A Good Basic Safety and Health Induction

Walt Disney once said regarding criticism, “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long… we keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Safety is about curiosity. It’s about seeking to improve by questioning, inquiring; it’s not about blaming others or perpetually finding faults with systems; it begins with a curiosity to change things for the better, making a safer workplace for all.

There is no job so urgent that we don’t have time to do it safely.

Manual Handling, Sprain and Strain Injuries

The prevention of sprain and strain injuries[1] represents one of our biggest opportunities to reduce injuries. We need to look after our backs, shoulders, knees, and other joints and muscles etc. Our retirement years ought to be the best they can be, but if we haven’t looked after our bodies it’ll be worth less to us.

Proper human movement is about correct technique where muscles are used and there is less strain on connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) to do the work. If you get a sore back it can be due to overused ligaments or tendons (tendonitis) and disproportionate spinal disc loading, leading to more serious problems. We need to look after our bodies if we’re to age gracefully!

Correct lifting involves:

– keeping the spine’s natural “S” curve as much as possible by bending the knees and keeping the back straight;

– creating a bridge (shoulder width stance);

– grasping the object with a good, safe grip;

– keeping the head looking slightly up (keeping the curve in the cervical spine); and

– ensuring there’s no twist in the spine as we lift.

We need to plan the lift, and employ team lifting and mechanical aids wherever possible. It’s good to stretch several times a day especially when we use repetitive movements or sit at a computer.

Ergonomics

Akin to the more chronic type of strain or sprain injury, ergonomics is the fit of the worker to the workplace (environment) and the work (procedures) in creating behaviour. People often focus on the potential for other safety incidents and ergonomics is frequently forgotten.

Ergonomic workstations assessments are a key injury prevention strategy, especially for office-based workers. Many office workers have suffered repetitive strain injury (RSI), otherwise known as Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS). Once someone has a musculoskeletal illness or disease it can take months and even years to properly heal. Prevention is far better than cure.

Alcohol and Other Drugs

Every responsible employer has an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy. In our society the use and abuse of these substances creates problems in every workplace.

The main issue is impairment. If someone is impaired by alcohol or other drugs in the workplace they place both themselves and others at risk of serious injury, even death.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are critical in both the proactive treatment of dependency to substances, and for rehabilitation. Company policies focus on education, and empowering employees to self-identify and self-manage substance use and abuse issues.

Disciplinary issues are the last resort, but are often required in managing affected employees through rehabilitation.

Hazard Resolution

Resolving hazards and reducing risks in the workplace is critical–we all play a part. If you can fix a hazard or make it safe you need to do that first, and then report it. Don’t forget to involve your Safety and Health Representative. Safety Committees also have a role to address these issues.

There should be no safety issue that can’t be resolved to all parties’ satisfaction, and an escalating process can help achieve this.

Take Five Program and Risk Management

TAKE 5 in your work. Stop and think before each task to try and identify what could go wrong. If in doubt, simply ask. Involve your supervisor if you feel there is risk of injury or harm in the work you’re doing.

Risk management is three simple steps: hazard identification, risk assessment and control. Hazards should be assessed for both likelihood (how often you’re exposed to the hazard COMBINED with the probability of it occurring) and consequence.

Risk management’s main objective is to reduce both likelihood and consequence, but minimising consequences of incidents always prevails because people will always make errors and mistakes.

Employee Duty of Care

This means you must:

– Care for your own safety and that of others.

– Comply with ALL instructions you’re given to protect the safety of yourself and others.

– Use ALL equipment (including Personal Protective Equipment) appropriately and as trained and instructed.

– Report EVERY incident, whether it’s an injury/illness, near-miss, or property damage.

Emergency Information

Know your key emergency numbers and procedures. You never know when you’ll need them. Alarms are tested at regular times each week.

Work Controls

Know your work controls. The company will provide the relevant training in work permitting systems, as required and appropriate.

Summary

Remember, there is no job so urgent that we don’t have time to do it safely. You do not need to take short cuts for any reason. Ensure you carry out all your duties responsibly, reporting to your supervisor any situation causing concern.

ENDNOTE:

[1] Sprain injuries occur to harder connective tissue i.e. ligaments and tendons. Strain injuries occur to soft tissue i.e. muscles; muscles recover from injury approximately 4-5 times quicker than connective tissue does.

How to Use the PDCA Cycle to Implement an Effective Health and Safety Management System

Occupational health and safety management deals with hazard identification, risk assessment and determination of appropriate controls to enhance the well-being and prevent injury and ill health to employees who are in any form of employment. In order to achieve an effective health and safety management system, organizations should handle these with greater significance. These three aspects form the major foundation for implementing an effective health and safety management system in the workplace and without them, the overall system would surely fail.

The health and safety of employees should be a priority of any employer. Illnesses or accidents among employees will impact negatively on the organization’s bottom line. A healthy worker is a productive worker. Work accidents or ill health among employees results in expensive medical treatments, lost work days and can also lead to damage to property and loss of production. The employer should therefore ensure that the work environment is safe and employees concentrate on their assigned tasks without fear of accidents or sickness. To safeguard the safety and health of all employed persons, employers should implement a safety and health management system in the workplace. This applies to any organization, regardless of type or size.

Having a proper safety and health management system in place means that the organization will comply with any local or national standards and regulations regarding safety and health. The organization will therefore avoid potential fines and prosecutions. This system also provides the organization with a framework to help identify, control and improve the safety and health of its employees thereby ensuring that risks are as low as reasonably practicable. In addition, this will show the employees that their employer is committed to keeping them safe. Absenteeism will also reduce.

An organization can adopt the generic ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ (PDCA) principle to implement a safety and health management system. This principle is an ongoing process that enables an organization to establish, implement and maintain its health and safety management system. This will involve an initial audit to establish what the organization has or hasn’t got in place already, followed by a second audit in order to ensure compliance. Below is an overview of the cycle and how it translates to an effective safety and health management system for an organization.

Plan

The planning stage of the system requires an organization to establish objectives and how they will be achieved, plan for emergencies and responses to them, identify any legal requirements that need to be met, and the establishment of a health and safety policy to show the top management’s commitment to the safety and health of all the employees in the organization and visitors who come to the organization. Top management commitment is required for a good reason; without it, implementation of the system won’t be as successful and neither will the results. The entire workforce should also be engaged in this stage since they are the ones who will be most affected by the health and safety system and their understanding of the system will make them believe in it and increase chances of its success. Using the outcome of the initial audit, the organization will establish where it is compared to where it needs to be, based on legal requirements and standards of good practice. The organization will then need to decide what actions should be taken to reach the desired point. The whole planning process should be documented, clearly stating the responsibilities and what measurement will be used to determine whether the objectives have been achieved or not and the expected timescales.

Do

This is the implementation stage, where the plan is put into action. If the planning stage is done correctly, then this stage will just involve following the procedures that were created. Trainings may be undertaken to improve the safety culture in the organization, hazards will be identified and control measures put in place to mitigate the risks posed by these hazards and safety and health communication can also be disseminated across the organization to make employees make the right decisions to avoid accidents and ill health. Refresher trainings can also be organized to ensure people remain competent, machines and other equipment need to be maintained, proper procedures followed in all operations and proper supervision undertaken where necessary to ensure that employees only carry out tasks they have been trained on and are suited to their competencies.

Check

In this stage, the organization needs to determine how well the plans are doing. Evaluation will be done to establish what went well and what needs to be improved. This will be achieved by measuring the actual results against planned objectives. Performance measurement parameters and procedures devised should be checked against actual results. A good way of doing this is by performing an internal audit of the system. Regular internal audits will give an assurance that the organization is in control of the health and safety management system and give a mechanism towards achieving the objectives. External experts should also be invited to give an independent view of how well the system is meeting its objectives.

Act

In this final stage, action will be taken to improve and close any identified gaps. This will be done with the aim of continuously improving the health and safety management system. The organization will learn from experiences, accidents or errors and take any action to update the system. It is also advisable to learn from other similar organizations and benchmark. Organizations should remember that this model is cyclical and this last stage leads back as feedback to the planning stage. Policy documents, procedures or training plans may need updating accordingly.

Remember this cycle is a generic model that can be applied in other areas such as project management, quality management, environmental management systems and many others.

Why Should a Company Bother With Health and Safety Training?

The main objective of health and safety training is to increase your worker’s understanding and awareness of the risks they may encounter in the workplace, and, more importantly, how to avoid and reduce the chances of incidents happening at all. Although risk can never be totally eliminated, employees that have a greater understanding of the risks will know what to look out for and what they can do (or not do) to reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring to as close to zero as possible.

Not only will health and safety training make them more aware of the potential hazards, it should also inform them of the control measures that are in place to prevent accidents, and the company’s health and safety procedures for working safely.

Health and safety training which reduces accidents and incidents in the workplace will have a number of benefits to the company, particularly financial, making it an excellent return on investment. After an accident, a worker is likely to need time off to recover. This will vary depending upon the severity of the accident, but can be a significant amount of time in serious cases. The same can be said of those who become ill as a result of poor working conditions. Having an employee away from the workplace will reduce the total output of the company. If the company wishes to maintain the existing level of output, they will need to bring in temporary workers which will incur costs in terms of recruitment fees and having to pay them a wage as well as sick pay to the person off work. Alternatively, they can get other workers to cover for the absent one, but making people do part of someone else’s job as well as their own is likely to cause a fall in morale and a feeling of being over-worked.

A worker who has received health and safety training which stops them from having an accident means there is less potential for them to sue the company afterwards. Even though the company may not have done anything wrong and would win the court case, it will still use up valuable time and money fighting the case or agreeing an out-of-court settlement.

Health and safety training should be given to new starters, covering topics such as how to safely operate the particular equipment that they will be using, the hazards that they face from others working on the premises (e.g. fork lift truck drivers moving items around the factory floor), the company’s emergency procedures and the location of things such as fire fighting apparatus, emergency exits, assembly points etc.

It is also important that workers frequently receive regular health and safety training in order to refresh their knowledge as things may have been forgotten since the last session. Training should also be given when circumstances change such as when a person is transferred to another area of the business, when new equipment is introduced, or there is a change to how existing machinery is used. The company’s insurance company may also require training in a specific area as part of the agreement to insure the business.