For safety’s sake, create a structured program, stick to it
Effective safety programs share a number of attributes. These include a commitment to safety from a company’s president to workers in entry-level positions; education, training and retraining; consistently enforced safe practices; regular safety meetings; random work-site inspections; a corporate culture that welcomes and implements employee suggestions; analyses of all injuries followed by corrective strategies and incentive programs.
To ensure safety, a company must establish “a structured and scheduled program and stick with it,” says Linda Vos-Graham, president of Vos Glass Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Responsible glaziers hold frequent weekly or every-other-week safety meetings and each one of Vos’ employees averages between 30-to-40 hours of training a year. Employees with serious safety violations or more than, say, two violations, undergo retraining. Some companies require that every employee take First Aid classes and be certified to administer cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. These employers facilitate training by paying for and hosting in-house classes during the day. In addition, they supply their workers with all the personal safety equipment they might need.
At East Coast Glass Systems Inc., in Richmond, Va., safety begins before employment. “Safety is preplanning and prevention,” says Linda Forrest, human resources and safety director. The company gives job applicants a 10-panel drug test and initiates safety training on the hire date. New hires undergo a five-hour orientation.
Prevention measures include job-hazard analysis and assessment, Forrest says. The review determines type of equipment to be used; building design; personal protection equipment and hazard exposures. The ECGSI officials also require daily inspection documentation on equipment and power tools. The company also conducts job-site inspections weekly.
“Safety in the field is much harder to maintain than in a manufacturing environment because you have so many variables,” says Lawrence Cartner, president and owner of Cartner Glass Systems Inc. in Charlotte, N.C.
Random inspections help Cartner’s project managers ensure that the glaziers follow safety procedures. He hires retired federal or state Occupational Health and Safety Administration inspectors to do spot visits, especially if a site is potentially hazardous.
In order for a safety program to succeed long term, everyone must be engaged. At Walters & Wolf in Fremont, Calif., “everybody in the company has a voice regarding safety,” says Brian Wilber, safety director. If workers notice an unsafe practice, “they are encouraged to raise their hands and stop whatever process is in place,” he says. “Every employee from the top down and the bottom up is charged with safety.”
Vos-Graham agrees. Her company’s one-for-all-and-all-for-one philosophy is reflected in its safety incentive program. Employees are not rewarded on an individual basis; instead, safety bonuses, won on a quarterly basis, get awarded only if all the company’s 55 employees meet the program’s safety standards.
“Safety includes the whole company from the owner to the receptionist to the office staff to the glaziers,” Vos-Graham says.