A time to reflect on the importance of safety in the workplace, National Safety Month is celebrated every June. Originated by the National Safety Council in 1996, the month is for spreading awareness of safety hazards and unintentional injuries for industrial workers in the US.
National Safety Month is important because it:
- Focuses on all aspects of employee health and safety. Instead of focusing on a single workplace hazard, the National Safety Council selects four different types of health and safety issues each year and dedicates one week to each issue such as emergency preparedness, wellness, falls and driving.
- Provides insights into the history of industrial safety. National Safety Month gives us valuable information and statistics about industrial safety standards in the US and Canada. It offers a detailed timeline of the development of labor laws in different industries.
- Also offers safety tips for everyday life. “National Safety Month teaches us to be proactive when it comes to anticipating potential disasters,” the Council states. “This is something that you can implement at your workplace and home to make it safer for you and your loved ones.”
Every Seven Seconds
In the US, a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds. This equates to 540 work injuries per hour, 12,900 per day and 7 million every year. Material handling is the most common cause of accidents, which also include slips, trips and falls; being struck by or colliding with an object; tool-related incidences; repetitive stress injuries, among others.
DB Schenker’s Circleville, Oh., and Martinsville, Va., operations are both standouts when it comes to keeping employees safe, healthy and going home to their families every night. Circleville hasn’t had an OSHA-recordable incident in 3,181 days and Martinsville’s current record is 4,294 without an OSHA-recordable issue (at the time this story was published).
OSHA defines a “recordable” event as any work-related fatality; any work-related injury or illness that results in loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work, or transfer to another job; or any work-related injury or illness requiring medical treatment beyond first aid. For companies with more than 10 employees, these incidences must be reported to OSHA in order to remain compliant, minimize future incidents and improve overall workplace safety.
Jeff Shaw, General Manager at DB Schenker’s Circleville warehouse said the facility is about 200,000sf in size and has 12 dock doors. The location’s 12 employees comprise a close-knit group that serves two different customers for the global logistics provider. Shaw kicks off every morning with a startup-meeting on a specific safety topic, such as equipment check-offs, housekeeping, and other subjects that get everyone thinking about workplace safety.
The facility’s safety culture was built over time and based on those regular meetings, open conversations about safety and an employee focus on “doing things the right way” when it comes to safety. “We didn’t use a magic wand to get to where we are with our safety record,” said Shaw. “This was built over time.”
Employees also watch out for one another, and alert each other when they notice a potentially unsafe working condition or someone doing something that could lead to an incident (e.g., a worker who forgets to position his or her safety glasses properly before using a piece of machinery).
Circleville also uses peer-to-peer safety behavior audits, where employees use a checklist to inspect different areas of the operation and/or workers to identify potential problem areas, such as a slip and fall hazard. As part of the audit, an employee provides feedback like, “I’ve seen you have the air hose retracted so that it’s not in your way,” or “I noticed you were operating in a potentially unsafe manner and may be putting yourself at risk.”
Shaw said these exercises get employees talking to one another about safety and have a positive impact on DB Schenker’s customers. “When customers see that we have an excellent safety record, it builds trust and makes them want to renew their contracts with us or bring us on a new project,” said Shaw. “It’s always great when we can go back to them and say, ‘We haven’t had a recordable injury in over 11 years.’”
Safety is a Condition of Employment
Located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, DB Schenker’s Martinsville warehouse has about 34 full-time employees, many of whom have 25+ years’ tenure with the company (and one of which has 50). “We’ve sort of grown up together, you might say,” said Jeff Stegall, General Manager.
Serving one specific customer that holds safety performance in very high regard, the Martinsville location has a clock on the wall that shows exactly how many days have passed since its last OSHA-recordable incident. At last count, the number on the screen was 4,294, or nearly 12 years.
Stegall said the facility’s culture of safety starts during the new hire interviewing process, where both safety and a safe work environment are emphasized. “We stress going home with all of your fingers and all of your toes being whole and watching out for one another as we perform our jobs here,” said Stegall.
Once the candidate is hired, he or she is given a list of safety rules and safety procedures to read through and check off. “It’s an ongoing coaching and mentoring process,” said Stegall, who adds that Martinsville’s safety culture comes from the top-down. “There are no exemptions. If you’re a supervisor, if you’re a manager, if you’re the site manager, you follow the safety rules,” said Stegall.
“People respect that and know that safety is a condition of employment,” he added. “When we all stay safe, the customer stays healthy, our business continues to be healthy and all is good.”