How to improve safety in the shop

Fundamental measures for proactively preventing worker injuries

The third part of the JHA/JSA process is to consider what control methods will eliminate or reduce hazards that have been identified, says Rhoden. The most effective controls are engineering controls that physically change a machine or work environment to prevent employee exposure to the hazard - for example, guarding moving parts of a grinder. After engineering controls, the next line of defense is administrative controls - e.g., adding a table for workers to pick parts from, rather than picking from a box on the floor, as well as training workers not to twist while lifting.

The final control option, personal protective equipment (PPE), should only be considered if engineering and/or administrative controls are not feasible or do not fully control the hazard, he says. By way of example, foot protection may need to be worn if the possibility of dropping a heavy object cannot be eliminated.

"The job hazard/job safety analysis requires the involvement of management in order to provide the proper support in terms of change management, as well as financial support for the ultimate solutions that are developed," says Bob Tschippert, head of the Zurich's Global Automotive Industry Segment for the Americas. "The analysis should include a listing of the most frequent losses, as well as the severity. In many cases, the owner or manager may not even be aware of the situation or losses that have occurred."

Zurich is an insurance-based financial services provider with a global network of subsidiaries and offices.

According to Tschippert, the analysis also requires the involvement of the workers because they can "provide the real-world view of activities that create hazards. Solutions that make their jobs more difficult or more complex will not be implemented without employee buy-in."

Safety goggles are a great example, says Tschippert. Even with a management mandate, many workers will not use them. However, when workers come to understand the severity of eye injuries, and the number of accidents are tracked and communicated to all employees, there will be a change of behavior and a culture of safety develops.

Another key part on the development of a safer workplace involves proper training, he adds. "In the current economic environment, one of the first things to be cut from a budget is training. This approach is usually penny wise and pound foolish as the amount of savings is minute in relation to the exposure that is created.

"Training personnel is essential to eliminate unsafe and unhealthful work practices. It's not if a loss will occur, it is when and how expensive it will become."

One more important component to improving shop safety is the creation of a shop safety committee. When structured properly - deciding exactly what the safety committee's role will be, how it will be staffed, etc., and run effectively, a strong safety committee can highlight safety problems, point out corrective action, help investigate accidents and conduct periodic safety self-audits.

Another benefit of a shop safety committee is that because technicians are members of the committee, they raise their own personal safety consciousness.

Through tasks such as incident analysis, inspections and reviewing safety suggestions, safety committee members will usually develop a strong appreciation for safety, with an eye for prevention and root-cause analysis, says Rhoden of J.J. Keller.

"Safety committee members are also a voice on the floor for safety," he says. "In many cases, shop employees may respond better to a suggestion from a safety committee member who knows the shop's challenges, rather than a rule or recommendation handed down from management. Similarly, other shop workers may feel more comfortable discussing safety and health concerns with a peer who is on the safety committee versus going to management."

To that end, it is critical that the safety committee be visible. "One of the common reasons safety committees are not successful is they spend too much time debating issues or reviewing records, leaving little time for making improvements," points out Rhoden. "Employees need to see that the safety committee can get things done and is not just a paper committee."

"Committees can also increase visibility by conducting shop inspections on a routine basis and providing training, safety talks or safety information on a regular basis," Rhoden says. "The needs of the shop can change on a weekly, if not daily, basis. The safety committee needs to adjust to these changes and respond to them in a timely fashion."

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