Editor’s note: This is the first story in a two-part series on how supervisors/safety managers can get their feet wet when they are starting a new job. Part one will look at some do’s and don’ts, while the second story in the November issue of Safe Supervisor will tell you who you need to get to know to make your job easier.
Veteran Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) Manager Gerald Edgar says safety people often ask him, “What’s the best thing I can do in those first few days on a job?”
“First, let me tell you what not to do,” says Edgar. “An experienced safety manager once advised me not to try to do too much when you first start.”
It is human nature to want to quickly prove your worth to the new boss and make that person feel justified in hiring you. That motivation prompts many new safety managers to try to come up with all sorts of ambitious suggestions and observations during their first few days on the job. Unfortunately, that approach almost never works.
“The aggressive, in-your-face approach from Day 1 tends to backfire,” says Edgar. “In addition to making you come off looking like a know-it-all, this attitude steps on toes and displays insensitivity to the local circumstances and policies. If you see an obvious problem, there’s probably some explanation for it.”
Edgar says it’s important to slow down and ease into the job.
“By all means, after you make the round of introductions, you should conduct your own inspection of the facilities. However, unless you find some blatant safety violation or serious environmental problem that simply can’t wait, resist the temptation to immediately report it. File away the observation in your to-do list.”
So, what should you do in your first days as safety manager?
“Spend the time getting to know your peers and how you can work together to accomplish your mutual goals.”Read More
Do companies with government certified workplace safety committees report fewer injuries than companies without such committees? In Pennsylvania at least, the answer seems to be “no.”
The Rand Corporation looked into several years’ worth of worker injury data for 9,000 Pennsylvania companies that have state-certified workplace safety committee in place. Setting up such committees saves Pennsylvania employers five percent on their workers’ compensation insurance premiums.
Based on data collected from 1996 to 2007, Rand found that injury rates at companies with certified safety committees did not decline more than injury rates at non-participating businesses.
“We found that firms that joined the Certified Safety Committee (CSC) program did not, on average, experience reductions in injury rates compared to similar firms that did not join,” states a Rand report on the study. “In fact, there was evidence that injury rates actually decreased less for CSC participants. The injury rate for participants declined by an average of .06 per 100 employees, while the rate for the matched non-participants decreased by 1.01 per 100 employees.”
One reason for Rand’s findings could be that safety committee members are not meeting training requirements. More than half the companies that had safety committees in place did not comply with training provisions.
Another finding was that some companies that already had safety committees in place joined the state program to save five percent on their workers’ compensation premiums, but after joining, did not make any changes that resulted in fewer workplace injuries.
“We should be clear that we do not doubt that, because of the CSC, some firms made considerable strides in injury prevention by establishing safety committees and carrying out the activities required by the CSC,” the report states. “Because over 80 percent of the audited firms had deficiencies and an additional five percent had no operating committee at all, our findings suggest that the absence of an overall benefit was largely, although not entirely, due to non-compliance with effective program elements.”
Safety committee requirements in Pennsylvania include having a minimum of two company and two employee representatives who meet monthly. All members require training on safety committee operation, hazard inspection and accident investigation, offered free by the state.
Rand says program compliance could be better enforced, especially on some key program requirements such as that all committee members receive annual training in three specified areas. However, the downside is that a more extensive audit program would reduce participation and more audits would require more staff, increasing public costs.Read More
It’s a scenario nearly all supervisors have experienced: While most workers follow your instructions, such as wearing PPE or tying off while working at heights, there’s always someone who will cheerfully agree to do what you’re asking and then do th
e opposite the moment your back is turned.
Left unchallenged, such behavior brings bad consequences. Either a worker is injured or killed or a government safety and health inspector who springs a surprise visit on your worksite observes someone breaking safety rules and starts writing up violations.
An Ontario subscriber to Safe Supervisor expressed concern to us about what he sees as an increased tendency for workplace safety authorities to charge companies and supervisors with failure to adequately supervisor workers. He told us that supervisors are stretched thin and can’t be in all places at all times to “babysit” all workers.
We posed his concerns to two OHS experts for their opinions and advice as to what stretched supervisors need to be doing. Their short answer was: As long as you are showing due diligence (doing your homework) in maintaining a safe workplace, you don’t have to be a babysitter.
Ryan J. Conlin, an OH&S lawyer and partner in Toronto-based Stringer Brisbin Humphrey Management Lawyers, agrees there seems to be a trend in Ontario toward charging and convicting not just companies, but also supervisors, for health and safety infractions.
“It seems that prosecutors aren’t as willing to drop charges against supervisors when companies (that employ them) plead guilty to OH&S charges,” says Conlin, adding that it isn’t uncommon for both a company and a supervisor or director to be convicted and fined.
Unless you are supervising a tiny crew, it’s not possible to be everywhere at once while attempting to balance production demands, keep up with paperwork and ensure that workers are properly trained and working safely.
The good news is that supervisors don’t need to be everywhere at once. They must, however:
If supervisors are doing both those things, they can raise a strong defense against OHS charges if an inspector observes unsafe or unhealthy conditions at a worksite.
Conlin says supervisors who are overwhelmed by their job pressures need to talk to their managers and be able to provide clear examples of any tasks that are falling through the cracks and potential negative consequences, such as worker injuries/fatalities or occupational safety and health charges.
“If one person is doing the work of two, it may be impossible for a company to meet due diligence standards,” he says.
Workers tend to bend the rules once a supervisor is out of sight or when supervisors are lax about enforcing safety rules, according to Conlin.
“If you find contraventions, you’ve got to come down on workers. For example, if you are having issues with a group of workers with respect to (using) fall protection, you’re going to have to ramp up enforcement (through a progressive discipline process),” he says.
Conlin says there’s no law stating that supervisors must simultaneously watch all employees at all times to ensure they are working safely. Indeed, doing so would be impossible.
Wayne Pardy, a safety consultant and vice-president of Quality Plus Inc., a management consulting firm based in St. John’s, NL, agrees.
“The acts and regulations require you to be diligent. They don’t require you to be perfect,” says Pardy, adding that it is unreasonable to expect that a supervisor can monitor all employees at all times.
Conlin related an Ontario case where a site supervisor had ensured that everyone was properly tied off when working at heights. Unfortunately, when a safety inspector showed up, it was obvious that one of the workers was no longer tied off.
The supervisor was charged, but the charge didn’t stick because solid evidence was provided that all workers had been tied off when the supervisor had observed them earlier, and before his attention had been requested by the inspector, who asked to tour the site.
However, Pardy says supervisors who witness unsafe acts and let them slide certainly aren’t showing due diligence and they won’t have a credible defense if an OHS inspector observes infractions and starts asking questions.Read More
In an attempt to address what it terms “urgent safety and health problems facing Americans in the workplace,” OSHA has announced a Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), along with higher civil penalty amounts.
SVEP will focus OSHA’s enforcement resources on employers who endanger workers by demonstrating resistance to their safety and health responsibilities under the law. The program includes:
“For many employers, investing in job safety only happens when they have adequate incentive to comply with OSHA’s requirements. Higher penalties and more aggressive targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.
He says SVEP will include “a more intense examination of an employer’s practices for systemic problems that would trigger additional mandatory inspections.”
Last year, OSHA assembled a work group to evaluate its penalty policies and found currently assessed penalties are too low to have an adequate deterrent effect. Michaels says OSHA will, over the next several months, increase the overall dollar amount of all penalties, but will maintain its policy of reducing penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith.
OSHA proposes increasing the average penalty for a serious violation to between $3,000 and $4,000, compared to $1,000 now. It also wants to raise the maximum penalty for a serious violation to $12,000 (from $7,000 now) and for a willful violation, to $250,000 (from $70,000 now).
“OSHA enforcement and penalties are not just a reaction to workplace tragedies,” says Michaels. “They serve an important preventive function. OSHA inspections and penalties must be large enough to discourage employers from cutting corners or underfunding safety programs to save a few dollars.”Read More
US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told a recent National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety in Houston that OSHA, under the direction of Dr. David Michaels, is moving “back toward an emphasis on protecting workers after eight years of lax oversight.”
Solis noted that more than 14 US workers lose their lives in preventable workplace incidents every day. Of the 100 workers dying across America every week, 14 are Latinos.
“The need for enforcement and oversight can no longer be regulated to the snail pace of the past. It is the right time to lift up workers’ rights and make this situation better,” she said.
With only 1,000 federal OSHA inspectors and about the same number in states running their own OSHA agencies, Solis said it would take more than 130 years to inspect all eight million US workplaces.
“So we have to leverage our resources, through large fines that send a message to every workplace that cutting corners on worker safety won’t be tolerated,” said Solis. “And we leverage our resources by making sure that workers have a voice in the workplace and they are fully involved in ensuring their workplaces are safe.”
Solis added that workers are the best judges of whether a job is safe and it is up to them to raise concerns with their employers when they feel they are being endangered on the job.
Workers across the United States, especially immigrant workers, continue to face dangerous workplace conditions. Solis told the conference about a Latina woman was crushed to death while cleaning a paving machine.
“She had not been trained on how to clean the machinery safely and had not been given the manual to read,” said Solis. “When the supervisor was asked why the employees had not been provided with the manual, he replied that the manual was not shared because a majority of the employees speak Spanish and could not read.”
Solis said an OSHA inspector tested the supervisor’s claim by translating the manufacturer’s operating instructions into Spanish within 15 minutes. The inspector found that the operators on site could easily read and understand the material, yet they had never seen it before.
Withholding safety information from employees on the presumption that they can’t read is reprehensible, she said.
Solis says a system is needed whereby:
She said all workers, including undocumented workers, have the right to a safe workplace, adding that working in the US illegally should not be a death sentence for anyone.
According to Solis, too many workers, especially Latinos, do not report unsafe working conditions because they fear they will lose their jobs or be disciplined if they are injured at work. She urged Congress to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which would:
Since April 28, 2010, OSHA’s compliance officers have been checking to verify that training has been provided in a language and form that all workers can understand.
Solis says building inspectors are also being encouraged to report to OSHA any unsafe working conditions they observe at city worksites.Read More
The Canadian Standards Association has released a new confined space standard which is the first of its kind in this country.
CSA Z1006 Management of Work in Confined Spaces specifies requirements and guidelines for managing work in confined spaces and coordinating rescues.
A confined space is defined as a workspace that is fully or partially enclosed, is not designed or intended for continuous human occupancy and has limited or restricted access, exiting or internal configuration that can complicate evacuation, first aid, rescue or other emergency response services.
Every confined space is considered to be hazardous unless deemed otherwise by a competent person through a hazard identification and risk assessment. Found across all industries, confined spaces include hydro vaults, underground tunnels, shipping compartments, pump stations, boilers, chemical tanks and grain or corn silos.
“Even the most skilled workers can become trapped, injured or overcome by toxins in a confined space. This new CSA standard defines what a confined space is and it will provide the guidance for those in charge of managing work in confined spaces, such as supervisors, team leaders and engineers, says Suzanne Kiraly, president of CSA Standards.
“Because more than 60 percent of confined space fatalities are would-be rescuers, CSA has developed a confined-space standard to include rescue guidelines.”
Workers in confined spaces can be at risk for serious injury or death resulting from asphyxiation, engulfment, electric shock, falls, heat, fire, explosion or long-term illness.
Hazards within confined spaces include:
The definition of a confined space within the CSA Z1006 Management of Work in Confined Spaces standard focuses on the characteristics of the space and the ability of a worker or rescuer to enter and exit the space without injury, illness or death.
CSA says that identification and risk assessment by a trained worker are required to determine the appropriate controls to address the specific hazards of the space, including those that can cause acute or chronic harm to the worker.
“The standard provides detailed guidance on roles required for safe entry, training requirements for the entry team and the rescue team, as well as qualification requirements for training providers,” notes CSA, adding that CSA Z1006 is pending approval as a national Standard of Canada.
“Current standards and regulations vary across jurisdictions and, until now, there has not been a comprehensive national standard or even a consistent definition of ‘confined space.’”
The content of the standard was developed by a volunteer technical committee comprised of stakeholders from industry, products, regulators, labor and general interest representatives. Key industry experts on the technical committee provided input from various sectors, including the steel, telecommunications, energy, manufacturing, chemical, petro-chemical, emergency services, pulp and paper, mining and railway industries.
Info to go: For more information on CSA Z1006 click on the Info to Go safety links at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Uncertain times make for jittery and unhappy employees. According to recent research from the Conference Board, Inc., only 45 percent of American workers are happy with their jobs.
And a Canadian Policy Research Network study has found that only 33 percent of workers are “very satisfied” at work.
Leadership trainer Dave Anderson, author of “How to Run Your Business by the Book: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business,” says unhappy employees are unhealthy employees and “it’s impossible to create a healthy company with unhealthy employees.”
Anderson says unhappy employees are affected psychologically, emotionally and physically and their misery affects everything they do. Few workplaces have escaped unscathed from the recession.
Significant layoffs and increased expectations on those employees who remain have resulted in slipping morale. Anderson had devised a list of five ways that companies can help put “the spring back into their workers’ steps” in 2010.
Some of these steps must be driven from the top, but supervisors will certainly be able to utilize a couple of these tips to boost morale among their workers.
Here’s his list:
Info to go: For more information on Dave Anderson’s Learn to Lead program, click on the Info to Go safety links at www. SafeSupervisor.com.Read More
CSA Standards (the Canadian Standards Association) has adopted the ISO 31000 Risk Management standard, which it says “provides principles, framework and process for managing risk in a transparent, systematic and credible manner.”
“These principles and guidelines in ISO 31000 Risk Management serve as an overarching guide for organizations and individuals to help incorporate internationallyrecognized best practices for identifying and managing risks across financial, strategic, and operational areas,” says Doug Morton, Director, Life Sciences & Business Management, CSA Standards. “The Canadian adoption of the ISO 31000 Risk Management standard will enable Canadian organizations to compare their practices with an internationally-recognized benchmark, providing them with sound principles for effective risk management.”
Risk management is the identification assessment and treatment of “risks” that may affect an organization, business or municipality, either negatively or positively. Negative effects could include accidents, disasters or legal or financial liabilities, while positive ones include adoption of new technologies, business ventures or continual improvement. The ISO 31000 Risk Management Standard can be applied throughout the life of an organization, and to a wide range of activities, including strategies and decisions, operations, processes, functions, projects, products, services and assets.
The standard was initially developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a worldwide federation of national standards bodies representing approximately 140 countries. This standard is not a certification standard. While providing principles and guidelines, it also enables organizations the flexibility to develop and implement risk management in a uniform way that also meets the needs of the organization and its stakeholders. The CAN/CSA ISO 31000 is available for purchase in both English and French at www.shopcsa.ca.Read More
If you are like many supervisors/managers, you are performing a juggling act from the moment you wake up until your head hits the pillow. And just when you are thrown another plate to juggle at work, such as a new project, you are thinking, “How can I deal with this extra work when I am not even keeping on top of what I’m already being asked to do?”
When more and more work is piled onto a manager’s plate, that person will reach a point where it’s no longer possible to cope. Work quality and productivity both slide, while stress skyrockets.
“Ineffectiveness comes at the point where our maximum productivity and performance peak and there’s no more growth,” says Dr. Gabriela Cora, a medical doctor, leadership/wellness consultant and author based in Miami, FL.
Being at work for more hours doesn’t mean you are accomplishing more or working effectively, says Cora, adding that she has coached executives who are working 16 hours a day and ask her what they need to do in order to be able to work even longer.
Her advice to them is to cut back to 12 working hours a day. At the end of a month they typically find that they are actually 25 percent more productive than when they were working 25 percent more hours.
Cora says exhaustion not only takes a physical toll on the body, but causes people to not think clearly and fail to consider their best options. As a result, over-stretched managers will often put high-priority tasks on the back burner and miss deadlines.
“People need to realize they can’t keep saying ‘Yes, yes, yes. I’ll do it.’ It’s going to get worse,” she says, adding the awareness of being unable to do more is the first step toward getting things under control.
But before you announce to your boss that you can’t cope with yet another project, Cora says you need to have a strategy. If you have four major projects on the go and you get handed a fifth one, she suggests saying, “I don’t have the resources to do five things at the same time. Which one would you like me to do first?”
Also ask your manager if additional resources are available to help you deal with your list of priorities, or whether one or two less important items can be dropped from your to-do list.
Cora says pride often keeps people from asking for help, because they don’t want to appear weak or incompetent. What they don’t realize is that missing deadlines or producing sloppy work is more harmful to a career than asking for help before your work situation spirals out of control.
She also says it’s important for supervisors to get to know their workers well so they can determine their strengths and talents and ensure that workers are utilizing those assets by encouraging them to take on more responsibility.
“A good leader will provide the resources that are necessary so that their people can do a great job.”
Cora offers these additional tips to help you work more effectively and happily:
1. Watch out for time wasting traps such as the constant use of email, PDAs or phones, as opposed to allocating a set time to respond to emails or return calls.
2. Set clear priorities. Make sure you achieve what’s high on your list and discard the less important tasks that haven’t been touched in months or years.
3. Have a written plan of action and check your progress toward achieving your desired goals as set out in your plan.
4. Working too many hours? Cut down and work on being more focused, effective and productive.
5. Find effective ways to eat, exercise, sleep and relax. Cut back on caffeine at work and limit your alcohol consumption at night. Learn and practice relaxation techniques such as guided imagery or meditation. Listen to music or find a hobby. Make time for regular exercise and ensure you get at least seven hours’ sleep daily.Read More
As a supervisor you may or may not be very high up the totem pole in your company or organization’s hierarchy. But whether you are in a line-level position or a senior safety manager, you may be held liable if a worker is seriously injured or killed on the job.
Jeremy Warning, a former prosecutor who now works as a senior associate at Heenan Blaikie, an occupational safety and health law firm in Toronto, ON, says workplace health and safety inspectors key in on the actions of supervisors when unsafe or unhealthy conditions are found during inspections or accident investigations.
In occupational safety and health enforcement, Warning sees a trend toward safety inspectors/investigators going after not only companies, but also individual supervisors whose actions or lack of actions contribute to worker injuries or deaths.
While Warning is observing the trend from a Canadian perspective, Canada certainly is not alone in prosecuting individuals. For example, the owner of a California print shop and a pressroom manager were both charged with involuntary manslaughter after a 26-year-old pregnant employee was crushed to death in a creasing and cutting machine. The men pleaded not guilty to the charges during a late October, 2010 court appearance.
Here are a couple of Canadian examples:
Warning says factors that determine whether a supervisor will be charged include:
“If you have actual hands-on authority, the courts won’t hesitate to find there is a supervisory role there,” says Warning.
Employers have an obligation to provide appropriate and competent supervision of workers and “supervision may also be expected as part of an employer’s duty to take all reasonable care to protect workers.”
Warning says prosecutors are looking closely into whether supervision levels are adequate, including whether a supervisor is overextended and can’t possibly cover all aspects of his or her job. They are also delving into a supervisor’s level of competence, including understanding and following occupational safety/health regulations and understanding hazards and knowing how to protect workers against them.
His advice to supervisors who want to cover their bases in the event of an inspection or investigation is “document, document, document.” That means supervisors should be keeping daily notes of their activities with respect to training and measures they have taken to address safety issues.Read More