September is here along with our new safety roundtable featuring safety and health experts across various industries and locations.
Q - What do you think will be the most important safety issues this year? What initiative(s) does your company/facility/department have this year for EHS?
TH - Overall protection from all aspects of coronavirus, and safety-related to mask-wearing, will obviously be the most pressing issue this year. On a related note, I feel that the increase in mask wearing may also increase violence due to the identity of the person becoming covered, as well as mask-shaming incidents that become violent. A recent challenge will be how to deal with this risk of violence around masks, and whether to even enforce mask laws.
WP - Besides COVID-19, we are focusing on improving our data collection and analysis to identify improvement areas. We are also transitioning our 5S initiative into a true 6S program. By including safety in the program, we will increase employee involvement and workplace ownership. It ties in well with our corporate “Safety 365” initiative.
I think for companies in general, it may be “doing more with less”. With all the events going on in the world today, there is a lot of uncertainty. Companies are being very careful with how and where they spend money. Should we hire full time? Should we use temporary labor? For companies that opt for additional temporary labor, there are a lot of challenges that go along with it. Employers need to be sure temporary workers are trained effectively so they have the necessary safety understanding and awareness to do their job safely.
Q - What have you learned from your hearing conservation and/or respiratory protection compliance programs?
DS - I have learned that the details matter, especially to employees placed in these types of programs. Whether you are conducting noise level monitoring for hearing conservation or air monitoring for a respiratory protection program, it is beneficial from an overall safety program standpoint to involve team members early and often. By keeping the wider team involved, and sharing details of the program, you remove the silos around these programs which increases participation.
WP - Hearing conservation proposes a very unique challenge to safety professionals as constant exposure to noise outside of the workplace can have as much impact on a person’s hearing as noise inside the workplace. While a company can monitor and test noise in the workplace, outside of the workplace it’s not possible. Given some people have various hobbies that are much, much, louder than noise in their workplace, whenever an employee suffers hearing loss, it is important to investigate their case thoroughly. While employees are required to follow all safety rules while at work, I also encourage them to do so outside of the workplace during all safety-related training.
TH - I believe consistency is the best practice for all things. When these things become habit and part of your routine, as opposed to an annual chore, they become more successful.
Q - What advice do you have for a new safety pro just entering the EHS field?
WP - Stay organized and utilize technology (such as MS Outlook) for tracking and planning purposes. Also, safety truly needs to be everyone’s responsibility and it’s important to understand that you can’t do it all yourself. Prioritize and focus on what requires the most attention, delegate when and where it makes sense. Delegation is a great tool to help get people involved at all levels.
TH - When you are first starting out, do some research and gain knowledge from others in our field. There are so many great voices out there willing to share their knowledge. Social media and trade publications are a great way to learn tips and tricks from leaders in safety.
DS - I agree with trade pubs as a great way to learn. I subscribe to Safety & Health magazine, published by NSC, and Professional Safety, ASSP’s monthly journal. OSHA stats are also valuable to stay on top of trends. As a CSP, I rely on ASSP for training and re-cert points.
In addition to learning about the safety field in general, learn as much as you can about the company you are working for. This will help you tailor your programs and solutions for your specific situation, not just making generic recommendations. And to add to what Wally said, take the time to develop really solid relationships with team members – that will go a long way to gaining the involvement and help you are going to need.
Q - What tips or tricks do you have for increasing employee engagement with health & safety?
DS - Think safety 24/7. Don’t limit your concern for employee safety between the hours of 9-5. What happens outside of work hours has an equal effect on your team. Thinking holistically about safety creates engagement by not thinking about safety as just work rules to follow.
TH - Rewards! Food, shirts and gifts always seem to promote participation. On a serious note, creating a safety culture requires yourself and upper management to enforce the rules and follow the rules, and the rest will follow. If you are not leading by example, everything you do will fall flat.
WP - At the start of 2020, we launched a “Safety 365” Program to promote safety awareness and encourage employees to “think safety & work safely”. Since the launch, our Safety Committee has been very involved in compiling and distributing safety awareness information to employees. To boost employee engagement and participation, we also do rewards, like Tasha mentioned, by holding contests and raffles. Employees now genuinely look forward to getting safety-related information and taking part in safety-related efforts. With a heightened Safety Awareness, employees can come to work and work safely – one action at a time – all day, every day – and go home safely to his or her family.
Q - What changes would you like to see OSHA implement?
TH - During this pandemic, they should look at changing the rule of exposure to COVID-19 in the work area as a case by case. Exposure is a hard thing to track down and creates a burden on the company.
DS - It would be great if OSHA continued to develop animated-virtual learning tools. With many companies learning to work remotely (COVID-19), there is no better time to develop and launch these types of resources.