Stand Down for Safety – But Then What?

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

I’m not a numbers guy, so I typically avoid them in my posts. I’m going to make a rare exception, but I assure it’s for a worthy cause.

In 2012, 775 construction workers died on the job. Nearly 270 of those deaths involved falls. Coincidentally, fall prevention safety standards were among the 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards that year. See where I’m going?

It seems that at least some – around 30 percent – of those 775 fatalities were preventable.

That’s the message the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is communicating during National Safety Stand-Down Week.

A safety stand-down is an opportunity for employers and employees to pause during their busy day and discuss safety. Safety stand-downs are not unique to the construction industry. In fact, the oil and gas industry has seen using them as part of its strategy for controlling its fatality rates, which are seven times higher than other industries.

A short visit to the safety stand-down website yields a long list of free information. You’ll find tips for a successful stand-down at your business, stand-down events in your state, certificates of completion and training materials in multiple languages.

A national effort of this magnitude requires high-profile industry buy-in. OSHA certainly did the legwork to garner support. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, American Society of Safety Engineers, Center for Construction Research and Training, and National Safety Council are among the reputable agencies lending their names to the cause.

As a new safety and health professional, I don’t have nearly as much “skin in the game” as these esteemed organizations. Still, it’s exciting to see so many great safety minds collaborating around a serious issue.

It occurred to me, however, that the campaign’s call to action is not all that novel or revolutionary. In fact, it’s something you should be doing every day, whether your employees work on a construction site, an oil field or in the relatively safe confines of an office.

OSHA explains that a stand-down could be as simple as a 15-minute toolbox talk or several hours of training during the week. Of course, any investment in safety is time and money well-spent. But what if you set the bar higher?

What if you made safety part of your employee orientation process? What if you held regularly scheduled safety meetings? Better still, what if management not only attended those meetings but also participated? And what if your employees, without compromise, did every job the safest way, even if it wasn’t the fastest way?

When safety matures to that level, it is engrained in your company culture. It is more than a mantra you rally around for a week before going back to business as usual. It is a value that never gets compromised. And that is the foundation that solid workplace safety programs are built on.

I applaud OSHA for conceiving and promoting National Safety Stand-Down Week. At the very least, it is an opportunity for employers and employees to start a dialogue about preventing workplace accidents. But I encourage you to think about what happens next. How will you carry the conversation forward and make safety a core business process?

Labor Secretary Tom Perez encourages employers to plan, provide and train their way to fewer fall injuries.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

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Want to Reap the Benefits of Workplace Safety?

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Get a group of workplace safety advocates from diverse industries together, and you’ll get a variety of perspectives. But they will agree on one thing: Management commitment drives safety.

Some companies demonstrate support from the top by investing in training and personal protective equipment.

Others go leaps and bounds farther by requiring management to follow the same safety procedures as front-line employees follow.

Goodwill Industries is one of a rare few employers that punctuates its commitment to safety by making an example of the person on top of the org chart.

“Last year, our safety coordinator required all employees to take CPR,” said Cathy Rudzinski, vice president and chief financial officer of Goodwill Industries. “Anyone who did not get the training by the deadline would be written up.”

See where this is going? The deadline came and went, and Goodwill CEO Jerry Davis was among a handful of employees who had not complied.

“To Jerry’s credit, he was the first to step up, admit his mistake and accept the consequences,” said Rudzinski.

Those consequences included a mark on Davis’ permanent Goodwill file. Worse yet, he had to report his oversight to Goodwill’s chairman of the board.

“That really put teeth in our safety program,” laughed Cathy. “When your safety coordinator can write up the CEO, employees know that nobody is immune. They understand that safety is a value that never gets compromised by anyone.”

Rudzinski recently shared Davis’ story during a panel discussion titled “The ROI of Safety in the Workplace.” The free event was a joint production between Texas Mutual and the Austin Business Journal. Attendees got tips from peers who have overcome the hurdles of making safety a core business process.

Click here for the full story. And don’t miss our panelists’ top tips for cashing in on the benefits of preventing workplace accidents.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

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