The Safest Worksites are the Most Successful

posted on: Monday January 13, 2014

Employee well being is a paramount concern for every employer, but the benefits of safety go beyond health. Safe facilities are more cost-effective, productive, and efficient. Costs for neglecting safety still exist if no one gets hurt. Items like blocked fire exits or a fire extinguisher on the floor cost employers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

For example, Rite Aid made big news in 2005 with their citations: “Safety hazards at 11 Bronx Rite Aid stores have resulted in Rite-Aid of New York Inc. being fined a total of $144,700 by the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Hazards included locked or blocked emergency exits, obstructed exit routes, missing exit signs and inadequate fire extinguisher training” (osha.gov).

The consequences of an unsafe environment are not always obvious, and so some best practices for safety are not as common sense as one might think. This article will combine the wisdom of several Reliable Plant articles written by safety expert Howard Mavity. Mavity practices law and is the founder of the Fisher and Phillips Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. As described on reliableplant.com: “Howard’s focus is the intersection of safety, employment law and labor issues, which range from dealing with whistleblower claims to the type of employee engagement that translates to effective safety efforts, fewer lawsuits and a pro-employee culture. Howard is also involved with audits of safety and HR compliance.”

In the article, “Why Good Housekeeping is Essential for a Safe Workplace,” Mavity explains that during an audit, housekeeping is his first point of focus. “In 30 years, I have yet to find an occasion where poor housekeeping did not translate to or foreshadow a variety of cultural, leadership and compliance problems.”

He points out that poor housekeeping means several things. As described above, neglect can lead to a blocked emergency exit or strewn safety equipment – things that result in citations so costly they can devastate a company. Poor housekeeping sends a message that the employer doesn’t care about his or her employees. This affects the work ethic of employees and reputation of the employer. “Employers should not underestimate the effect of filthy restrooms and especially showers on morale. Such issues are often a key complaint in union drives.” Mavity also discusses this in “4 Ways to Improve Workplace Safety.” He writes not only of housekeeping but safety in general: “Neglecting safety is a clear message that you don’t care about employees, so don’t be surprised if the employees, in turn, do not care about their work and your customers.”

As for the housekeeping issue, doing a poor job yields another consequence. “When OSHA compliance officers see lousy housekeeping, you know they will more closely scrutinize training and audit requirements, lockout and handling chemicals. They figure that if you don’t care enough to fix broken control-room windows, pick up discarded broken tools or stage materials properly on a jobsite, you aren’t likely to ring the bell with your powered industrial truck training.”

Overall, housekeeping sets the tone for employees, vendors, and clients. For improvements, Mavity suggests: “Become purposeful. Define ‘good housekeeping,’ make a written plan, establish cleaning schedules, build an accountability structure and add housekeeping categories to self-audits. Do not assume that your normal housekeeping employees or operators will get it done.”

In his “4 Ways to Improve Workplace Safety” article, Mavity also discusses including employees in ways they know they are contributing to the company’s success. “Effective safety programs will not occur in an atmosphere where employees do not feel as if they have a role in the organization’s success.” Several examples of this were described in Mavity’s article “40 Things you can Learn from America’s Safest Companies.” These include: after 250 hours of work, new employees are asked to give feedback on safety and what could be done differently for new employees in the future; having employees carry “stop work” cards to hand out when they see an unsafe situation, and then reward the employees who use them appropriately.

Praising success is another one of Mavity’s tips on improving safety, and something that award-winning companies do consistently. One company hosts a BBQ for the team that scores the highest on their regular safety audit. Many companies focus so intently on punishing the negatives; starting each day or each week with a meeting to praise success sets a much better tone. Awarding managers for success falls in line with this, too, as well as with what the most successful companies are doing: “1. Project manager and superintendent bonuses depend on safety performance.”

As Mavity describes, success in safety is more than just training and PPE. Employees need to be included and empowered. By doing so, they not only care more about being safe, but also their jobs, productivity, customers, and managers. Take care of your employees in a big way, and they will take care of you.

Safety was a key factor when designing Load Mover power tugs. Load Mover, Inc is a company that supports safety and injury reduction in manual material handling. Our equipment is built to eliminate the strain of pushing and pulling. Load Mover power tugs have been successfully incorporated into operations to enhance safety, cost-cutting, lean, and green initiatives. For detailed information about our equipment, call us at 952-767-1720 or email Info@loadmoverinc.com.