Whenever starting a new job, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you should be doing, and how it needs to be done. When I started working at a new facility as a safety manager, I began my first day with a meeting with the facility manager. The meeting was set up so he could tell me what was expected of me in my new role, and provide other details of the job. I was quite surprised when the meeting took less than two minutes, and the only objective I was given was to ‘reduce risks and hazards in the workplace.’
I asked for some clarification or guidance in what exactly he was looking for, but he simply said that I was hired to improve safety, and he was leaving the task of finding out how to do it in my hands. He gave me a sheet of paper with some information about what resources I had available, including my annual safety budget and told me to get to work right away. I should point out there that I had several years experience as a safety manager at a large company, which is why I was brought in to this new facility.
The facility had recently been cited by OSHA for a variety of safety hazards, and there were even some fairly severe injuries that occurred in the previous months. The facility owners made it clear that safety was a priority for them, and they were willing to do whatever it took to pass inspections, and keep the employees safe.
Planning My Safety Program
While that initial meeting was unique, to say the least, I was also quite excited about the opportunity. It is quite rare that a safety manager is given such flexibility, and I wanted to make sure the manager wouldn’t regret that decision. I got to work right away planning my safety improvement program.
I wanted to make some quick changes to help improve safety in the short term, and then also plan out ways to create a culture change within the facility so everyone would be more safety focused. I knew this would be difficult, but with the support of the facility management, I knew it could be done.
Creating a Top 5 List
The first thing I wanted to do was identify the top five risks and hazards in the facility, and get them fixed right away. Even if I couldn’t entirely eliminate a particular hazard, I wanted to make changes that would dramatically reduce the safety concerns in the following five areas:
- Reduce Slip and Fall Hazards – The facility had several areas which were well known for being slippery when it was wet outside.
- Replace Safety Signage – Most of the safety signs in the facility were either missing, broken or so dirty that they couldn’t be seen.
- Update Personal Protection Equipment – Two injuries over the past year were due to the fact that employees were not using personal protection equipment. I found that much of this PPE was either broken or missing.
- Label Hazardous Liquid Containers – One of the major areas where the facility got penalized by OSHA was for not having clear labeling on the containers used to store hazardous liquids.
- Add Safety Tape to Indoor Driving Lanes – The facility had several forklifts and other vehicles which were used indoors. While the general areas where they were driven was known, there wasn’t a clear lane that they were required to stay within.
I chose these five items not only because they represented significant risks to the facility, but also because I could implement the improvements very quickly. Once I had settled on these items, I ordered all the necessary materials, including an industrial label printer (like this one), safety tape (which you can find here), a variety of different types of personal protection equipment, and several floor coverings to help minimize the risks of falling near the entrances and exits of the facility.
Within three weeks of starting in my job, I had checked off each of these five items from my list of safety improvement goals. I was able to print off custom safety signs, and labels to identify hazardous liquid containers. In addition, I provided the personal protection equipment to the employees and, of course, laid out the floor mats. None of these things were very difficult to do, but they were very important. In these first three weeks, I learned the valuable lesson that if a facility doesn’t pay attention to the little things, it will cause major problems very quickly.