Production and safety affect one another, especially in a fast-paced industry.
By Scott Weston
If you are like most precasters, you are production-driven. Whenever your customers want product – and all too often they want it yesterday – you try your best to deliver. Such is the nature of this fast-paced industry.
Working at a quick pace, however, does not mean safety should take a back seat. It doesn’t matter if you have two employees or 2,000 – when they come to work, they should be in an environment that supports safe working conditions. But safety becomes an issue when we’re too busy to give it a second thought. For example, one key person may wear many hats: operations manager, safety director, IT support, sales/estimating, fire fighter. We all have at least one of these multitasking, multitalented people on staff. Plus there is the stress of improving production, boosting concrete yardage and getting the products on the trucks and out to the job site faster.
So when is there time for safety? Safety meetings take away from production – after all, you really could have used those 15 minutes on production that you just spent in a safety meeting. But here is another way of looking at it: If an employee is injured, the time lost on the production floor will be quite noticeable, because when one employee is missing, it affects production for the entire day.
The answer, then, is to think of safety as a part of production, not as a hindrance to production. If you don’t have a safety program in place, you can start by having 10 to 15 minute Tool Box Talks. Some plants hold Tool Box Talks once a month, others hold them weekly. If you do not currently hold them at all, you should consider having them at least once a month. Tool Box Talks are available from many resources, and you can even download them from the Internet at www.osha.gov and other websites.
Whether you realize it or not, employees will appreciate your paying attention to their safety. When employees realize that you care about their safety, then they will be more prone to give you a solid day of work. And it affects not only the employees, it affects their families as well.
Most production is centered on the employees. If you ask your employees to work in an environment where they could get hurt, production will be low. If your employees work in an environment that is free of hazards and are given the tools they need, production will rise. The tools they need include scrapers, respirators, gloves, hard hats and safety glasses, of course, but one of the most important tools you can provide is information. They may cringe when they hear that they will be subjected to another Tool Box Talk, so the best way to deal with this is to hold the talks at the same time of the month at the same hour. This way the employees will know when the talks will be held and what is expected of them.
To help keep your employees interested, provide handouts for the Tool Box Talks. Use props such as an actual ladder when your talk is on ladders (but don’t use a new one, because the one in the plant doesn’t look like that anymore). Show them what to look for in defects to keep them interested. Keep the talks simple, and don’t read from a paper. Take time to read and study the material before the Tool Box Talk. Avoid speaking in a monotone, move around a little and ask direct questions of the employees.
One common subject for your Tool Box Talk is housekeeping. This deals with everyday situations such as sweeping or eliminating blocking or tripping hazards. If you have a talk on housekeeping, and for three months the plant is clean and free of hazards but then takes a turn for the worse, hold the Tool Box Talk again. You will always have somebody say, “We already had this Tool Box Talk,” to which your response is, “Some people were not listening the last time.”
Delivery employees should also have Tool Box Talks that are specific to their duties. Subjects could include road rage or driving through work zones.
Production and safety can be used in the same sentence – one does affect the other. Safety should be a state of mind, and having simple Tool Box Talks will help your employees understand why we pick up blocking, wipe excess oil off the forms or put steel scrap in the proper place. With a safe environment, you can watch production go up; it may take some time, but it will go up.