One of the issues that face Health and Safety Officers in the industrial workplace is balancing pressures from management or corporate office to reduce workplace injuries while not affecting production or taking workers off the shop floor. Here are some ways your Health and Safety folks can approach injury prevention without becoming a cog in the company wheel:
-Introduce a stretching program by recruiting a volunteer from each department to lead a stretching routine that can be conducted at the beginning of each shift. Remember that a simple warm up before stretching is more important than stretching alone, to get blood flowing and get muscles ready for the physical work.
-Provide “Manual Material Handling” or other courses in the proper use of body mechanics to the Supervisors, so they understand safer ways to do the work and will be able to identify when employees are using unsafe behaviours in their department.
-Introduce a “Safety Coach Program” that gives supervisors opportunity to demonstrate safe behaviour during the working shift and identify unsafe behaviour by giving out coach cards to employees with “Safe” and “Unsafe” labels. If the employee demonstrates an unsafe behaviour, the supervisor demonstrates the safer alternative and checks in later to ensure the employee has adopted the new behaviour. Supervisors are encouraged to give out at least 5 cards a week which keeps them watching how the work is being done and employees receive incentives for exhibiting safe behaviour.
-If you can manage to justify the ROI of safety training on work hours to the decision makers, then getting a group off the floor for 45 minutes, providing “Introduction to Ergonomics” or “Safe Manual Material Handling” with demonstration and a practical component using the equipment they handle, will undoubtedly change some unsafe habits. Offering these sessions around the clock to accommodate all shifts is recommended. Groups of approximately 30 seem to work best.
-If there are too many barriers to getting workers off the floor and you are the one man/women safety show, ask for 5 minutes at the beginning of a shift, per department, for you to demonstrate 1-2 safety tips that will help keep the employees safe. Work through the facility 5 minutes at a time!
-Please don’t forget about your office staff. Even though the big cost of injuries comes from those that happen in the shop, musculoskeletal injuries in the office can creep up on people and land them a short term disability claim, which adds up! Provide an “Introduction to Office Ergonomics” workshop as a lunch and learn for the office staff to make them aware of how to set up their workstations and how to use their bodies to conduct their work safely.
-Be present in the shop and learn from the employee on how the work is done. You don’t want to be seen as the “Safety Police”, instead you want them to think of you as “Safety Support.” Don’t just walk around pointing out everything that is unsafe (hopefully you have already done this in your Risk/Hazard Analysis) but talk to employees and get their feedback about what is working and what seems unsafe to them, they will be more willing to volunteer information if you are not seen as “Them” in the us versus them all-to-common workplace culture.
-Brag about safety accomplishments to management or corporate office! Let them know that your efforts are changing behaviours for the better. If you gain their support you are more likely to get their buy-in for introducing more training and the associated injury prevention cost savings.
-Share what works and what doesn’t with like businesses you know to get creative ideas so you are not reinventing the safety training wheel with each effort.
-Set yearly and quarterly safety training and assessment goals to use as outcome measures. It’s not just about statistics; it's about how you get there. Set the path for the training and assessments you would like to have completed, or like in any plan; if there are no goals, nothing happens!
Marnie Courage, OT Reg (MB)