Improving Safety: 10 Tips, Tricks, Rules and Suggestions

Improving Safety: 10 Tips, Tricks, Rules and Suggestions

Matt Wastradowski

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers sustained a collective 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses in 2015, and nearly 5,000 workers were killed on the job—an average of 13 employees every day. As employers try to curtail those shocking numbers and improve safety throughout their facility, it’s important to examine the relationship between a safer workplace and ensuring uptime, reliability and quality asset performance.

These 10 health and safety tips for safety managers easily translate to the reliability and uptime maintenance sectors, and show you how they can help your company. Asset managers, in particular, can use these tips to acquire, operate and maintain assets in a safe, efficient manner.

1. Take Steps to Mitigate Hazards

You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Coordinate with your facility’s safety manager and members of safety leadership to conduct a job hazard analysis (JHA), which offers a systematic process for uncovering, mitigating and accounting for workplace hazards.

A JHA allows you to recognize a potential hazard, identify any triggers or consequences associated with that hazard and find solutions that encourage a proactive culture of safety. With a JHA, you aren’t just applying a bandage to your facility’s hazards, you’re finding out what caused those risks, why they exist and how to prevent them going forward.

2. Provide Proper Training

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines dozens of requirements for training employees to understand the risks associated with their work and establish best practices that lead to a safer workplace.

As you train your employees, keep in mind industry specific resources, tips and processes, including these questions:

  • Which hazards should you watch and plan for when acquiring and maintaining physical assets?
  • Do your employees know the relevant OSHA regulations for their work processes and how to comply with those standards?
  • Which hazards may be present when performing maintenance and what steps can you take to minimize those hazards?
  • Should your employees know certain processes when machines break down or when maintenance is performed?

3. Keep Your Workplace Clean and Organized

At first glance, most people don’t associate neat and tidy workplaces with a safe facility. The 5S system, however, offers one popular method for cleaning a work area, organizing work systems and establishing routines that increase productivity and improve safety.

How can 5S help your facility? In a nutshell:

  • By discarding seldom used and unnecessary tools and organizing whatever’s left, maintenance workers can find exactly what they need when they need it.
  • Standardized work procedures can save time, establish routines and create good safety habits.
  • Safety managers can hold ongoing meetings to track progress, develop safety goals and revisit the workflow to look for additional areas of improvement.

5S even applies to wasteful processes, as well. For instance:

  • Are certain preventive maintenance tasks redundant or unnecessary?
  • Should certain maintenance tasks be reassigned or performed with more or less frequency to improve uptime?
  • Will weekly or monthly safety meetings help refine maintenance processes and encourage employees to think mindfully about safety?

Use 5S to locate and mitigate these inefficiencies for a more streamlined, safer workflow.

4. Establish Lockout-Tagout Procedures

It seems obvious: Who wouldn’t take precautions when performing lockout-tagout (LOTO) maintenance procedures? The harsh reality, though, is that electrical hazards pose dangerous risks far too often. Failure to follow proper LOTO procedures accounts for nearly 10 percent of all serious accidents in numerous industries.

Stay safe when performing routine maintenance and minimize downtime by establishing and following a LOTO procedure. You should have a documented process for notifying employees when equipment will be locked out, identifying energy sources, shutting down and locking out the impacted equipment, and resuming normal operations once work has been performed.

5. Be Ready for the Unexpected

Are your workers ready if the power shuts down or fire breaks out? Whatever industry you’re in, your employees will benefit by being prepared for the unexpected. Doing so demonstrates a commitment to safety and encourages employees at all levels to follow suit.

As a safety manager, you should consider these actions:

  • Conduct a fire risk assessment to determine hazards and establish exit routes;
  • Develop an emergency action plan that keeps employees safe;
  • Ensure all outside exits, emergency exits, egress paths and stairways are fully accessible and clearly marked with phosphorescent signs, labels and floor marking;
  • Provide phosphorescent signage to warn employees about hazards posed by physical assets in the event of power outages and other dangerous situations.

6. Improve Organization with Floor Markings

Keep your shop floor organized with a color-coded floor marking system. Doing so separates workers from forklifts, heavy machinery and other hazards; clearly outlines storage and maintenance areas; keeps employees away from exposed edges; and more.

How does all this improve uptime and maintenance procedures?

  • By setting aside an area specifically for maintenance, you’re keeping workers safe and improving organization.
  • Workers can streamline maintenance procedures if floor markings set aside and clearly label certain areas for parts and tools.
  • Aisles and walkways can create a level of separation between employees and hazardous assets that improve safety, cuts down on injuries and increases profitability.

7. Meet Key Pipe Marking Requirements

Even small facilities may have miles of pipes snaking through their plants, each carrying water, acids, oils and other liquids. In an emergency, properly labeled pipes can assist first responders and ensure clear communications that keep workers safe.

Which pipe marking requirements are right for your facility? Here’s a breakdown of the popular standards and when they come in handy

  • ANSI/ASME A13.1: General pipe labeling
  • IIAR Bulletin No. 114: Ammonia refrigeration piping identification
  • ISO14726:2008: Ships and marine technology identification of piping systems
  • NFPA99C and CGA C-9: Labeling of medical gas piping in healthcare facilities
  • 10 States Standards: Water and wastewater treatment plants

8. Provide Proper PPE at All Times

Whether you’re climbing ladders to scope out an electrical box, working on wet or slippery surfaces, or working around materials, such as dust, sand, or grit, you must provide employees with all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and train them to properly use it.

Safety managers should ask these questions before issuing PPE:

  • Which hazards are present and what kind of PPE will protect against those dangers?
  • How can employees properly use PPE and what do they protect against?
  • Where and how should an employer communicate PPE requirements in certain work areas or throughout a broader facility?

9. Schedule and Perform Routine Inspections

Establishing safe practices and putting safeguards into place are just the first steps in developing a culture of safety throughout your facility. Safety inspections and safety audits provide two systematic approaches for bolstering your facility-wide efforts.

  • Safety inspections identify hazards and unsafe practices by ensuring safeguards are in place, looking for hazards (e.g., faulty equipment and machinery) and observing and identifying unsafe work practices.
  • Safety audits take a bigger picture approach to safety by evaluating an organization’s established safety programs and practices. Audits usually measure a safety program’s efficacy, analyze whether those programs meet the company’s goals and see if other training efforts might be warranted.

10. Expand Visual Communications Throughout Your Facility

No matter the field, your facility can benefit from improved visual communications. Whether you want to warn workers of arc flash risks posed by electrical hazards or promote PPE use in a manufacturing environment, signs and labels can keep workers safe and on the job, boost productivity and improve morale.

The complete 10 Health and Safety Tips for Safety Managers infographic

Matt Wastradowski

Matt Wastradowski writes for Graphic Products, makers of the DuraLabel line of industrial label and sign printers. For more information:

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