culture of an organization takes time and energy but proves its worth in company after company. Take it one step at a time and you will find yourself on the path to an effective safety program, greater productivity and a better bottom line.