‘Experience Modification Rating’ Category

Safety Training Resources Shares Tips for Managing Safety in Machine Operation Areas

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Machine operation areas differ from workplace to workplace. Production areas in manufacturing plants expose workers to a wide variety of potential hazards. During an OSHA inspection, violations can range from machine guarding to electrical hazards. Safety in machine operation areas is an ever-changing challenge that requires continuous management.

Design for Safety

Machine operation areas should be designed for safety. For example:

  • Machines should be equipped with all the necessary safeguards.
  • The area should be well lit so workers can see what they’re doing and where they’re going.
  • There should be adequate space between machines and materials and finished products.
  • Walkways should be clearly marked with yellow lines to separate them from machine work areas.
  • Floors should be made of, or coated with, a nonslip material.
  • There should be a good general ventilation system and a local exhaust system for any processes that produce dusts, mists, fumes, or vapors.

Insist on a Clean Work Area

A well-maintained, orderly production area is another essential. Look around the machine operation areas in your facility. What do you see?

  • Are floors wet, dirty, or cluttered with tripping hazards?
  • Are tools, materials, and other items left lying around when they ought to be put away after use?
  • Is there trash and debris everywhere?
  • Are carts or pallet jacks with materials or finished products blocking walkways?

 If you don’t see reasonably neat, clean work areas, you might be looking at an accident waiting to happen.

Maintain Proper Storage

Along with good housekeeping comes proper storage of raw materials and finished products.

Make sure employees do:

  • Stack materials to be processed on a secure base.
  • Place heavy objects on the bottom of the stack.
  • Use ladders to reach stored items overhead.
  • Wear gloves when handling materials to avoid cuts and scrapes.
  • Secure stored items so that they can’t topple over on someone’s head or fall to the ground and get damaged.

 Make sure employees don’t:

  • Store items too close to machinery.
  • Stack items so high that they could topple over or block fire sprinkler heads.
  • Pile materials too close to sources of heat or electricity.
  • Store items so that they block or stick out into walkways.
  • Lift incorrectly or try to lift and carry objects that are too heavy to handle alone.

Emphasize Safeguards and Lockout

Machine guarding violations generally hit OSHA’s Top 10 list every year. To avoid citations and keep workers safe, make sure machine operators understand the reason for, and operation of, machine guards and safety devices. No machine should ever be operated without properly functioning safeguards.

An effective lockout/tagout program is another essential safety component for machine operation areas. Employees authorized to repair and maintain machinery should be specially trained and certified in lockout/tagout procedures.

But you can’t stop there. All employees who work in machine operation areas should receive lockout/tagout training to be sure they understand the procedure, OSHA requirements, and your rules—even if they don’t actually perform lockout/tagout.

Fires and Medical Emergencies

Fires are an ever-present danger in machine operation areas. Avoid fires by considering all potential fire hazards and the precautions necessary to prevent ignition.

Also, just in case you fail to anticipate every possible risk, make sure to have fire extinguishers on hand that can contain the classes of fires common to machine operation areas. For example:

Class A—Combustibles (paper, cardboard, wood)
Class B—Flammable liquids (solvents, oil, etc.)
Class C—Electrical fires

Multipurpose extinguishers may also be an appropriate choice for machine operation areas.

OSHA has strict requirements for the use and placement of portable fire extinguishers (see 29 CFR 1910.157).

First aid kits should also be available, and employees should know how to report accidents and medical emergencies.

The machines in your workplace are hard workers. But they’re only machines. They can only do the grunt work. They can’t think. It’s your human workers who have to do the thinking in order to prevent machine accidents.

To be sure your workers are thinking straight and fully in command when they operate machinery, they must be properly trained.

Training for machine operators should include at a minimum:

  • Machine hazards
  • Machine operation, including safeguards and emergency stops
  • Lockout/tagout procedures and rules
  • PPE
  • Machine area housekeeping and storage rules
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Maintenance schedules and authorizations
  • Procedures for reporting malfunctions and handling repairs
  • Emergency response, including fires and first aid

 PPE

PPE for machine operators usually includes:

  • Eye and face protection (safety glasses with side shields or goggles as well as a face shield when there’s a risk of flying particles)
  • Hearing protection when noise levels exceed regulatory limits
  • Head protection if there is a risk of materials or other objects falling from above
  • Foot protection to keep feet and toes safe from falling materials or machine movement

 Gloves should be worn to protect hands when handling materials, but machine operators must understand that gloves should not generally be worn when operating machinery. Gloves can interfere with precise grip or get caught at pinch points or at the point of operation, which can cause crushed fingers or amputations.


Safety Training Resources’ Experience Can Modify Your Insurance Rates

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Many of our existing customers ask us the same question, “What is the best way to lower or reduce my company’s Experience Modification Rating (EMR)?

First, you have to understand what an EMR is.  The two factors that influence the EMR are the frequency and severity cost your recordable accidents.  The EMR is based on old, historical data.  For example: the 2011 EMR will be based on 2007, 2008 and 2009 accident histories.  Fiscal year 2010 is not used because it was the year just ending.

1) Track and trend the frequency of your accidents.  Attack your problem areas with training programs, focused inspections and targeted enforcement.  Change your culture to lower your incident ratios. 

2) Take a look at your deductible.  A low deductible can have a big impact on your mod rate versus a high deductible.  Talk with your insurance company and get recommendations about which one is best for your situation. 

 
Make sure your insurance company is timely in closing out cases and dropping reserves.  If you have an injury with a reserve, talk to your insurance company about their justification and get it reduced, if possible.

3) Don’t forget near misses.  Keep tabs on them as best you can.  They are often warnings of tomorrow’s accidents.  Your tracking information will tell you where to look.  Separate the safety problems into two groups: (1) things that can be fixed (improved) by changing conditions, and (2) things that can only be fixed by changing the way the employees act (behavior modification).

Unsafe conditions are usually a little easier to deal with, at least at the beginning.  Workplace conditions are generally under your direct control. Look for low hanging fruit:
• damaged or missing equipment
• missing guardrails
• under staffing issues or people who are not trained
• missing or inadequate machine guards
• are there employees (specific people with names) who are actually responsible for checking scaffolding, inspecting trenches, etc.?
• does everyone have a hard hat, a pair of safety glasses, and usable hearing protection?

Most of those issues can be fixed pretty quickly and relatively inexpensively.

Reducing unsafe actions (behavior modification) requires getting your people to think and work safely.  You have to change minds and change habits. Changing your company’s safety culture requires listening, understanding, training, explaining, fixing, and enforcing.

A safety policy is a good place to start.  It doesn’t have to be a formal document.  It can be as simple as: “If we cannot do it safely we don’t do it. There is nothing that needs to be done in our company which is so important that it is worth risking your health or safety.”  Spend time with your people explaining what safety means and why safety is important.  Having an owner or an officer honestly and believably describe the policy will help a lot.

Training is tough.  It can be helpful to bring in an outside expert (i.e. Safety Training Resources).  In some cases you can leverage OSHA’s regulations, for instance: “wearing safety glasses isn’t just a good idea or our rule, wearing them is the law.”

Train frequently and in small doses.  Frequent training provides an on-going reminder to think about safety and work safely.  Repeat the safety message clearly and frequently.  Routine training shows that you and the company really care about safety

Scheduling 5-15 minute training sessions can provide critical facts and timely reminders.  A small dose of learning gives your people one or a few things to think about and apply.  Short sessions mean that production isn’t held up.

What it all comes down to is…. ACCOUNTABILITY.  You can either turn your back on it, or you can make an affirmative decision to become part of the solution.  Don’t just say “NO”, give the supervisors and workers a safe alternative.  If you drastically cut back on the unsafe acts that happen everyday, the accidents and near misses will rapidly disappear and your EMR rate will come down.

Act Now!