Recruit Safety Champions to Reduce Workplace Accidents

[tweetmeme]During a particular busy work shift you see a heavy object fall off a ledge or shelf and thud to the floor a foot or so away from a coworker. Whew…no harm, no foul.  Right?  Consider this Seventy-five percent of all accidents are preceded by one or more near misses, according to the National Safety Council.

There is a serious real-life danger in near misses that don’t result in damage to persons or property, because of the tendency to think of them like a Hollywood horror movie; scary for a few moments, but with no real harm done.  This is a dangerous attitude though; if you don’t notice and correct whatever condition or behavior that caused the close call, it’s very likely that there will be further close calls, some minor accidents, and finally-with just the right combination of circumstances, there may be a very serious or fatal accident.

What is a near miss?

“Near misses” can be defined as minor accidents or close calls that have the potential for property loss or injury.  A near miss will prevent a task from being completed as planned.   Most accidents can be predicted by close calls.  These are accidents that almost happened or possibly did happen but simply didn’t result in an injury this time around.

What is an accident?

An accident is an unplanned, unexpected event that interferes with or interrupts normal activity and potentially leads to personal injury or dollar loss, including equipment damage.  Accidents have two things in common. They all have outcomes and they all have contributory factors that cause the accident.

There are numerous negative outcomes of accidents including injury and possible death, damage to equipment and property, litigation costs and possible citations, lost productivity, and morale issues. However from that, positive outcome from accidents can include an accident investigation which identifies key issues that can lead to prevention of recurrence, changes to existing safety paradigms which can lead to changes to policies and procedures, and changes to equipment design.

The seven deadly sins (workplace accidents):

  1. Falls to the same or lower level;
  2. Contact with chemicals, electricity, heat or cold;
  3. Caught in, on, or between;
  4. Bodily reaction from voluntary or involuntary motion;
  5. Struck against a stationary, moving, or protruding object or a sharp or jagged edge;
  6. Struck by a moving, flying, or falling object; and
  7. Rubbed or abraded by fiction, pressure, or vibration.

Obviously every close call or accident is a call for action.  Sometimes its cause can be easily fixed.  In other cases, the whole system may need a major revision. But near misses and accidents should never be ignored.  Make your employees “accident aware” by informing them of what the organization is doing to prevent accidents.

As working safely often means looking out for each other, it is no wonder that  employee involvement is the key to reducing accidents.  There are several ways to accomplish this, including providing opportunities to give voice to the needs and concerns of your frontline employees.  Consider recruiting employees from across multiple areas of your company to be safety champions, and design multiple communication strategies for them including using internal blogs, group email, safety newsletters, e-learning and classroom training, as well as encouraging the development of live forums or town hall meetings to further training efforts and to share success stories and shared challenges.

Ways to Reduce Accidents

  • Obtain top level management support for accident prevention
  • Perform a hazard analysis for each job
  • Review the use of hazardous chemicals
  • Study and evaluate the layout of workstations
  • Analyze your worker’s duties for ergonomic risks
  • Review your worker’s behavior and pay attention to their attitudes
  • Recruit your front line supervisors for safety initiatives
  • Complete regular safety checks of all equipment
  • Inspect your facility for layout and environmental hazards
  • Review and keep your worker training program current
  • Always enforce safety rules
  • Make the changes necessary to reduce hazards

As your workers and supervisors cooperate with these programs, stay alert for hazards, and follow reporting instructions, they will be able to avoid most accidents in the workplace.

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