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ASCM Insights

Essential Safety Basics During Economic Rebound

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It’s no secret that the supply chain has experienced some serious ups and downs recently, especially related to the economy, transportation and workplace capacity. While things have started to rebound, manufacturers are still facing a number of related challenges while being expected to deliver — and do so very quickly. This heightens the need to highlight safety as a core value to prevent worker incidents. It’s essential to promote safety within your organization and mitigate risk during this unprecedented time of economic rebound as supply chain floors return to full capacity.

Safety training

Once hired, the onboarding process across sectors should include an interactive safety orientation that sets the tone for how employees will perform on the jobs. New workers should leave with clear expectations of their day-to-day responsibilities and how those duties will not only ensure their own safety, but also the safety of other workers. But the safety training shouldn’t stop there. Manual material handling (MMH) jobs inherently have risks for injury if not executed properly, so building a culture of safety for all workers is imperative. 

 

Daily safety huddles should be used to review pre-task plans that address the work that will be performed, the anticipated risk/exposure and the controls necessary to ensure the task is completed safely. In the current environment, every employee should know they have the authority to call a time-out if they sense something is not right or if the pressure to deliver begins affecting their ability to perform the job correctly. A safety committee should also meet on a monthly basis to address important issues or changes in procedures. Ongoing safety training ensures everyone is set up for success, regardless of their experience level.

Hiring talent

The pandemic has affected the labor market, creating turnover within manufacturing organizations as workers reassessed their career paths, among other factors. As a result, manufacturers are experiencing an influx of new workers as they look to hire and retain talent to complete their workforces. Don’t compromise hiring best practices with the need for new workers quickly; this situation is best addressed with a focus on safety from the start. This means getting safety experts involved with the interview process and determining criteria and benchmarks for hiring, including pre-employment drug tests and background checks.

For workers in the transportation and logistics sector, a motor vehicle record (MVR) test is recommended (if not mandated by law) at least twice per year. Given the nature of this role and risk for auto accidents, these tests provide a customized score based on the worker’s driving history, including speeding tickets, DUIs and reckless driving, then weights them accordingly. This should be done in addition to a standard background check. Not only are these steps important to mitigating risks and future claims for the organization, but they can also reduce insurance premiums, as carriers feel confident knowing safe drivers are on the road.

Sprains and strains

Manufacturing jobs tend to involve frequent, forceful or repetitive tasks. The motions make workers vulnerable to sprains and strains if proper ergonomics is not a focus, compromising the back, shoulders, upper and lower extremities. To combat this, incorporate the hierarchy of controls where the top priority is to eliminate the hazard. If the elimination or substitution, of a hazard is not a feasible option, then focus on administrative controls, such as a stretch-n-flex program, incorporating dynamic and static stretching exercises throughout the shift. Workers embracing these techniques can increase their strength and flexibility, reducing the risk of an injury.

A newer trend involves leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to evaluate workers’ jobs and tasks in real-time. This can help to objectively quantify risk assessments and identify areas of improvement before they cause an incident. And the data obtained from the risk assessments can be used as discussion points for conversations or brainstorming sessions between supervisors and workers on how to reduce risks moving forward.

Every business has deadlines to meet and production goals to hit — and during this time of economic rebound, this is felt more than ever. However, it’s important not to overlook safety in the process of getting the job done, as this can have significant effect on the safety culture and have a financial impact from an operations and claims standpoint, should a worker sustain an injury. Working both safely and efficiently is a message that needs to be filtered from the top down.

About the Author

Patrick Owens Producer, Graham Company

Patrick Owens is a producer at insurance broker Graham Company, focusing on manufacturing and distribution. He is responsible for providing organizations with comprehensive risk-management strategies and individually tailored insurance programs. Owens may be reached at Powens@GrahamCo.com

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