Worker safety must be considered in any material handling application. Heavy parts and equipment, machinery, and material handling systems themselves can all pose safety risks to people working with and around these items. To protect against workplace incidents, a safety plan must be created and implemented, and there are several elements that can influence the effectiveness of that plan. Some of those elements include management systems, workplace factors, and human actions.
To create a safety program that is effective and comprehensive, these elements should be understood and addressed according to the specific requirements of each application. These elements all require a different approach depending on the situation, so it is helpful to understand how each element can be applied to your specific application.
Management systems include several factors that contribute to the safety plan itself. The policies of any safety plan should be thorough and developed specially for the application it is intended for. There are many general rules that can be implemented in most safety programs, but for a program to be as effective as possible, it must be created with the specific risks and limitations of the application in mind.
Management systems can include specific safety measures, such as the implementation of lock-out/tag-out devices and policies, installing fall protection, and more. They can also include administrative measures, such as incident reporting and recordkeeping practices and safety program training courses. Providing specific safety measures is a foundational part of a safety program and can determine the overall effectiveness when it is put in place.
Workplace factors include elements of the workplace including facilities, tools and equipment, physical hazards, and organization and cleanliness. Workplace factors can be directly controlled by the employer and can be a straightforward way to enhance safety program effectiveness. Well-established and deliberate management systems can help lead to a safety-conscious workplace, which can help improve overall safety.
Methods of providing safe work factors may include designing or organizing the workplace facility in a way that helps promote safe work practices. Designing a facility layout to keep workers out of hazardous situations can be much more effective for worker safety than installing safety measures afterward. A worker safety-oriented layout can promote safety by allowing employees to work away from physical hazards, which can reduce the need for additional safety measures.
Providing tools and equipment that are up-to-date and ideal for a given task is a proactive way to prioritize worker safety. Workers who have equipment that is specifically designed for their tasks are more likely to complete the task in the intended way, less likely to improvise a solution, and therefore less likely to perform that task in a risky way. Routinely inspecting equipment can also help improve workplace safety by ensuring that all your equipment stays in safe working order.
In any safety program, workers’ actions and behaviors are significantly more difficult to account for than the other elements, but safety plans and policies can be designed in a way to encourage employees to perform work safely. It is impossible to control worker behavior completely, but there are steps that can be taken to help reduce risky workplace behavior.
One way to reduce the occurrence of risky behavior is to ensure that workers have the training, knowledge, and skills they need to perform their jobs in the safest manner. In the same way that being equipped with the correct tools for a job can reduce risky behavior, being equipped with the correct skills for a job can help workers avoid behavior that could put themselves or others at risk of an injury.
Another way to help guide employees toward safe workplace behaviors is to involve them in safety management processes. An effective safety program must be specific to the job or facility it is applied to, and the workers in that job or facility will have the most first-hand knowledge of its safety risks and needs. When workers contribute to a safety plan, they are in a unique position where they can help shape the policies that are designed to protect them, so they are more likely to be invested in the policies themselves as well as the implementation of those policies.
Creating an effective safety program requires attention to all three of these categories. Your application will determine exactly what your safety program needs to be effective, how each part of the safety program is designed, and how the program is implemented. But these basic elements can help establish the focus of your specific program and ultimately help you create the program that works best for your application and facility.