April 2003

Safe Sense
Workplace Tips

Action Speaks Louder than Words
Don’t Just Talk About a Safety Program; Put One in Place
by Bill Carson

I recently called several companies at random to discuss them what their company does in regards to safety.

I wasn’t surprised with the responses. Some of them might even sound like they came from your company. 

The questions I asked were: 

1. Do you have a company safety manual? 

2. Do you hold regular safety meetings? 

3. Do you have safety policies and procedures? 

4. Do you enforce your safety policies if you have them? 

5. What type of safety protective equipment do you provide? 

The answers to my questions about safety manuals were diverse. Some had no manual at all. Some took a manual off the Internet and added their company names to it. Some purchased a safety manual from a national association of which they are members. Only one company developed its own manual, but admitted that it was poorly done and would not meet OSHA guidelines. 

Does this sound like your company? If you have a manual, has it been updated? Does it cover the topics related to your operation? Do employees even know it exists? 

Holding regular safety meetings was an across-the-board “NO!” Why? Well, answers ranged from “Takes too much time,” to “We can’t stop work just to talk about something” to “Actually, we don’t have anyone in charge of safety, so no one sets up safety meetings.”

“Employees won’t meet after work on their time,” said another. 

“Employees don’t listen anyway or follow the safety rules,” said a third. 

Everyone I surveyed did respond with affirmation about having safety policies. But nearly all felt that they weren’t specific enough or enforced. Most of the time the only enforcement came from the general contractor on a construction site. As we all know, a lack of consistent enforcement can result in legal problems if you do penalize or fire an employee about which you don’t care. 

When it comes to protective safety equipment, most companies I contacted provide the required safety equipment.

All companies stated that the cost for protective equipment is astronomical. Employees damage or lose their equipment constantly and don’t take care of it. They also don’t wear it unless the boss gets on their backs. It’s still your responsibility to provide safety protective equipment. The answer is to set up specific policies regarding safety equipment and enforce them. 

Safety is not a priority issue in most companies. Workers’ compensation rates, lawsuits as a result of someone getting hurt, the loss of a key employee in an accident and the emotional trauma if someone gets hurt seriously or killed should all be incentives to make safety at your company a top priority.
Try something new; become proactive and preventive, instead of reactive. It actually works—whether it’s safety, establishing management policies or even driving a car. 

You try to prevent accidents with your children—why not your employees? I know some employees don’t care about you or your company, but most do. They trust you, and this includes protecting them from possible harm.

All it takes is one second, and your company’s future, your future, your family members’ futures and your employees’ futures, could change for life. Do you want to take the risk?



Bill Carson is manager of ManCon LLC of Lake Mary, Fla. He has spent more than 15 years developing, managing and supervising training programs for the building products industry.




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