Interview with Mark Micheles,
Vice President of Sales – North America, Safety Today
“These are my opinions based
on my experience providing safety solutions for the material’s handling market.”
MHPN: What is the biggest threat to safety?
my experience, the biggest threat is behavior in the face of hazards, not just the
existence of hazards. For the most part, companies do a fine job of addressing
safety from the perspective of risk assessment; that is, they identify the
risks well. But getting employees to change their behavior and make safety a habit is what will have
the biggest impact on a company’s incident rate and safety performance. An
integral, behavior-based safety culture is a must.
example, in the glass-handling market, employees are taught how to handle glass
and panes. They are also taught the proper PPE to wear and when and how to wear
it. But behavioral training goes deeper. It imagines a worst-case scenario,
because, frankly, accidents don’t happen with any regularity, so we behave differently when they do. So, in
this market, employees must be trained how to behave if a sheet of glass starts
to fall. Their first instinct is to try to catch it or stop it, which can be a
fatal move when working with sheets of glass. Instead, you have to change that ingrained
behavior and teach employees to move away from the hazard — the falling glass —
rather than trying to intervene.
another example of a behavioral threat in a warehouse: A large automotive
manufacturer has forklifts traversing the whole floor. There is a process in
place that requires employees walking through the warehouse to stop at each
intersection before they cross an aisle, look both ways, and then physically point
in the direction they are going to continue walking. That’s a behavioral adaptation
to a potentially hazardous environment. So, if employees are observed just
walking through a warehouse while talking to another person or with eyes glued
to their cell phones, they can be reminded of the hazard and retrained in the
safe behavior protocol.
In both of
these situations, the foundation for safety is there. The risk has been
identified, and the company has put a safety protocol into place. It’s the
behavior of individuals that’s really the threat, and teaching or reinforcing
safe behavior is the solution. Here is where the rubber hits the road: Unless
employees change their behavior, a safety culture won’t take root.
MHPN: Is there an emerging problem?
problem, if you could call it that, is the reality that employees spend more
waking hours on the job than they do at home. All this time invested creates an
undeniable relationship — employees are like family. There is a growing trend
to stop looking at just “workplace safety” and to start seeing safety as part
of a lifestyle. So now, many companies encourage that PPE be used outside the workplace
— at home. They promote driving safety and emphasize the need slow down, not
just on the way home from work but also on the drive in. At Safety Today, we
even are talking about proper home safety practices. When we do training, we
encourage a broader vision and talk about how we all need to bring the safety
other lifestyle issues, sleep deprivation and improper cell phone use,
demonstrate how home life can affect work life in unsafe ways. Both of these
pervasive cultural trends can affect concentration, and being distracted can
cost a life — and that’s the case both at home and at work.
MHPN: Who is responsible for training to avoid
the responsibility of the employer to provide appropriate safety training. There
are OSHA required training protocols; every company has to provide training for
their employee base every year or when changes occur. For example, forklift
operators have to go through an initial forklift-training program and to ensure
continuous education repeat annual training as changes occur, followed by a
driver’s test every 3 years. The problem is, as with any type of education — whether
it’s at Harvard or XYZ Community College — the varying degrees of knowledge that
students acquire will be determined in part by who is conducting the training.
Often, to maintain compliance in training programs, companies will have a
supervisor conduct the training class, but that supervisor may not have the
proper teaching ability to conduct an efficient, well-received class. It’s not
only the responsibility of the employer to provide safety training, but also to
do it in an engaging manner that will keep the employees interested. Keep in
mind that if your employees are bored in these classes, you may never achieve
that change in behavior.
companies like Safety Today, which doubles as a safety product specialist and a
safety consultancy, can conduct training classes and create incentives that
encourage participation. If the employees are going to get anything out of their
training, they have to be mindfully present. If a company needs training in an
area for which we don’t have our own expert, we can bring in experts at
discounted rates through consulting firms with whom we partner. Electrical
safety training would fall into that category.
MHPN: Is meeting regulations just a baseline,
and do most companies go beyond that?
think most companies try to go well beyond the baseline today versus years
past. The baseline is just that; it only scratches the surface. I’ve engaged
with several customers who have created or asked us to create home safety
programs. These are companies who are very proud of their safety records, and
people want to work for them because of it.
constantly ask ourselves, how do we break through that baseline to go well
beyond the regulatory issues? How can we help our employees and our customers’
employees? We truly take safety as our mission, not just our business. To that
end, we’ve dedicated parts of custom catalogs to at-home safety.
MHPN: How do you tailor solutions to individual
meeting with an individual company, our industry-recognized safety experts will
go on site and perform a facility survey and a hazard analysis. These surveys encompass
obtaining safety records from the last three years, a thorough facility audit, and
a hazard assessment for each work area in the facility. Then we recommend — or
even custom tailor — solutions to help our customers reduce risk to people and
property and to help them establish their own culture of safety.