Volume 50, Issue 2- February 2015


Play it Safe at Work:
Give Glass the Respect it Demands

Years ago, Syracuse Glass president John Dwyer had a physical therapist annually conduct a back clinic as part of the Syracuse, N.Y.-based company’s safety program.

The physical therapist conducted a class on body mechanics, explained the function of the human spine and advised on lifting methods.

He also made a sound point that has stuck with Dwyer to this day.

“He said that there’s an advantage to handling glass, ‘because glass, by nature, demands respect,’” says Dwyer. “It’s almost intuitive that you approach it with respect.”

“Glass isn’t like lumber,” adds Matt Miesner, continuous improvement manager at Tristar Glass in Catoosa, Okla. “And it’s heavier than it looks. If you get too comfortable with it, it can reach out and bite you pretty quick.”

Miesner says that while the glass factory has the “usual factors” other industries deal with, such as forklift traffic, “lacerations are our biggest concerns.” He adds that, “Anytime we can automate lifting, our preference is to do that.”

In any handling of the glass, protection is crucial.

“We have at least a half-dozen, if not more, different kinds of gloves around here for different degrees of protection, or depending on if the glass being handled is wet or dry,” says Dwyer.

He says that while some in production may need a glove with a lot of dexterity, others need a thicker glove where there’s a greater risk of cutting. Syracuse Glass also utilizes Tuff-N-Lite protective pullovers.

In addition, the company performs job safety assessments, where a team reviews the requirements of a certain position and assigns appropriate personal protective equipment based on that job. Then, they put a picture in that station of what they should wear.

“It depends on what the needs are for a particular job,” says Dwyer.

Glass has its unique safety demands, though it is also important to stay up on OSHA regulations. Miesner says one thing Tristar has found helpful is having state OSHA representatives come in to do a thorough audit to identify anything it is lacking.

“We basically use them as a pre-audit to identify anything (federal OSHA) would look for,” he says, adding that the state audit gives an opportunity to make corrections and doesn’t issue a fine, as long as any issues are addressed.

Syracuse Glass plant supervisors do daily safety walkthroughs, looking for things such as cut extension cords and ground cords being pulled out.

Dwyer says that while OSHA requirements generally “don’t seem to change all that much from year to year,” the evolution and changing of specific needs within the company prompts changes to safety practices.

“For example, we got into tempering about 15 years ago, which involved a lot more glass handling,” says Dwyer. “As we embark on different things here, our safety needs change.”

Both Dwyer and Miesner stress that continuing to build and maintain a culture of safety is an ongoing process, and they’ve found incentive programs have been effective at achieving that goal.

The Syracuse Glass shop is divided into different groups, and prizes are awarded periodically to a group if they get high marks on their safety evaluation.

At Tristar, different areas are scored 1-10 for organization and safety, and the information is charted on a board in that area. Each quarter, if a section gets 90 percent or better, there are incentives for each person.

“Safety is a huge topic in the glass industry,” says Dwyer. “Glass is a very safety-sensitive kind of work.”

—Nick St. Denis

Institutional and corporate settings are just two of the many applications for glass marker boards. They can be used as large writing surfaces for teachers in grade school and higher education, as well as in conference rooms during business meetings.

OSHA’s Hierarchy of Controls
Physically Remove the hazard Elimination  
Replace the hazard Substitution  
Isolate people from the hazard Engineering Controls  
Change the way people work Administrative Controls  
Protect the worker with Personal Protective Equipment PPE  
Source: OSHA/cdc.gov  
OSHA promotes a general safety guideline, called the “hierarchy of controls,” which can be applied to many work environments.

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