To Protect Your Employees You Need A Solid Safety Foundation
 Aug. 17, 2012

Like many other employment practices, a successful workplace safety program must have a solid foundation. The foundation in this case is your core safety practices that ensure you address the exposures to loss that lead to your company's workers compensation claims.

Just because you have no claims does not mean the loss exposures don't exist. It means you have either been extremely lucky or you have a solid injury and Illness prevention program in place. You are probably proactive and manage safety rather than respond to safety problems. But before you build that all-important outline of safety objectives, your organization should lay a foundation. In this foundation you need to address the fundamental elements that will provide your organization with the best chance of avoiding work-related injuries.

Consider these seven basic building blocks for your foundation:

1. Create and maintain a safe work environment

    This probably seems obvious. But, ensuring this objective is clearly a priority with your company's management is critical to building a successful safety program. There will be several elements that create a safety cornerstone. Examples might include:

      WORKSPACE DESIGN - Ensure work areas do not place physical stress on workers as they complete jobs/tasks.

      MAINTENANCE -Make sure that tools work properly, are regularly inspected and that safety features like machine guards are in place.

      TRAINING - Make sure that workers (particularly new ones) know how to use tools properly.
There will likely be more than one requirement for each element of the safety cornerstone including:

Workspace Design Maintenance Training Hiring Practices Inspections Work Flow Process

2. Evaluate safety hazards

Cal/OSHA requires that you periodically make hazard assessments to determine when specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)is needed. Be sure to:
    Identify all physical hazards at the site.For manufacturing companies, identify hazards created by employees working close to one another, close to large machinery and near materials that could fall or shift.
3. Make sure workers wear their PPE

You as the employer, not employees, are responsible for selecting the right Personal ProtectiveEquipment and providing it to employees. Be sure to select the appropriate PPE for hazards you've identified in your workplace. Document each hazard and the PPE associated with protecting your employees relative to that hazard.

4. Make sure employees are trained to inspect PPE before each use

Damaged or worn PPE, or PPE that doesn't fit properly, won't protect adequately. Set up PPE inspection protocols:
    Teach employees how to inspect PPE. Show workers how to ensure PPE fits properly and will stay in place. Explain how to clean and how to store PPE to prevent damage. Have supervisors check to be sure employees follow inspection rules.
5. Require the use of safe work practices

Teach employees to always use caution while they work. For example:
    Always wear assigned PPE, even if the job will "only take a minute."Brush, shake, or vacuum dust and debris from PPE before removing the protection. Clean PPE regularly.
You will develop an outline of safe practices that relate to your operation. Make sure you address all work processes in your company.

6. Make it easy for employees to replace worn or damaged Personal Protective Equipment

Explain the circumstances in which Personal Protective Equipment should be replaced. Use samples of damaged equipment to make your point. Create replacement procedures and make them part of your safety policies and procedures. Include the replacement procedures in your safety manuals and employee handbooks and ensure employees acknowledge these practices.

7. Prepare for injuries and establish first aid practices

Make sure you have trained first aid providers, a sufficient supply of first aid kits available in all work areas and clear procedures for what to do in the event of an injury. Be prepared and you will be protected.

Safety is no accident. Build your safety program on a sound safety foundation. For more information on foundational safety practices contact the CMTA Group Workers' Compensation Program at wcgroup@cmta.net.

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