Strong Safety Cultures Pay Off
EP Editorial Staff | May 22, 2019
Due to the unforgiving nature of electrical hazards, it’s important for facility managers and staff to be overly diligent in efforts to create safe working environments.
This includes embedding a strong safety culture, which empowers employees to make decisions that keep them and their coworkers safe. In short, all personnel must understand they are integral to the site’s safety culture—and that their actions can create a safer environment for everyone.
According to Eddie Jones, P.E., of Schneider Electric, Foxboro, MA (schneider-electric.com), strong safety cultures have a positive impact on reducing workplace-related injuries and can help mitigate insurance, financial, or reputational risks. Jones provided several tips for building and/or improving such cultures.
Take a top-to-bottom approach. Implementing best safety practices starts at the top. Facility staff are more likely to abide by safety best practices when an example is being set by their managers and other leaders within the organization. This requires proper training and empowering employees to make decisions about their work—including being able to stop work in unsafe situations and knowing they have management support to do so.
Get communication right. Management also has a responsibility to properly communicate the site’s safety culture, including how to actively contribute to the culture and the penalties associated with unnecessary risks. Some of this information is included in literature such as the Electrical Safe Work Practices (ESWP) policy, which governs the business’s electrical safety practices, employee qualification, and application of personal protective equipment (PPE). Conducting periodic reviews of employee safety practices and reviewing near-miss incidents during staff meetings are other ways to reinforce the importance of safety. Although managers have influence over their staff, the personnel themselves are responsible for internalizing the safety message and putting it into practice each day.
Give personnel the equipment they need. PPE is crucial to a safe facility. Arc-resistant shirts, pants or coveralls, flash hoods, and voltage-rated gloves can reduce safety risks by giving workers a protective barrier—and must be used when working on energized electrical equipment. Management, however, must understand that personnel must be aware of when and how to use PPE. Although PPE’s primary function is to be the last line of defense, some workers may choose not to use it because they feel it’s uncomfortable. Still others may rely on it too heavily. Understanding the appropriate times to use PPE can greatly reduce work-related injuries.
Stay up to date with relevant codes and regulations.Personnel are responsible for educating themselves and keeping up to date on the latest regulations and guidelines on staying safe. Such guidelines include those from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the National Electrical Code (NEC), Quincy, MA (nfpa.org), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Washington (osha.gov). Employers are responsible for conducting annual reviews that assess employee compliance with safety regulations, including the use of appropriate PPE. EP
Eddie Jones, P.E., is engineering manager for Schneider Electric Engineering Services. For more information, click here.