Too many companies make the mistake of thinking that an absence of accidents that need to be reported to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) means they have adequate safety measures in place when, in fact, they may have merely been lucky.
“Even shippers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers with the most aggressive safety initiatives have some OSHA-recordable incidents,” says Dixie Brock, national safety manager at APL Logistics, a 3PL based in Oakland, CA, “because all of them employ humans—and humans make mistakes.
or the sake of your employees and your company, you cannot become overconfident about safety and assume you don’t need a safety program. If you do, you’re engaging in the unsafest behavior of all.”
When Brock joined APL in the early 1990s, the company’s number of OSHA-recordable incidents was well above the industry average. Today, OSHA-recordable accidents have dropped 82 percent and are about 60 percent below the industry average. Brock credits the comprehensive safety program that the company now has in place. “It’s been a 10 year journey, so you have to realize that you will not get there over night,” she says. “And you have to keep going back to the basics because turnover is so high in the industry.
“There are a lot of ways to approach the challenge of logistics safety,” says Brock, who oversees safety initiatives for about 70 APL Logistics facilities, “but one of the best—once you ensure you’re in compliance with all safety regulations—is to proactively identify the key risks associated with unsafe behaviors, processes and conditions. Once you understand the risks, you can either eliminate them or—if that’s not realistically possible—establish safer processes to manage them.”
And, for large companies with multiple facilities, it’s important that all people share accident information. “If you have an accident in California, you have to let the other [managers] know because the same incident can take place in Illinois,” says Brock.
But even small companies need to share information, and conduct their own internal audits that are then shared throughout the company. Rochester Meat Co., Rochester, MN, for example, has two employee committees that routinely audit all facilities and practices. The two committees include both managers and hourly employees from all departments. They go out and perform a monthly inspection of all work areas in the company’s meat processing plant and four adjoining warehouses and identify changes needed to ensure a safe workplace.
“We also keep statistics for all accidents and monitor incident rates to identify trends that need to be addressed, and hold managers accountable for investigating all accidents—even near-misses—and coming up with corrective action,” explains LeAnn Haack, human relations and safety manager at Rochester Meats.
In addition, the company has a very proactive safety training program in place with regularly scheduled training for employees in ergonomics, proper forklift operation, process safety management, sanitation, chemical orientation, electrical panel safety, lockout/tagout procedures (locking out energy sources to prevent accidental start-up of equipment), fire and emergency evacuation and other issues as they arise, explains Karin Grzanek, a company spokesperson. “And all new employees receive a comprehensive safety orientation as part of their on-the-job training.”
Prevention Pays Off
Rochester Meats first adopted a strong emphasis on safety about 12 years ago when it started to transition from a largely temporary workforce to more permanent employees.
The result has been a 450 percent decrease in lost work day accidents, a 180 percent decrease in the number of OSHA-recordable accidents and an 800 percent reduction in the severity of the accidents. “Someone may still get cut, but it will require a Band-Aid instead of stitches,” says Haack.