December is here along with our new safety roundtable featuring safety and health professionals across various locations and industries.
Q - What do you think will be the most important safety issues this year? What are the biggest challenges facing EHS leaders today?
CC - A huge risk is everyone getting complacent on safety overall, and not just COVID related issues. We are all tired of COVID, but it’s important not to let our guard down because we are getting weary of it. Just as important is that we are so focused on COVID that we may lose sight of other aspects of safety and safety culture.
PK - I would echo that. The change in priorities once COVID-19 came about caused companies to react quickly to the new regulations and guidelines being set into place, and this took serious time and resources. This pulled the same time and resources away from the main safety culture of the company. When priorities shift, we begin to focus on the new priority and can let our focus slip on our core values of safety and the day-to-day safety routines. This can cause loss of engagement with employees, and hazards may not be as communicated or visual. These are the core values that we must keep in front of us.
Q - What initiative(s) does your company/facility/department have this year for EHS?
CC - We are currently upgrading some control panels for electrical safety and removing visual noise from the operator control panel. It’s a “blocking and tackling” initiative, but important nonetheless for our overall safety program.
RD - We have started weekly EHS audits by several employees. This has allowed more real-time data on leading indicators of risk and other EHS factors.
Q - What have you learned from your hearing conservation and/or respiratory protection compliance programs?
PK - Even with a smaller facility having both a hearing conservation program and respiratory protection program, the resources it takes to get all employees compliant can be tough. Using a partner, such as our roundtable host Examinetics, allows the compliance testing and training to be conducted all at once. This reduces the load on the site’s EHS department, which allows them to focus their time on other important priorities.
RD - Our hearing conservation program has shown that we need to ensure we include our material handlers that go in and out of the areas where we have required hearing protection. We need to make sure they are covered and tested. Many teams only include the obvious workers in the exposed areas and may forget to include others in the program who may be more transient in the exposed environment.
CC - When new to a hearing conservation program, its important to know that a shift in threshold does not automatically hit as a recordable for OSHA. Retesting is done, along with an investigation as to the reason for a shift. Make sure you have a partner that can do a thorough work-relatedness evaluation.
Q - Any tips or tricks for increasing employee participation or employee engagement with health and safety? How do you create a safety culture?
CC - We acknowledge top safety improvements every month and give prizes away. We don’t discipline for self near-miss reporting. This is important for creating a culture with no blame. We want to understand the issue and find resolutions to mitigate or eliminate risk, and that starts with needing complete transparency. Everyone is involved in the solution.
PK - And When dealing with engagement there are two main reasons to connect: 1) fact finding and 2) positive reinforcement. Most employees on the floor do not have time to remove themselves from the line they are working due to the nature of the line process. Leadership must view this time as valuable and make the conversations happen on the floor with the employees. These conversations, whether fact finding for hazards or upset conditions or just giving a compliment, need to happen to keep a personal relationship with employees and keep them informed and aligned to the company goals.
Q - What advice do you have for a new safety pro just entering the EHS field?
RD - Really get to know your business inside and out. Understand the existing issues as part of starting your new position. When you seek to truly understand and listen, then you can deliver good solutions rather than quick solutions. Also, find a good mentor.
PK - During the first couple of years, really spend your time on the floor. An individual who knows and understands the process will always be valuable to the employees and the company. Once you have spent adequate time understanding the new processes, begin to focus on certifications and continuous learning. Pick one subject a quarter and try to become an expert in that subject matter, then attempt to take certifications to further your career and knowledge.
RD - For continuous learning, ASSP is a great resource. OSHA’s Quick Takes, their online newsletter, is a good way to stay on top of the latest news and developments.
CC - Remember to be consistent and stand firm on safety policies. You won’t be everyone’s best friend. You will have to have difficult conversations with folks on safety and you will need to stand your ground. Don’t get discouraged when an injury takes place…use it as an opportunity to grow and learn.
Q - What changes would you like to see OSHA implement?
RD - I would like to see OSHA become more streamlined when adopting new policies or directives.
PK - A large portion of an EHS department’s time involves keeping up with regulations and updating training programs to ensure they have the most recent updates for training employees. I believe it would be beneficial to develop training decks that would cover the top 10 most OSHA cited standards for that year and have those able to distribute each year with the new updated regulation changes. This could be a proactive approach to distribute to companies and assist safety departments with ensuring the most updated regulations are covered with our employees.