ASSE Urges Workplace Safety

April 29, 2005

As thousands join with the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) to celebrate North American Occupational Safety and Health Week (NAOSH) this May 1-7, ASSE members offer tips pulled from their experience on how to increase safety in the workplace.

“Our members – occupational safety, health and environmental professionals in all industries – work day in and day out to ensure that the millions of people who go to work every day return home safely,” ASSE President Gene Barfield said. “During NAOSH Week we will work to raise the public’s awareness of the importance of workplace safety. We urge all businesses – large and small – to join us as we continue to identify risks and develop and implement safety systems aimed at preventing on-the-job fatalities, injuries and illnesses.”

This snapshot of recent success stories told by ASSE members is helpful to businesses seeking insight on improving workplace safety, Barfield continued.

One ASSE member noted, “Last year during an insurance loss control survey of a prospective client we saw high lift order picker truck operators working without fall prevention. These trucks are used so order pickers can access material high above the floor. The safety equipment in this large warehouse with racked storage up to 22 feet was present, but was not being used. When asked why they weren’t being used, the supervisor of the area said they were busy and had no time to enforce the use of the harness and lanyards. The supervisor was not wearing the forklift seat belt. Later, we met with the president of the company. The president was aware of the need for this protection and was amazed with both the situation and the response of the supervisor. He acted immediately to correct the practice. As a follow-up, the company enacted an aggressive safety training program with supervisory accountability for safety practices. Based on the actions of the company and demonstrated execution of the training program and supervisory responsibilities, no falls from forklift injuries have occurred.”

A member wrote: “My dad worked for Southern Bell Telephone for many years. He would occasionally bring one of the olive-drab company cars home and on the dashboard was a gold sticker. It said, ‘No job is so important, or need so great, that we cannot perform our job safely.’ I recall this was before 911 – back when your lifeline for help in any situation was to dial “O” for Operator. You knew someone would be there to help you. The operators undertook this unwritten responsibility with the highest zeal and willingness. All the while, the overriding mission of the Bell System was safety. Because if you didn’t work safely, the mission of the company could not be met… and all the people who dialed “O” when they needed help might not get an answer.”

A wood products manufacturer, an ASSE member noted, “needed help after two years of seeing their loss ratio increase well in excess of 100%. In partnership with our claims and loss control professionals, the manufacturer made a significant commitment to address workplace safety. Training was provided on numerous topics including supervisory involvement, accident trend analysis, accident investigation, and forklift safety. The establishment and training of an effective safety committee, the creation of job hazard assessments for each piece of equipment, supervisors who manage safety as part of their daily responsibilities and employees who perform their jobs safer and more efficiently were some of the successful results. Engineers now address safety issues before new equipment is put into use, and safety efforts are pro-active rather than re-active. The manufacturer’s incurred losses have dropped dramatically. The loss ratio has decreased from a high of 60% in 2002 to a low of 13% in the current policy period.”

An ASSE member from North Carolina wrote, “in 2001 a fast food restaurant came to us with a 1.67 experience modification, and their workers’ compensation premiums had increased to an extremely high level. We urged them to hire a safety director and work with our loss control specialists to implement a comprehensive risk management program. The client agreed and a program was put in place that covered employee selection and orientation, annual employee training, restaurant inspections, and accident investigation. A safety team leader was identified in each restaurant. They were trained and given responsibility for daily safety activities in their stores. Since loss trends identified slips and falls as a key area for improvement, a shoe program was implemented and flooring was upgraded resulting in a 60% reduction in injuries. With the help of the insurer, the client has reduced their experience modification to 0.91 which represents a 55% reduction in premium.”

A member from the East Coast wrote, “in 2000, a company site had experienced a total of 28 OSHA recordable injuries for an incident rate of 6.0. By the end of 2001, those numbers had dropped to seven OSHA recordable injuries and a rate of 1.6. This reduction in injuries was brought about by the incorporation of several improvements to the site which included: 1) a renewed commitment by senior management to operate the site in a safe, healthful and environmentally manner; 2) the establishment of an aggressive housekeeping program that included all manufacturing, warehousing and administrative operations; 3) the hiring of an occupational health nurse to assist with injury treatment, management and personnel training; 4) the use of process hazard analysis techniques to analyze existing and proposed systems for hazard potential and appropriate corrective actions where deemed necessary; 5) increased enforcement of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) requirements and adherence to written procedures; and, 6) improved training of site personnel in job safety and environmental compliance guidelines and expectations. Because of the changes, the incident rate for the site now stands at 1.4.”

“A sound safety and health management system can help companies fulfill their obligation to protect people, maintain compliance and contribute positively to a business’ bottom line,” Barfield said. “As shown by these examples from ASSE members, this results in a safer workplace for all.”

In 2003 5,559 people died from on-the-job injuries in the U.S. and 4.4 million more suffered illnesses and injuries.

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