Think ‘Safety and…’ During National Safety Month
Each June, the National Safety Council celebrates National Safety Month, an annual observance to help keep workers safe in the workplace, at home, and in their communities.
Topics for this year’s event involve hazard reduction, safety culture, and continuous improvement. If you’re interested in learning more about the month, how to get involved, or would like to download some free materials, you can visit the National Safety Month website.
While worker safety should certainly be top of mind for every organization, I wanted to take a minute to encourage you to go a little further this year — a concept I’ll call “Safety and…”.
What Is “Safety and…”?
“Safety and…” is a concept that takes the focus of safety efforts beyond just safety and considers other benefits to workplace improvements.
For Example: Jim, the Parts Manufacturer
Jim is a worker for a parts manufacturer. At his workstation, Jim frequently bends down to the floor to lift boxes of parts and carries them 25 feet to his assembly table. The safety manager at Jim’s workplace recognizes the heavy lifts/carries and approaches management with a potential solution to improve the safety of the workstation.
Management asks whether anyone has been hurt lifting boxes (they haven’t…at least not yet) and what would happen if someone was hurt performing the task (they have an insurance policy in place that would pay injury expenses). As a result, management determines that there isn’t enough benefit to justify the costs of the safety improvement. The safety director chalks up another one in the “I tried” column and reminds Jim to lift safely.
Enter “Safety and…”. Think of this concept like a three-legged stool. While improvements using solely a safety approach are good, the more legs that can be incorporated into the justification for improvements, the better. Meaning, what else benefits when the so-called safety improvement is made to Jim’s workstation?
Well, take a look:
Productivity — Each time Jim bends down to pick up and carry a box, time is spent that is not value added. By setting up the workstation and process more effectively, Jim can produce more subassemblies.
Quality — Companies often find that when workers are fatigued by strenuous tasks like lifting and carrying heavy boxes, more quality errors result, especially near the end of the shift. By reducing fatigue, first-pass quality is improved, and rework and warranty claims can be reduced.
Morale and turnover — Workers in tough positions may look to bid out of those positions or leave the company all together. In today’s labor market, keeping workers comfortable is a key part of employee retention.
Other injury prevention — Fatigued workers are often involved in non-lifting injuries because of their tasks. For example: Jim may, after lifting and carrying boxes for an entire day, lose focus and become injured performing other tasks. Even momentary lapses of focus caused by fatigue can result in significant injuries, especially when hazards like ladders, electricity, machines/equipment, or other severe exposures are part of the job.
As you can see, continuous improvement using a holistic risk management approach takes conversations from safety alone to safety and a whole lot more. Changes that improve safety almost always benefit the business through improvements in other key areas.
So, the next time you’re evaluating an opportunity for improvement, think “safety and…”.
Join Us for a Webinar on the Topic
If you’re looking for more information about continuous improvements related to workplace ergonomics and the “safety and…” approach, click here to register for our upcoming webinar, “A Path to Ergonomics Program Success – Unlocking the Potential to Improve Your Business.” The webinar is on Wednesday, June 16, at 10:00 a.m. CT.
Until then, best of luck for a safe and healthy National Safety Month and remember the “and” in your risk management endeavors. If there’s a way we can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Published on: 06.07.21