Safety: The Right Choice


March 1, 2008

Eight basic practices can lead to a safer work environment.

Is safety a “norm” in your workplace? Does everyone pull together to make each job safe? Ask your coworkers who they think is responsible for safety. Their answers may surprise you.

Some may say safety is the safety manager’s job. Others may say a supervisor is responsible for keeping the workplace safe. Others may say corporate executives are ultimately responsible. Indisputably, these people play important roles as leaders and role models and have critical responsibilities, including implementing a safety program that adheres to government regulations. They cannot, however, be entirely responsible for each worker’s individual safety all of the time. It is physically impossible for anyone to know if you are adhering to your part in maintaining a safe work environment. If managers assume a purely parental role and try to dictate and enforce safety without obtaining employee buy-in, employees could possibly become resentful and balk at the rules, even flagrantly defy safety guidelines.

Reverence for safety and a true culture of safety must rest with each employee — equipment operators, miners, and managers alike. Every member of the team is equally responsible for safety. Everyone must conscientiously pull together to keep the mine safe. You may want to cut corners and blame someone else when accidents and errors occur in your area, but safety usually doesn’t rest solely at the manager level or with a single unsafe colleague — every team member must participate if everyone is going to be safe. A strong commitment from each worker to combat hazards and manage risk in every way humanly possible will help the team achieve a good safety record.

Every shift and every activity of your operations should incorporate open communications, best practices, and safe operating procedures. It definitely helps to have strong leadership from the top and throughout your organization, but individual workers must take responsibility for their personal attitude and work habits.

Following are a few safety basics for every employee.

Look for hazards.

While executing routine tasks, look for safety and health hazards, even if you are not in your work area. A fresh set of eyes may see a safety or health hazard that isn’t obvious to those close to it.

Report hazards.

Take the time to report the hazards you identify to your supervisor and correct them if you can. If a hazard cannot be corrected immediately, warn co-workers about the hazard and barricade it, if possible, to prevent accidents.

Stop unsafe actions.

If you see another employee doing something unsafe, intervene. Gently remind the worker of the consequences of not following safety rules. Ask, “Would you let a family member or close friend do it this way?” We need to watch out for each other. Don’t be afraid of an angry rebuttal. Eventually, everyone will be willing to intervene to prevent accidents.

Avoid horseplay.

The workplace is not the place for playing games. Practical jokes may divert attention from dangerous work. Someone could be seriously injured while goofing around.

Follow instructions.

Follow safety and health rules, regulations, and procedures. The mining industry is closely monitored and carefully regulated — with employee safety as a top priority. Shortcuts may lead to accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

Practice good housekeeping.

Maintain a safe, organized work site. Don’t let trash and debris accumulate. Poor housekeeping is a symptom of larger problems. A clean mine site is a safe mine site!

Dress appropriately.

Use the right personal protective equipment for the task you are performing. Protect yourself from entanglement hazards. Jewelry, loose clothing, and long hair can become entangled in moving machine parts. Remove your jewelry, tuck in your shirt or any other loose clothing, and, if you have long hair, keep it tied up and tucked in your shirt or under your hard hat. If you work with solvents, do not use porous leather or fabric gloves that allow chemicals that will cause dermatitis to reach your skin.

Make suggestions.

Be an active member of your safety team. We can always improve safety, quality, and production, but not without open and honest communication. Every team members brings something valuable to the table; don’t be shy to share your ideas. Make your workplace safer, not just for you, but for everyone that works there!

Information contained in this article was provided through the MSHA-NSSGA Alliance and was written cooperatively by members of both the aggregates industry and the regulatory agency.

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