Volume 48, Issue 3- March 2013


No Shortcuts Allowed
Creating a Safety Culture Takes Dedication
and Commitment from Everyone
by Kaitlan Mitchell

When John Dwyer, president of Syracuse Glass Co. based in Syracuse, N.Y, greets new employees on their first day of work, he sticks to an ironclad script. He presents the new staff member with a small welcome gift and a few powerful words.

“I tell them, ‘Ask us questions rather than trying to impress us. Please know you are not doing us any favors by taking shortcuts.’”

For glass companies, budging even an inch in safety enforcement or becoming too comfortable in the workplace for just a moment has the potential to sacrifice a life.

"Every day in America, 13 people go to work and never come home,” said Hilda Solis former U.S. secretary of labor during a Workers Memorial Day speech April 26, 2012. “Every year in America, nearly 4 million people suffer a workplace injury from which some may never recover. These are preventable tragedies that disable our workers, devastate our families and damage our economy. American workers are not looking for a handout or a free lunch. They are looking for a good day's pay for a hard day's work. They just want to go to work, provide for their families and get home in one piece."

The tragic reality is that employee injuries and fatalities have the potential to be avoided by adhering to the proper safety precautions. Glass plant managers and supervisors not only have the responsibility to maintain the operation, but to also ensure the proper safety regulations are in place and upheld on a daily basis. In order to ensure that workers are protected at all times glass plant supervisors and managers must continuously strive to provide the best, safest working environment possible.

Keeping a Close Watch
It is establishing this type of safety tone from day one that Dwyer accredits to creating a strong, safe work environment. It is vital to develop healthy working habits early in workers' careers and correcting their mistakes through observation is part of that process.

“People usually know when they are taking a short cut that may be dangerous,” says Tim Moore senior process engineer at Standard Bent Glass located in East Butler, Pa. “They are more likely to do so if management, through lack of enforcement or a rush to fulfill an order, creates an atmosphere for risky action. Leadership through example, I think, goes a long way in setting the proper tone for safety. The people on the floor are watching when managers or supervisors are present and are keenly aware of whether they are following the rules, too.”

By scanning new workers from a distance, supervisors are afforded the chance to pick up on the strengths as well as weaknesses of each employee. This can aid in the supervisor’s ability to assess whether further training is required. Experts also suggest providing adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to all new employees to ensure that safe work practices are in place and followed.

“The new person in the process lacks an understanding and appreciation of just how quickly and seriously a small safety infraction can lead to a life-changing injury in the work environment,” says Moore. “Training and rigorous enforcement should be the norm.”

Details, Details, Details
On September 17, 2004, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Allentown, Pa., area office investigated an accident which involved cutting laminated safety glass using a flammable liquid. The accident resulted in second- and third-degree burn injuries to an apprentice employed by the glass company. An incident investigation revealed that the container had been compromised by a hole in the metal screw cap. The hole appeared to have been made by a nail, according to OSHA. This is just one incident that could have been avoided by surveying the workplace. Completing a periodical clean-sweep of the entire shop environment can heighten safety for all employees.

“We have a plant manager not only run through a formal monthly checklist but also through a daily checklist,” says Dwyer. “He looks around and sees if fire extinguishers all work, if aisles are cleared, just seeing if things work.”

Syracuse Glass Co. uses a fun competition to help enforce safety at all levels.

“There is a bulletin board that the plant manager updates frequently,” says Dwyer. “There, he notes which department is in the best shape on being attentive to safety details and compliance. If your department has the best record at the end of the month you get a small prize, such as a gas card.”

Assign a Yoda to a Jedi
For new employees it can be intimidating to walk into a new company. In turn, the recent hires may be embarrassed to ask questions. Supervisors can also assign experienced employees as mentors to the new hires so they do not solely utilize the supervisor to answer questions and give hands-on training.

“We assign newer employees to those veterans with more experience,” says Dwyer. “Basically, we break down tasks into categories and rate each task on a scale for how safety sensitive it is. The new employees are not allowed to complete other tasks until the mentor signs off.”

Supervisors can encourage employees to speak up and create a line of communication early on to avoid procedure missteps through training with their mentor.

“Mentors can be a great tool for training and I think officially or not, they go a long way in developing a new person’s attitude to all aspects of the job – safety just being one of them,” says Moore.

In the same regard, the veterans of the work environment should never become too comfortable with their surroundings. A sense of comfort in the shop can lead to an increased rate of mistakes that have the potential to affect employee safety.

“The main cause is definitely neglecting to pay attention out of habit,” says Nathalie Thibault administrative director of Prelco in Québec, Canada. “Workers who have been doing the same repetitive actions for the past 20 years believe they know exactly what they're doing and sometimes fail to follow normal procedure as they have found ways to do things more quickly by by-passing some steps.”

Equipment Selection
OSHA states personal protective equipment (PPE) needs to be enforced to better ensure the safety of workers. In the 1910.132(a) section OSHA notes, “Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, head, and extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices, and protective shields and barriers, shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.”

Those in the glass industry agree that one of the main causes of work-related injuries and how they can be prevented pertain to improper PPE use.

“In my experience it is usually a combination of events where a person is not following known procedure, failure to use the correct PPE or machine guards, or fails to speak up or ask for assistance,” says Moore. “These are all aspects of mental attitude on both management and workers part.”

Properly fitting each employee with the necessary PPE can avoid serious ramifications.

Safety Steps
Being attentive to new employees and the workplace environment can also help ensure each worker punches out and heads home at the end of the day.

“We establish a safety culture on day one. From there we keep safety in the forefront of our minds from training to annual reviews,” says Dwyer. “Leaders should invest time and money to create that culture – a safety culture.”

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