Don’t Be Lulled Into a False Sense of Safety


Don’t Be Lulled Into a False Sense of Safety

Internal safety audits and third-party reviews can be healthy, sometimes eye-opening, examinations of what’s really happening in your facility.

SBCA developed the Operation Safety program with the help of several component manufacturer members back in 2003. Since that time, it’s become the cornerstone at more than 40 certified truss manufacturing facilities across the country that send their safety data to SBCA on a quarterly basis and undergo a third-party audit every year.

Internal safety audits and third-party reviews can be healthy, sometimes eye-opening, examinations of what’s really happening in your facility. “A third-party inspection is really about bringing in an objective eye on your operations to provide targeted feedback,” explained Mike Cassidy, Executive Director of the Truss Plate Institute (TPI), which provides third-party safety and QC inspections for the component manufacturing industry. “That information can be very valuable for management to evaluate where they are doing well and where they can focus resources to improve the safety and quality of their operations.”

SBCA staff has made some observations about overall safety trends in the industry that bring into focus opportunities for the entire industry as we head into a (hopefully) robust home-building season. Maintaining a work environment where everyone is safety conscious and feels responsible for their safety and that of those around them requires effort, but it doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Here are the top three observations, along with suggestions on what you can do to ensure your company continues to build a solid safety culture.

Observation #1:

Safety training should never fall by the wayside, particularly when production picks up.

Operation Safety data and third-party audit reports make it clear that this is especially true after there’s been a seasonal or prolonged lull in production. There are several reasons why this may be the case. One, a lull typically results in layoffs, meaning the company is short-handed initially when production increases. While the employees who are left are typically your most experienced and skilled, being in a situation where they are trying to do more with less can make concentrating on safety a challenge.

Two, after a lull, employers may hire temporary and/or inexperienced workers, who are not necessarily familiar with the component manufacturing environment. These new employees may be inadvertently more prone to accidents and minor injuries while they acclimate to a new work environment. Making safety a focal point of your new-hire or refresher training can protect your new and seasoned employees.

“Our employees are our greatest asset; we cannot be successful if we lose them to accidents,” said Sara Marsh, Safety Coordinator at Clackamas Components, a division of ProBuild. “It is important our crews work as a team to ensure everyone is practicing safe work habits and to help each other avoid potential injuries.”

Observation #2:

It’s important to make an effort to maintain good housekeeping practices, even when you think you’re too busy to do so.

The top priority is getting a high-quality product to your customer when they want it. Unfortunately, when your company is focused on increasing production, it’s easy to let other aspects of the production process fall to the wayside. “Quality and safety go hand-in-hand,” said Cassidy. “In our third-party safety inspections, we evaluate various aspects of a plant’s operation and manufacturing process, including employee safety training and protocols, because all of those things contribute to safety and the quality of the final product.”

Tidying up work areas of scraps and miscellaneous production tools and debris might seem like difficult tasks while keeping production moving. Unfortunately, lax housekeeping can lead to trip hazards and other injuries that, ultimately, take time away from component manufacturing. Marsh adds this perspective: “We want our employees to protect everything we have invested in to run our operations, not only physical assets such as equipment, but more importantly, our human resources.”

Observation #3:

Keeping your safety documentation up to date ensures you’re catching even the smallest concerns in your facility, and it helps you safeguard against serious safety issues.

Staying current on your weekly walk-throughs, quarterly checklists and in-plant audits go hand-in-hand with a decrease in your recordable injuries, high scores on inspections, and the overall well-being of your crews. It only takes a little time to make a big difference in your manufacturing facility. “We have found that documentation holds us accountable to fix problems as they arise,” said Marsh. “If we document the changes needed during regular safety inspections of the plant, we are more likely to make those changes than if we didn’t put it in writing. Documentation also helps us measure our progress and ensure problem areas are eradicated.”


Given these observations, here are some suggestions on what you as a company can do to avoid or mitigate these trends.

• Make sure someone is “in charge” of managing, updating and implementing your safety culture. Having a point-person who takes ownership and helps establish your safety policies gives everyone someone to consult with on safety topics or concerns.

• This individual can also act as a leader for all new hires and temporary employees to ensure they have the right personal protective equipment (PPE) and training to minimize their risk of injury or accidents.

• Think about safety as an hourly and daily encounter. Promoting an overall environment of safety in the production area is much more manageable if it’s tackled in bite-sized pieces.

• Consider taking the first five minutes of each shift to have a safety huddle with your production employees. Those initial five minutes will do more to put your employees in the right frame of mind than almost anything else you could do.

• Talking about safety doesn’t need to be limited to the beginning of the day either. Identify small tasks (lifting, swinging a hammer, using a chop saw, etc.) and hold a 15-minute talk during the lunch break once a week to go over proper techniques to avoid injuries.

• Adequately training your employees to be safe does not mean you need to take them away from their work. In most cases, on-the-job training and real-world examples are the most effective learning tools.

• Extending regularly scheduled breaks by three to five minutes to concentrate on picking up refuse and other potential trip hazards, as well as re-organizing work areas, can have a significant impact on avoiding common injuries.

• Make documentation a priority. Documentation serves two key roles when it comes to your overall productivity and, ultimately, profitability. It forces your workforce to focus on the areas it is documenting, whether it’s proper housekeeping, machinery maintenance or condition and use of PPEs. Documentation also can help you argue for lower insurance rates with your provider and avoid costly fines when an OSHA inspector unexpectedly shows up at your door.

Over time, building and maintaining a strong culture of safety in your company will come naturally. Just make sure you’re committed to working on safety every day. As pointed out earlier, this can feel like a challenge as you ramp up production and the focus feels like it’s shifting, but that is the time when safety is most important because it’s when accidents and injuries are most likely to occur.

Fortunately, you don’t have to feel lost on where to start. Contact SBCA staff today and learn more about Operation Safety,, and the many best practices and tools that have been put together in one place to help you promote a safe working environment. Safety first!