Speaking Up About Safety

Workplace Safety is something that everyone cares about, right? I think we can all agree no one wants to go home in worse shape than which they showed up. So why do we often turn a blind eye when we observe someone performing work in an unsafe way? Maybe you don’t want to step on the toes of a superior? Or maybe you don’t want to get your friend or coworker into trouble? These are just two of the many reasons I’ve heard why people do not speak up after observing dangerous work being performed. The reality of the situation is, declining to say something could cost much more than an uncomfortable confrontation – it could cost someone their life.

According to a study conducted by the American Society of Safety Engineers, only about 40% of workers feel comfortable intervening in a dangerous situation at their workplace. So, let’s do some simple math…100% of workers care about their safety and the safety of their coworkers, but only 40% of these employees feel comfortable speaking up when they observe an unsafe act or condition. This means 60% of our work force will keep walking if they pass a coworker performing their work incorrectly. I think we can all agree this number is way too high – but how do we address and fix this issue that plagues workplaces all over the world?

Unfortunately, there is no “magic” cure all to solve this difficult problem. However, there are many ways that we can go about combatting this issue. One way to improve in this area is to address your company’s safety culture. This best comes from upper management and must be supported by front line managers. Let your employees know that if they see work being done unsafely, they have the power to stop it until it a safer, alternative method is found. Many companies label this “Stop Work Authority” or “You See It You Own It”. This alone does not solve the problem in its entirety, but it gives your employees the confidence that they will not be reprimanded for calling out a possible superior for unsafe work.

Another way we can give our employees the confidence to speak out is to encourage near miss reporting. A near miss is defined as “an incident in which no property was damaged, and no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred”. Near misses are a great leading indicator, if used properly. Often employees are performing unsafe work out of ignorance – not negligence. By reviewing near misses, we can identify gaps in our employee training program that can be improved upon. Encourage this by handing out gift cards or similar items in reparation for a successfully completed near miss report.

In conclusion, this is a topic that almost every company can improve upon – Ensure you have this conversation with your employees and encourage and support them to exercise their Stop Work Authority. As the old adage goes, it is always better to be safe than sorry. We at Cee Kay encourage you to be an advocate within your company to increase safety awareness. Dealing with some of the products within our industry has an inherent level of risk for those unfamiliar or improperly trained. We are happy to provide access to our technical representatives and educational resources on proper safety precautions if you or your company is utilizing any of our products. All our SDS sheets are available here. We offer free welding training with any new machine purchase and there is a wide variety of material available regarding safe handling of cylinders, welding arc flash protection, grinding, regulator safety or oxy fuel cutting. If you have any questions, concerns or useful tips you would like to share in regards to improving one’s safety culture please contact Erek Downes at: edownes@cksupply.com

Thanks & have a safe 2020!

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