Site safety: Planning for further success
A written safety plan is not just a good idea. In many jurisdictions, it is the law. A good safety plan protects workers and equipment, and reduces potential liabilities.
A followup to an article in the September 1993 MRT, this article discusses aspects of a written safety plan for your business or agency, offers some ideas on technology to improve worker safety and references safety sites on the World Wide Web.
Site safety must begin with a comprehensive, written safety plan. A successful plan must include at least four elements: involvement, identification, rules and training.
Involvement and commitment Develop a policy statement that outlines the minimum responsibilities of workers, supervisors and managers. The company president, CEO or owner should use the plan preamble to make a strong statement about expectations on safety. Use the plan to establish safety priorities and, when appropriate, deadlines. Additionally, the plan can include goals for safety and health-for example, to reduce accident rates by 5% a year. Remember-priorities are more important than goals.
Hazard identification and controls Describe any site hazards that are or may be present. How? Perform an initial hazard survey and establish intervals for follow-up inspections or surveys. Checklists for this site survey are usually available from your local or state occupational safety office. In your plan, outline a method or procedure for workers to report hazards they discover. Describe how you will keep records of identified hazards, when they were reported and the corrective measures taken to eliminate or mitigate them. Some states require such record keeping and may have further requirements available from your state’s occupational safety and health administration, usually a division of the state department of labor.
As part of the assessment and control process, the plan should define procedures for mishap or accident reporting and investigation. The procedures must have a process to identify accident causes and recommend corrective actions. A “near-miss” event should be treated the same as an accident. The procedures should outline actions to take to prevent similar accidents or events. Specify a monitoring process to track work-related injuries and illness. Such monitoring helps to involve management in the safety program.
Specify how personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard-hats and personal protective devices (PPD), such as machine guards, are to be used. For example, when to wear gloves or how to shore a trench can be included in the plan. The use of PPE and PPD may be included by reference to plan annexes or by “site specific” supplemental safety plans. Safety equipment required on the job may be purchased by the company or by the workers, who may receive an allowance to offset the expense. A rule of thumb is, if the equipment cannot be taken off site, or used elsewhere, then the company should pick up the tab. In any case, be sure to specify proper use of safety equipment and describe disciplinary action that may be taken if safety equipment is not used.
Planning and rules Safety planning begins with equipment specifications or when new or upgraded equipment is installed. Consider equipment design, installation, engineering and planned maintenance for known or possible hazards to workers. This isa good time to do RF safety measurements or calculations per 29CFR1910.97(a)(2)(i).
Safety rules should cover general items, such as “no horseplay” and operation-specific items. Operation-specific safety rules may cover battery testing, generator set refueling, or even how to maintain grounding systems while the site is powered and operating. Data from manufacturers’ manuals or training sessions can be used as the basis for specific safety rules. Post these rules in a prominent location at both the shop and at the sites as a reminder. Establish an orientation procedure for new employees, including a review of the rules, and obtain a signed statement from each new employee confirming that they have read and understood the rules.
If you operate a multivendor site, insist that your tenants either provide a plan of their own or agree to abide by the rules you have established. If you do follow this course, you should audit or spot-check for tenant record keeping and compliance. If you do post common rules, have both a safety professional and your insurance agent review the document. If the tenant provides a safety plan, have the plan reviewed by the same set of professionals.
Standard work practices or procedures are important when several employees perform maintenance at an equipment site. Develop these standard practices with worker participation. Ask a safety professional who is familiar with electronic maintenance practices to review these rules or procedures. Enforcing the rules with a fair and understandable disciplinary policy is part of the management process to ensure that standard work rules and procedures protect all workers. As with any maintenance effort, these rules and procedures must be part of the organization’s training program.
Occupational safety and health training All new workers should be trained for site-specific hazards known or presumed to exist. A written plan helps to ensure all hazards, safety rules, standard work procedures, company policies and proper use of PPE are explained to a new worker. Include a tear-out sheet for the worker to sign as each training step is completed. File these in the employee’s permanent file to indicate when refresher training is due. Inexpensive employee tracking software, such as “Employee File Builder” by Jian, is available if you wish to avoid going through large, paper-based files. Review your safety plan when new equipment is installed, when a new work site is included in your business or when equipment or the site has been modified.
The use of technology to improve worker safety is becoming inexpensive. Although you may have already sent a current map of your site locations and contact telephone number lists to the local fire and EMT service providers in the area, how do you track the status of an employee at a remote site? A check-in and check-out call is a good start. If you have telephone lines to the site for SCADA or monitoring system status, consider adding a “pair gain” device to allow additional bandwidth on the line to permit live audio monitoring. AXIS Communications makes a modem-accessible camera that allows live video monitoring. Either method enhances safety of workers and may result in a reduction of your insurance premiums.
When an accident or near-miss occurs, or when new information is learned that affects worker safety, a refresher training session may be required. Document this session as you would for all other training. The effort spent to write a safety plan, maintain a safety program and to train workers is returned by lower worker injury rates, reduced turnover and reduced equipment damage or loss.