Chapter Corner

Let 2013 Be the Year That Gets Your Head in the Safety Game

Posted in: Safety Corner

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It is almost a new year and a great time to get your head in the safety game. Using the holiday as a trigger to prompt safety meetings and create dialog to understand your successes and failures and ultimately chart your safety course is a good way to start the New Year. Triggers are used for many activities, safety not excluded; for example, we use the changing of the clocks as a trigger to replace batteries in smoke alarms in residential homes. Take the opportunity of the change into 2013 as a time to run through a six-point check list and have meetings to set the course for your organization for the year ahead.

The Six-Point New Year Safety Checklist

The focus of this effort is to get the organization engaged with electrical safety at the beginning of the year, sparking team energy that will start your year off in the right direction. Your organization is not just the CEO, the safety committee, management, or the employees. Your organization is everyone. Everyone has a role to play. The six points are not meant to dig into details and implementation – that is left to your team since everyone has a role to play in these details. How you are or will address each of these items in your organization is the discussion that needs to happen with your team. Your direction/action will not be the same as others. Every organization and their circumstances will be unique. The implementation plan should be written down for years to come. This gets more and more important as the size of the organization increases and there are more individuals to communicate with and track.

I have placed the following suggested points in a specific order as they build on each other. This list should prompt you and your team to dig deeper in one or more meetings. Because your team should already be doing the right things from a safety perspective, the following should be able to get the entire team moving rather quickly.

Annual Performance Review

This is your report card that shows how well your plan worked last year. Reviewing this data as a team should help identify concerns and issues that need to be addressed. Take this time to possibly set goals and consider the IEC-CNA Safety Award program as a goal for your organization. Key statistics like total hours worked, number of injuries, number of cases with days away from work, and other recordable data points are just a few that should be collected over time. Some organizations elect to record “near misses” as a way to identify  areas where improvements can be made.

A good start  is to reference  the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) form  300, 
"OSHA Forms for Recording Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses,” which is a free  download on OSHA’s website. This document provides guidance on what data to track and includes:

•  Total number of deaths;

•  Total number of cases with days away from work;

•  Total  number  of  cases with job transfer or restriction;

•  Total number of other recordable cases;

•  Total number of days away from work;

•  Total number of days of job transfer or restriction;

and

•  Number of injuries, skin disorders, respiratory conditions, poisonings, hearing loss and all other illnesses.

This document provides a lot more guidance and is a key input to the IEC-CNA Safety Award program.

You will also need to get beyond the numbers to identify the areas of concern and identify improvements that can be made. This is where the near miss data and background around each event can come in handy. Some organizations elect to record in the near miss category. Participation and accuracy is important and can be very helpful. That's why everyone is important in the collection of this data.

Your safety performance data relies on everyone. If events are not reported or are reported incorrectly and inaccurately, your safety performance reports will not be accurate or complete. Then too, if all employees are completing the forms and submitting corrective action reports correctly and accurately but upper management doesn’t act on the data, the safety machine breaks down yet again. Safety performance reviews should drive action and your budgets must be supportive. Your data should help you budget accordingly.

Some organizations look at safety as a profit center. The data collected helps drive this home because every event or non-event costs or saves the organization money. Reducing accidents, down time, loss of work time, and other areas of incurred expenses due to accidents goes straight to the bottom line.

Equipment Check

The equipment check should range from the big trucks and lifts that you own and use down to the screwdrivers  and  side  cutters  and  everything  in between. Your teams should be looking for wear and tear and any maintenance that needs to be performed. When  you find safety equipment that needs replaced, do it as soon as possible.

It’s the responsibility of management to ensure the funding is in place to replace the failed or failing equipment. The equipment check activities can help to define your future budgets as some equipment can be designated for replacement in the coming years. This information is critical for your budgeting exercises.

Code/Regulation Update

Codes and regulations change consistently and you need to stay on top of them. This applies to more than just the National Electrical Code (NEC) and other similar documents. This applies to OSHA and  other regulations that may be mandated for your business  as well. Ensure you are referencing the latest version of the documents used in your business operations.

Budgets may be impacted by new regulations as well. Unaddressed, these changes can quickly suck the finances from your safety plans. It’s important to not only know what current regulations and codes are in place, you need to know what is coming down the road as you can anticipate changes in future budgets.

Safety Plan Update

Review your safety plan every year with your team. The data recorded above may influence changes to your plan. Make the appropriate changes. You’ll worry about communicating and training on these changes as one of the other bullet points below. Your budget may change as well. Equipment checks, statistics reviews and, new codes and regulations may influence changes in your safety plan. Take this annual opportunity to continue the improvement of this important document. Your entire team should have an opportunity to suggest changes to your safety plan. Those individuals who are implementing the plan and performing work on a daily basis are probably the best people in your group to help improve this document. They see what happens on a daily basis and if encouraged correctly, could add valuable information that will help improve the plan.

Training

By this step in the checklist, you will have a lot of information that is important for your training program. You may have uncovered various areas of concern and quite possibly implemented improvements that will have to be communicated through your training programs. Make sure you include your performance data, equipment check information, and any codes/regulations that your people should be familiar with. This information helps reinforce your level of commitment to the safety program at all levels in the organization.

Your discussions around training should go well beyond internal training; it needs to include your “qualified individuals” and the necessary training they need to keep them up to date on their specific training needs. This is a time to identify the IEC meetings that are available and can be made available to meet your specific training needs. Continuing Education Units (CEU) will need to be obtained for those that hold licenses in your organization.

Everyone has their role to play and the management responsibility is to secure the time and the finances to make sure that your people are adequately educated. There are many opportunities for external help in this area, all you need to do is identify the need to seek this help out, schedule it, and guarantee it is funded.

Communications

Everyone in your organization should be involved in your annual safety review and be made aware  of the progress you are making. All of the points above will need to be communicated throughout the entire year. Updates to the safety plan, your annual safety performance, equipment replacement plans, and activities are all relevant content for communication plans. A good communication plan shows the employees the level of commitment the organization has to safety. Sharing your statistics re-enforces your implemented safety procedures. Share with them information on the organization’s investment in safety; this shows you have skin in the game and are committed to safety.

The above list is meant to get you to start thinking about those critical safety aspects that need to occur on an annual basis if not on a monthly basis. Safety should be an ongoing process. If the New Year is not your trigger, maybe it’s when you turn the clocks back or when your fiscal year ends. It could be a  birthday, anniversary, or simply a date that everyone has in their calendar and is your declared day of safety. Whatever your trigger, make sure you get your head in the game and fight for safety.

As always, keep safety at the top of your list and ensure you and those around you live to see another day.

Thomas Domitrovich, P.E. is a National Application Engineer with Eaton Corporation in Pittsburgh, PA. He has more than 20 years of experience as an Electrical  Engineer and is a LEED Accredited Professional.  Thomas  is  active  in  various  trade organizations on various levels with the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association (NEMA) and the National Fire Protection Association  (NFPA).  Thomas  is involved  with  and  chairs various  committees for NEMA and IEEE and is an Alternate member on NFPA  73. He is  very active in the state by state adoption process of NFPA 70 working closely with review committees and other key organizations in this effort.