Evaluate Your Safety Program

Here are eight common themes to ensure a safety program is effectively integrated within the organization.

Risk Identification

Risk identification is an ongoing process that includes regular facility inspections to seek out both common and specific hazards. For example, spiral coolers, the conveyor belts that cool food products by winding them along a long circular path, are a specific hazard that is a design-caused risk.

The combustible loading, upward cooling drafts, closely spaced tiers and continuous product movement of spiral coolers can combine to cause a rapidly spreading fire that is hard to extinguish. Recent food industry losses show that plastic belts contribute to the rapid spread and development of fire, therefore, installing a metal conveyor belt can help reduce the combustible load. Other things to consider in mitigating a spiral cooler’s specific hazards are the presence of interlocks to shut down the conveyor if an alarm activates, the fire suppression system protecting the cooler, the food product temperature and the maintenance performed on the machinery.

To help you evaluate and identify risks:

• What are some of the ways residual risk is identified in existing systems?
• What ways risk is identified when planning new systems and processes?
• How is the accident investigation program being administered?
• How is risk prioritized for focusing business resources?
• How are human and design-based exposures differentiated?

Risk Analysis

If your operation uses conveyors, be aware that the performance issues that most often lead to injury from conveyors include: operating without authority; failure to follow start-up procedures; by-passing guarding; working on moving equipment; overloading; not following lockout procedures; and failure to inspect and test machinery and controls. Mandating that only trained personnel can operate facility equipment is one way to help minimize the frequency of these performance issues.

The questions below will help guide your overall risk analysis.

• How is risk analyzed with respect to potential outcomes, e.g., overexertion, falls, amputation, repetitive trauma?
• How is risk that might be associated with production imperatives being integrated into the analysis?
• How is human error being factored into the analysis?
• How is variability in individual behavior factored into the analysis?
• How is physical variability factored into the analysis?

Risk Remediation

Risk remediation should focus on both the safety of an individual employee as well as how each employee’s actions impact the rest of the workforce. For example, proper training of the employee in charge of testing and maintaining your facility’s fire protection system helps prevent that employee from injury and keeps the entire workforce safe with a properly maintained system.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 21 percent of the automatic extinguishing systems that fail to operate in a fire are due to lack of maintenance.

Assigning responsibility to employees for specific jobs, training them and making them familiar with the overall emergency plan will help address common exposures such as fire, tornado, robbery and bomb threat.

• What changes have been made in existing processes that reduce risk?
• What has been done to reduce the risk of the leading loss areas with respect to engineering, behavior, education and environment?
• How are Job Safety Analyses used in new employee orientation/training?
• How does the preventive maintenance process incorporate safety?
• How is safety included in initiatives such as Kaizen, Lean or 5S?
• What is your company policy with respect to procuring and safeguarding newly acquired equipment—new and used?
• How are workplace changes prompted by return to work processes incorporated into other similar jobs?
• How is management and employee safety training developed and administered to address issues relating specifically to jobs and tasks as well as safety program management?
• What programs exist to influence and reward safe behavior?
• What programs exist to follow up on facility inspections?
• What programs are in place to respond to terrorist threats, acute workplace violence incidents, severe environmental threats and natural catastrophes?

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