A Commitment to Safety

Written by PBFS Safety Director, Charles Sanford, and reposted with permission of NAFED from Firewatch! magazine.

Two years ago my role and responsibilities changed. My background was not as an Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) professional, but in both public and private sectors of fire protection. I have been a member of both career and volunteer fire departments, working in all capacities of both. With that background, I certainly understood the most important daily task is to ensure that everyone goes home safely. Owning my own business in the private sector helped me see all facets of fire protection and began my interest as an EHS professional.

I have often said that all safety regulations are in place because someone was seriously injured or killed. Sadly, we live in a reactive society. The job for safety professionals, is to be proactive and prevent such accidents and fatalities from happening again. Budgets can replace material loses, but the human loss is irreplaceable and can be the most costly for any organization.

Many of us include “fire and safety” in our company names, but how often do we truly address the safety of ourselves, our employees or even our company? The frequency in which we hold safety meetings, the selection of topics and where we obtain that information must all be considered. And don’t forget the documentation of those meetings. If you don’t document it, it did not take place.

Preventing occupational injuries and illness is a goal which requires universal acceptance in any company, large or small. A company has both, a legal and moral responsibility to do so. The tangible benefits received from instituting an ongoing EHS program make it worthwhile many times over, both from the employee and the company point of view.

Accidents do not merely happen by chance; they are caused, for the most part, by human acts of omission or the mental choice to take a short cut, and therefore can be prevented. Your goal is to achieve zero accidents and injuries, and most certainly, no fatalities.

The success of any program requires a team effort. It all starts with top management and is impossible without them. The results will be increased cost-effectiveness, better quality product, less personnel turnover and absenteeism, lowered insurance rates, and improved employee morale. The most important goal of each and every person must be to go home safely every day to our families.

A company must be committed to providing a safe environment for its employees. It should be policy to maintain a work environment that will not adversely affect your employees’ health and safety or subject them to avoidable risks of accidental injury.

The goal of any safety program is to assist your employees in identifying hazards in the workplace, determining how to control hazards that may occur, and taking steps to prevent them from contributing to the cause of an employee injury or illness. The following describes specific requirements for program responsibility, compliance, communication, hazard assessment, accident investigations, hazard correction, training and record-keeping. • Assign authority and responsibility for implementing the program: • Develop compliance strategies. • Communicate with employees regarding health and safety matters. • Provide procedures for identifying and evaluating hazards and unsafe conditions. • Investigate accidents and incidents. • Develop procedures for controlling and correcting hazards and unsafe conditions. • Provide safety and health training. • Maintain records and documentation for the program.

Senior Management must be committed to instilling a culture of safety in the workplace and is responsible for: • Providing appropriate financial, human and organizational resources: • Issuing a written safety and health policy as a core value of the organization. • Integrating safety and health goals and objectives into business systems and processes. • Discussing safety and health processes and improvements regularly during staff or employee meetings. • Ensuring management is held accountable for accident-prevention processes. • Encouraging employees to take an active role in maintaining a safe and healthful workplace. • Following established safety and health rules and procedures. • Recognizing employees for their safety and health efforts.

Managers and supervisors are responsible for implementing and maintaining the safety program in their work areas and for answering employee questions about safety. A copy of the program must be available for each manager and supervisor. Additional responsibilities of managers and supervisors include: • Ensuring work areas and equipment are safe, well maintained and in compliance with external agency regulations and the company’s policies, programs and practices. • Ensuring workplace safety and health practices and procedures are clearly communicated and understood by employees. • Enforcing health and safety rules fairly and uniformly. • Evaluating employees on compliance with safe work practices. • Acknowledging employees who make a significant contribution to maintaining a safe workplace and disciplining employees who fail to follow safe work practices. • Encouraging employees to report workplace hazards without fear of reprisal. • Ensuring scheduled periodic workplace inspections are conducted and that identified health and safety deficiencies are corrected in a timely manner. • Ensuring workplace injuries and illnesses are reported and investigated and corrective actions are taken promptly. • Assigning specific responsibilities to employees with the appropriate interest, related responsibilities or training.

Employees are responsible for using safe work practices; following all directives, policies and procedures; and assisting in maintaining a safe work environment. To ensure all employees comply with the program, you should: • Inform employees of the provisions of the safety program. • Enforce rules and procedures fairly and consistently. • Evaluate the safety performance of all employees. • Recognize employees who demonstrate safe and healthful work practices. • Provide training to employees whose safety performance is deficient. • Discipline employees for failure to comply with safe and healthful work practices.

Management must recognize that open, two-way communication between managers and employees on health and safety issues is essential to an injury-free workplace. The following system of communication facilitates a continuous flow of safety and health information between management and employees in a format that is readily understandable and consists of one or more of the following methods: • Training • Safety and health material publications • Safety meetings • Anonymous hazard reporting • Open door policy • Anti-reprisal policy

Management is responsible for ensuring that all safety and health policies and procedures are clearly communicated and understood by all employees. Managers and supervisors are expected to follow and enforce the rules fairly and uniformly. Allowing an unsafe act or condition to continue not only jeopardizes employees, but it also undermines the entire program. To enforce the program, employees who violate safety practices, rules and procedures should be held accountable through a disciplinary policy. The policy must be documented, explained fully, and administered fairly, to all employees on an equal basis.

Our employees and our environment are the most important assets, and every effort must be made to protect them by providing a safe and healthy work environment. This is a prime responsibility of management, and a requirement that each employee must carefully follow established and safe work practices. Doing so is not only a moral obligation, but the responsibility of good management to safeguard our limited and most precious resources.

Pye-Barker’s Safety Director Charles Sanford is on the NAFED Board of Directors and recently contributed the above piece to NAFED’s quarterly magazine, Firewatch! While it is our company’s job to help our communities with their fire protection needs, safety does not stop there. We are fortunate to have Charles helping us keep our own team safe while on the job and providing further safety resources both for our customers and staff. Thanks to NAFED for granting us permission to share this piece in full on our website.