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Prove to Me Your Company Has a Good Safety Program

When I give safety presentations, I sometimes begin with the question: “What proof would you give if I asked if your company is profitable or if the product you make is reliable?”

William Tomlin

William Tomlin
Industrial Hygiene Team Leader and Supervisor

For profitability, a person could answer by showing a balance sheet, a cash flow statement or its list of accounts receivable. For product reliability, a person might show me their company’s quality assurance systems, raw materials used or engineering staff expertise.

My follow-up question would naturally be, “What paperwork proves you have a good safety program?” To this question, most people answer that it is their company’s written safety program and accident summary, like the OSHA 300, which may show a few or zero accidents.

But an OSHA 300-log is not enough proof. Companies must have the same amount of detail and documentation for its safety program as it does for its accounting and quality control programs. I’m not talking about a list of written policies either, which are important. Instead, I’m talking about documents that indicate actions to enforce and verify that safety rules are being followed.

This all-important and guiding document should detail a company’s entire safety and health management system and include designated responsibilities. It informs employees at every level of the organization what is expected of them, what procedures they must follow, and the consequences if procedures are not followed. Think of consequences like a floor supervisor—the result of what happens when the accounting department does not have proper receipts for the company’s purchases, or when the QC department discovers improper records of the raw materials used to create a product. This written system of checks and balances indicates what happens during a proper safety inspection, what occurs during safety training and more.

Written policies that go unenforced are obviously not worth the paper they are printed on, therefore, paperwork has to be submitted. Like the old saying, “If it did not happen on paper, it did not happen.” Ultimately, this means weekly equipment inspection reports, fire extinguisher inspections and, at the very minimum, a survey of work areas should be performed and submitted to ensure safety guards and procedures are in place and that work areas are clean and clutter-free.

Of course, accident reports also should be submitted and reviewed by management along with recommendations to prevent the same accident from happening again. Accident reports should be shared with all management levels, and specific recommendations should be implemented as well as proposed changes to written safety policies. Remember, every accident or near-miss means a safety policy was not followed due to lack of enforcement or improper employee training. More importantly, this may indicate a hazard exists in the work area that no one is addressing.

Every well-managed company has an accounting department, and often better performing companies have quality control procedures that are reviewed and reported on by a specific group within the organization. While smaller organizations may not have a dedicated safety staff that reviews required paperwork, one suggestion is to merge as many safety documents into the existing accounting or quality control information stream. For example, weekly production reports can include housekeeping inspections, employee training conducted and the weekly tool box subject talk given. Accidents and near-miss reports should be submitted and analyzed to determine trends or problems just like a quality control report.

Elevating a company’s safety policies to the same level as its accounting or QC procedures may seem like a tall order, but remember, injuries due to unsafe conditions affects bottom line much the same as poor cash management or poor quality products to a customer. Safety, accounting and quality control have to work synergistically to ensure a company is as profitable is it can be.

To receive a free and confidential safety and health analysis of your company or job site, visit www.usfsafetyflorida.com.


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