Nine Fundamental Safe and Sound Tips: Back to the Basics

OSHA recently published a “Turn Off and Lockout Equipment” article for Grain Handling operations that included many hazards in this industry including the importance of locking out energy sources. Seven steps are listed for grain safety, for example, not walking down grain or entering a bin with grain built up on the side due to the risk of suffocation from engulfment and entrapment in grain bins. We encourage anyone in this industry to review the seven steps.

However, the hazards are not just specific to grain handling facilities. Other industries such as wood chipping and mulching operations have similar hazards. And don’t think that today the hazards are always prevented and controlled. Injuries and fatalities occur annually. Plus, the fundamental safety tips apply regardless of the type of industry and will prevent injuries plus are foundational to an excellent safety program.

True story, we were assisting with an OSHA STAR assessment several years ago. There was a truck onsite under a chute filling the truck bed with wood chips. As we all watched, the worker jumped onto the truck bed and stood on the chips to tamp down the wood. It was horrifying and all four of us present jumped into action. 

During the debrief, justifications included that this was a contractor, not an employee, and that rules were documented, but not always followed. The thing is, it’s easy to point fingers or to think such incidents are in isolation or because of a rogue employee/contractor not following rules. This could be the case but not usually.  Usually, it is not just one person, and includes work environment, and management components. Again, this is regardless of the type of industry. Safety must be regularly discussed, the norm for how work is completed embedded within the organization, and both enforced and supported.

Employees or contractors may know or have been informed of ‘the rules,’ but resort to old habits if not reminded. They are also often pressured by managers to finish quickly or make only one delivery as was the issue in the case above. Management or organizational culture components impact safety. And often, no one is corrected for an unsafe behavior until something goes wrong. Sometimes employees are even rewarded for completing the work quickly.

We have witnessed such situations countless times at a variety of industries (Case Examples). Safety is more than documenting the ‘rules’, assuming a training session is enough, or blaming the issue on one employee’s actions. 

Instead, safety must be embedded in the culture and work environment, and everyone’s responsibility to ensure a safe and sound workplace.  Below are tips to consider to get back to basics.

Nine Fundamental Tips for a Safe and Sound Workplace mean:

  • Safe and sound practices are embedded in the culture and work environment. This includes social, psychological, and physical safe and sound practices. Ensure that these are the expectations, the norms.
  • Employees look out for each other – they have each other’s backs.
  • Employees, managers, supervisors, and group leads are engaged in safety.
  • Hazards are identified and prevented using the hierarchy of controls. Employees are knowledgeable in identify hazards and potential hazards. 
  • All affected employees are involved in finding the best solutions for prevention.
  • Solutions or changes implemented are evaluated for effectiveness.
  • Walkthroughs and observations are conducted regularly, and findings are addressed quickly.
  • Reporting errors, near-miss incidents, and precursors (even BEFORE a near-miss incident occurs!) are encouraged, brought forward, and discussed.
  • Incidents are viewed as learning opportunities and all potential contributing factors are considered and assessed.

The Nine Safe and Sound Tips are fundamental aspects to creating a safe culture. While these are the basics of creating a safe workplace, nothing else that is implemented will matter if these fundamental safety elements are not addressed. 

Click here for 2 case examples indicating the importance of these tips and NOT try a band-aid approach!

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