Resolved to Be Safer


Resolved to Be Safer

Start out the new year with a renewed awareness of safety issues in your plant.

Ah, it’s January. A new year, a clean slate and, most likely, a laundry list of resolutions. Whether you’re hoping to be more organized this year, or cinch your belt a notch or two tighter, it’s time to re-evaluate the things that matter most and vow to fix the things that need fixin’. Speaking of fixing, how’s your safety program looking these days? The new year is an excellent opportunity to review the safety practices in your component manufacturing facility and spruce them up where necessary.

Not sure where to begin? We thought you’d never ask.

Throughout the year, we get calls and emails from component manufacturers about various safety concerns. The questions run the gamut, but most often we get asked about the following three topics:

• Forklift safety and training

• Housekeeping for combustible dust

• Hearing conservation/protection

Here’s a quick brush up…

Forklift Safety & Training

The beginning of the year is a great time to ensure your forklift drivers are up-to-date on their training. Ensure each person authorized and certified to operate your various scissor lifts, forklifts and other powered industrial trucks is over the age of 18, has been through both the classroom and hands-on training and passed their evaluation. Re-evaluate each authorized operator every three years and provide refresher training when necessary. You’ll also need to provide refresher training if an accident, near-miss or other unsafe operation occurs; a new type of equipment is introduced; or your workplace conditions change. Keep an updated list of your certified drivers; your records should include the certified driver’s name, date of training, date of evaluation and the name of the person performing the training and evaluation.

Many forklifts weigh more than the average car. In addition, they steer using the back wheels. Rear steering allows for much sharper turns, a big plus in tight spaces and narrow aisles. Unfortunately, these sharp steering capabilities can also lead to several safety issues the average passenger car driver is not trained to handle. With more than 36,000 serious forklift accidents occurring every year, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get and keep your forklift drivers certified.

Housekeeping for Combustible Dust

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard about the combustible dust issue from us, and we’re pretty sure it won’t be the last. For several years, OSHA has been pursuing more stringent regulations for the collection and disposal of “combustible dust,” including sawdust. No rule has been finalized, but it’s no secret that OSHA has been focused on combustible dust enforcement.

There’s a LOT to know, but here are the five most critical things you need to know about combustible dust as it relates to your component manufacturing facility:

1. If you don’t know how much sawdust you create and where it collects, make performing a a risk assessment a priority. OSHA will expect you to know this information.

2. If you’ve already performed the risk assessment but don’t have a plan for appropriately collecting and disposing of the sawdust you create, make THAT the priority. An OSHA citation is no fun.

3. Train, train, train. Simply having a plan on paper won’t cut it. Your employees need to know and understand how to safely and effectively execute your plan.

4. Re-evaluate the plan after the first three or six months. Revise and update your program accordingly, incorporating employee feedback where valuable.

5. Stay informed about updates to the current and proposed rules and adjust your housekeeping plan and training programs as necessary.

For further information on OSHA’s combustible dust standard, and ways in which component manufacturers can address these five critical areas, go to

Hearing Conservation/Protection

Hearing conservation is a very serious concern, and one that can affect the component manufacturing industry. Exposure to high noise levels for an extended period of time can and will cause ear damage and hearing loss.

If you’ve already been through the formal testing process and implemented a hearing conservation program, remember to keep your OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses up to date for the year. If you’re unsure if there are hazardous noise levels present in your facility, here are some warning signs:

• Your employees need to raise their voices to hear each other.

• You can’t hear someone standing less than two feet away without shouting.

• Your employees need to stand very close to each other to hear anything at all.

When in doubt, take the next step and have professional noise testing done. If the testing confirms dangerous noise exposure levels, start working on your hearing conservation program. Don’t sweat it, an effective program consists of just two basic parts: annual hearing tests and providing personal protective equipment (and all of the necessary training associated with the personal protective equipment.)

These three hot topics are a simple reminder that safety doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Look at your facility in bite-size pieces and focus on each safety concern individually; most safety issues have a simple solution. Take the opportunity this new year brings to revisit your safety program and communicate with your employees while providing them with the training they need to protect themselves. Happy New Year! And as always, safety first!