Safety at work is a fundamental part of each business. Each entrepreneur providing employment has an obligation to create safe working conditions. The minimum requirements are specified by the law and any negligence causing a health or life hazard or an accident risk is severely punished. For many entrepreneurs, health and safety considerations are confined to this single sentence. They comply with the regulatory requirements, often treating the in-house OHS service as a necessary evil, sometimes taking it too lightly. It is worth doing more.
Going above and beyond
Employees deserve the best treatment. If they know that the employer is taking every effort to provide safe, ergonomic, and comfortable working conditions, they are certain to appreciate it. A relationship is formed: you care about me, so I care about you. If the employee is given a well thought out, ergonomic, safe, and well-equipped workstation, they feel obligated to carry out all their duties with due diligence. The employee is aware that this is a fair deal.
A situation in which all the employees participate in the safety improvement process is something the employer should aspire to. No one, not even the best OHS specialist, is able to predict all the hazardous situations. The more people are involved in the hazard anticipation and early prevention process, the better the effects. Unforced, conscious joint responsibility for safety cannot be overestimated.
A proactive approach makes it possible to be one step ahead of the accident. Sometimes, one step means a gap between life and death or health and disability. The way this should work is that any possible hazards should be prevented from occurring: if I see a hazard, I react and notify the supervisor of my concerns. And it works, provided that the employees know that they will not be ignored and that their remarks will not be considered to be just “niggling”. They should know which person to contact and what they should expect. If the employee needs to notify the supervisor of the hazardous behaviour of their colleagues, discretion should be ensured.
Environment and work culture
It pays to look beyond the minimum restrictions and give OHS the attention it deserves. The best results can be obtained when two work protection aspects are combined: safe environment and work culture that considers safe behaviours as standard.
The employer is responsible for preparing the environment. Caring about safety begins at the stage of building design and the careful choice of building materials, machines, production lines, installation of hazard detection systems, fire extinguishing systems, etc. This is not a one-off activity, but a process ongoing until the decommissioning of the plant. It involves providing workwear, protective clothing, and personal protective equipment, regular inspections of safety devices, guards, protective detection systems, safety switches, electric shock protection, ensuring good technical condition of the machines and tools, as well as a good condition of the personal protective equipment provided to employees.
Standards and norms
In 2001, WIŚNIOWSKI introduced the Quality Management System compliant with the PN-EN ISO 9001:2009 standard, and in 2011, it introduced the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) 18001:2007 standard. Formalization of the management, design, and production procedures requires much effort and expenditure, which however, brings a number of benefits. Process stability, repeatability, predictive and high quality of products are all important for the operation of the company. From the perspective of safety at work, it is beneficial to adapt the workstation to the activities that are performed, to determine a limited set of tools and machines used by the employees at individual stations and the repeatability of actions. The division of roles and competencies is important as well, and so is defining permissible and prohibited activities. Procedures for reporting malfunctions, failures, improvement suggestions must be known. This way, unauthorized attempts of repairing tools or machines, making modifications without consulting the supervisors, bypassing protective devices, etc. can be eliminated. Keeping a record of the activities performed and ordered is crucial too, because it minimizes the risk of overlooking something significant.
The Personnel Training and Development Department was established in 2012. The Department is managed by the Representative for the Integrated Management System and employs only highest class quality control and OHS specialists. The operation of these departments is strictly interrelated – quality and safety go hand in hand.
If the in-house occupational safety management system is to be maintained at the highest level, it must evolve based on theory, technology and experience. New safety devices and technological solutions increasing the level of safety are marketed each year, new occupational safety guidelines are issued as well. The in-house OHS service gathers experience and draws conclusions from previous accidents and from the accounts of employees who faced a hazardous situation but have not been injured.
Preparing for emergency situations
Sometimes, despite making every effort possible, a failure or an accident is unavoidable. Occasionally, it happens due to force majeure or an unpredictable coincidence. At times, several persons are injured as a result of the accident and many more are within the zone of an actual or possible hazard. Being aware of the hazard causes fear and unpredictable behaviour. As a consequence, even an insignificant event can lead to panic or serious losses. For this reason, it is crucial to practice safety procedures with the participation of employees on a regular basis. During the hazardous situation, there is no time for reading regulations or procedures. If after the actual alarm is announced employees need hints regarding what to do and how to do it, there is an enormous risk of failure. When a person is stressed and faces an actual hazard, they can act effectively and safely only when they perform the activities that were practised multiple times almost instinctively.
During a fire or a different hazard, it is already too late to set basic rules. They must be perfectly known and the employees should focus on exceptions caused by the emergency situation and on carrying out the instructions of the rescue action leader. Awareness of joint responsibility is paramount: the whole group is being evacuated, so the entire group must cooperate. Each group member must know how to leave the hazard zone and how to help others. The key to success is preventing panic from spreading, developing a habit of eliminating the hazard at an early stage, e.g. by using the extinguishing equipment at hand, taking care of co-workers, especially of the ones who are injured or unable to evacuate on their own due to other reasons.
WIŚNIOWSKI holds trainings and trial evacuations on a regular basis. The participation of the State Fire Service brigades makes the training very realistic. Moreover, fire-fighters have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the buildings where they may have to carry out rescue and fire-fighting operations in the future. The training provides a chance to detect and eliminate possible obstacles and hazards, to revise the procedures and secure the escape routes. This is not about eliminating infringements and violations of regulations, but about an ongoing improvement of the infrastructure and procedures fully compliant with the law and experts’ recommendations instead.
Quick and effective performance of emergency procedures also has an economic dimension, because it facilitates the reduction of losses caused by damage and prolonged downtimes. An alarm announced after receiving information about a planted explosive is a good example. It must not be ignored as the explosion can kill and injure many people. Evacuation and room inspection by the the police and other services is necessary. An efficient evacuation may considerably decrease financial losses.
Introductory and periodical training can be organized in many ways. Sometimes they are treated as a necessary evil and their organization is commissioned to external companies of uncertain reputation. This way, the chance of providing employees with knowledge and practical abilities that can save health and life and limit the losses caused by accidents is completely wasted. WIŚNIOWSKI places strong emphasis on OHS training. Trainings are organized in the facility and the agenda corresponds to the actual conditions that the employees deal with every single day. The instructors give priority to solving specific issues and passing on practical knowledge about the methods of handling hazardous materials used during the production process.
Every accident at work, even a seemingly insignificant one, may lead to serious consequences. Undoubtedly, the gravest ones are damage to health or death, but measurable economic losses are also caused by downtimes, machine failures or damaged materials.
A large portion of responsibility for safety rests with the employees. In the end, they are the ones making the decision about obeying or breaking safety regulations on a daily basis. The employer can make sure that safe work becomes standard. So that each employee feels that following the regulations, as well as active detection and elimination of hazards constitute an essential part of their work. Employees must remember that work is usually done in groups. In general, new employees first observe more experienced colleagues, then copy their behaviour.
Security has priority
WIŚNIOWSKI treasures the safety and health of its employees. We make sure we do everything we can to make our employees feel certain that the manufacturing plant as a safe place, and even if an accident occurs, they know they will receive the best assistance possible. It is a question of complete loyalty and it must be mutual. We appreciate the competence and involvement of our employees and we want to give back. The employer should not be limited to paying remuneration. We want to bind the employees with the company for as long as possible. And people are more willing to remain where they feel well and safe.
The introduction of the PN-EN ISO 9001:2009 and OHSAS 18001:2007 standards also has a measurable effect on the production economy. We know that should an accident or a serious hazard occur, financial consequences for the company would be as low as possible. The effect on our customers’ businesses would also be minimal, because we are able to minimize delays in the completion of orders.
Director of the Personnel Training and Development Department
Representative for the Integrated
For some reason, ignoring safety regulations and showing bravado has been very popular for many generations. New employees and old troupers who have recently switched jobs have a tendency for disregarding OHS regulations. In the case of the former, the blame can probably be attributed to lack of imagination and a false belief that instructions and procedures have been provided unnecessarily and that safety devices and procedures are a source of trouble rather than benefits. The latter most likely have witnessed more than one accident at work, yet they want to show they are tough guys, pros, know-it-alls for whom everything always works out okay.
This is why the first period after employment is of such great importance. No one is able to direct a new employee as well as more experienced colleagues who can make them aware that there are things that simply should not be done. This is a question of consistent development of a safety culture which forms an integral part of our corporate culture.
Safety is expensive, but it is worth investing in it. It is a matter of respect for employees, as well as care about the condition of the company. Accidents and losses can always happen. The point is to be able to manage the risks wisely.
By: Andrzej Adi