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How real is your Safety Program?

W.Tomlin 2015

When I provide safety and health presentations and instruct classes, the topic of occupational-related accidents generally arise. I often times relay my opinion on the three typical causes of employee accidents leading to injuries. They are as follows: Didn’t Know, Don’t Care and it Doesn’t Matter.

Let me explain:
• The employee did not “know” about the hazards.
• The employee did not “care,” and broke safety rules or did not follow training.
• The employee felt, or was told, safety rules “did not matter” in this situation due to production issues.

The first situation involves employee training or the lack thereof. A myriad of OSHA standards requires training to address hazards that employees may encounter. The OSHA standards requiring training range from operating forklifts and chemical hazard communication to respirator usage and etc.

A newly hired, untrained employee in a hazardous location is an accident waiting to happen. To prevent these types of accidents from occurring, management must develop and implement training procedures to prepare the new employees for the hazards in their work area.

The second behavior that may lead to an accident is not only an employee’s attitude, but the enforcement attitude of the immediate supervisor. An employee who willfully violates safety rules should receive an immediate reprimand from their supervisor. The reprimand should be documented, and the punishment should be progressive, leading to termination.

In the third situation, safety rules are ignored for production concerns, resulting in accidents. This falls squarely on the shoulders of management. The supervisor determines the seriousness of the safety rules and their enforcement. If management knowingly instructs employees to violate a safety procedure solely for productivity, this creates a double hit to the company’s safety culture.

Management ignoring safety rules shows employees that safety is not really a priority, and secondly, the employee’s personal safety is not of importance to management.

Additionally, Federal OSHA takes a dim view of companies who choose profit over safety.

The National Safety Council (NSC) released survey results on June 20th, showing 33 percent of the 2,000 employees polled across the nation, believed employers prioritize productivity over safety at their organizations.

In conclusion, a company’s safety program must be a real program in that established procedures must be followed no matter the operational conditions or the need for productivity. One of the guiding principles in the nuclear power industry is the policy of “Safe, Legal and Efficient”. Safety should always be a priority over productivity.