Senior editor Sharon Spielman kicks off a new column on process safety by outlining what every processing facility should already have in place.

Manufacturing can be a dangerous business. This is why several standards exist at local, state and federal levels -- to protect your company, your employees and the surrounding area. There are many rules to follow; this is certain. But, it is important to keep in mind that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local agencies have your company's, your employees' and the surrounding communities' best interests at heart. Sometimes, more than the fear of fines, peace of mind and common sense is needed to get everyone on the safety bandwagon.

Typically, a company-run safety program includes the information needed to answer questions during a safety audit. This information can be kept in a manual that includes a health, safety and environmental commitment statement clearly outlining your company's commitment to safety and environmental protection. This statement should be posted and communicated to all employees, contractors and visitors.

The manual also can outline the specific responsibilities of management, employees and subcontractors in the implementation of your safety program using work site policies, resources, safety meetings, walk-around safety and environmental checks, and other forms of communication.

Written rules and work practices should include those used to control the most common hazards. This includes:

  • Safe work agreement, form and practice sheet.

  • General safety rules.

  • Personal protective equipment policy and rules regarding its use.

  • Work site rules regarding the consumption of alcohol and drugs.

  • Disciplinary program to deter employees who do not comply with safety rules and government regulations.

  • Emergency action plan.

  • Hazard assessment and control, including a list of hazards to cover all types of work relevant to a specific job site and their effective control.

  • Outline of the requirement for supervisors and employees to conduct regular work-site inspections of equipment and conditions. This includes what is to be inspected, a work-site guide, facility inspection sheets and followup procedures.

Of course, there is more information that you can keep in your safety manual. Programs are customized to fit each individual facility. For the controlled products used in your workplace, work practices are kept on material safety data sheets (MSDS). This includes the transportation of dangerous goods practice and the practice for handling hazardous materials in the workplace.

And, employees are encouraged to submit reports of hazardous conditions on the work site that may be missed by regular inspections, using a hazardous condition report form.

In regard to incident/accident investigation and analysis, there should be a written standard procedure for reporting as well as accident investigation and a procedure for reviewing and following up on all incident/accident reports.

Employee training and motivation are big factors to consider in your safety program. Be sure to include a training and orientation section that will be communicated to each new or transferred employee. The employee orientation explains your company's expectations and commitment to safety. For the best results, be sure to implement an employee safety recognition program.

One association I have encountered utilizes an interesting approach to safety awareness. The American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) created its Quest for the Best in Safety and Health process in 1993 to recognize and promote those textile manufacturers that are committed to employee safety. ATMI has eight criteria that member companies must meet to qualify for recognition under its program. The companies must adopt and maintain a safety and health policy; conduct safety and health audits; organize and assign safety and health duties; encourage employee participation and communication; meet a defined numerical performance objective; maintain a safe and healthy work environment; provide safety and health education and training; and share information and interact with others in the industry.

All companies that are accepted into this program must go through an annual recertification process to remain a part of it. During recertification, participating companies must explain what they have done in the past year to improve their safety and health process.

Does your company implement a general safety program? Does it belong to anything like ATMI's Quest for the Best? What incentives do you use to motivate employees to stay on the safety track, keeping OSHA, EPA, local agencies and the neighborhood happy while at the same time keeping your employees safe and healthy? Drop me a line at and tell me what your company does to help promote the safety and health of your employees.