LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Those shocking moments after a serious industrial accident are no time-with the foresight of hindsight-to begin planning for a safety program. It's obviously too late. Tragically, despite rules, regulations and standards set by agencies such as the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), loss of life-or limb-still occurs regularly on job sites. Wherever there is any kind of mechanical equipment, be it tire recycling machinery, vehicle lifts, power tools or even tire changers/balancers, the very real possibility for an accident exists.
Unfortunately, Jerry Boyette, a plant manager for American Tire Recyclers, knows too well what can happen when safety becomes a secondary concern.
In 1988 he was employed by a ``major steel company.'' The cover on a fan in a cooling chamber had fallen off and, despite repeated pleas from workers to fix the problem, a supervisor delayed authorizing the repair, nonchalantly stating: ``We'll fix it later.''
``Later'' arrived too soon, when an employee there ``lost the right to be a total human being,'' Mr. Boyette declared.
While making repairs in the chamber, the worker lost his footing and fell into the fan, which cut off his hand at the wrist.
Ironically, the company actually had a very good safety program, Mr. Boyette said, but management had shifted from concern for employees to a greater interest in ``productivity.''
At the International Tire and Rubber Association's recent World Tire Conference & Exhibition in Louisville, Mr. Boyette was among presenters of an outdoor workshop focusing on the importance of safety in tire recycling operations.
But with the ``OSHA man'' seemingly a specter-like presence, looking over the shoulders of most businesses for safety violations, what Mr. Boyette discussed is easily adaptable to any factory, tire dealership or automotive service shop in order to provide a safe-or safer-work environment.
``Is safety your priority? Do you make sure your machinery operates as properly and safely as possible?'' Mr. Boyette asked retreaders, tire dealers and recyclers during a safety demonstration.
``The tire industry is no different from any other,'' he said, ``when safety issues are concerned.''
He advised that every business devise and implement a safety program, and review it regularly. Among a number of his other suggestions are that:
Management must demonstrate to employees that it's serious about wanting a safety program;
Supervisors-and the employees themselves-must be involved in setting up a program;
Specific efforts be made to control all types of hazards in the work place;
Life-threatening conditions be corrected immediately, and potentially hazardous ones in as timely a manner as possible.
``Do it now,'' he urged, ``don't wait.'' Daily safety meetings of 10 minutes or less will help establish awareness of the company's safety program and uncover possible problems existing in the plant.
Documented monthly safety meetings-which
are mandated by OSHA-be held. ``But don't let them become (gripe) sessions,'' he said. ``Talk about safety,'' and how to correct problems;
Employees regularly be made aware of the chief causes of injuries on the job-including falls from heights; electrocution; crushing; being struck by equipment; and
All problems or complaints be investigated, then employees cautioned about the condition that has been cited, as well as a follow-up to the status of the condition.
Few have ever accused OSHA of being kinder or gentler. But the agency is indeed changing, Mr. Boyette pointed out. ``It is trying to help, to be our friend,'' even though he admitted there are still some OSHA investigators who continue to ``play hardball.''
OSHA has a number of training programs and booklets available, he said. The agency, for example, provides training on the control of hazardous energy, especially through utilization of ``lockout/tagout'' procedures for machinery being serviced or repaired.
It also has ``right-to-know'' hazardous materials communications, such as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and recommendations on proper job site personal safety protection equipment.
Companies concerned about possible safety problems or needing specific advice can also consult with OSHA without, by law, the fear of recrimination. (See a related story on OSHA on page 12.)
``Job-related injuries or deaths don't have to happen,'' Mr. Boyette said, ``if simple safety programs are developed and heeded.''
But that calls for a committed effort not only by management, he added, but by employees, as well.