Safety pays

August 28, 2003
By: George Eberl

Now more than ever, fabricators must believe that safety pays. It pays to make safety a high priority, to invest in safety training, and to provide a safe workplace. The pressure to reduce costs during this very competitive time is great, but it is imperative that owners and managers believe safety pays and act accordingly. Cutting back on safety initiatives decreases productivity, increases the risk of absenteeism and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections, and may cause workers' compensation rates to escalate.

Safety and Productivity

A good safety program pays for itself in increased productivity. Employees can concentrate more easily on quality and productivity in a safe workplace. Maintaining high housekeeping standards, holding regular safety meetings, and conducting regular employee safety training are key elements of an effective safety program—one that positively impacts the bottom line.

Safety meetings provide excellent opportunities for both management and employees to suggest safety improvements that often can result in increased efficiency and productivity.

Economical, Effective Training

Some safety and health training opportunities are free. Others are reimbursable by insurance carriers, and some have modest costs attached that are offset by reduced employee absenteeism.

Many local hospitals and medical centers have a variety of health programs from which to choose, such as back exercise and stretching programs, nutrition programs, heart disease and stroke programs, stress management, and diabetes programs.

The American Lung Associationoffers a Freedom From Smoking® Online program and group sessions to assist those who need additional support in their efforts to give up smoking. The American Red Crossoffers standard first aid, adult CPR, first responder courses, and infectious disease training.

These safety and health programs are designed to improve employee health, reduce costly illnesses and absenteeism, and to enable workplace personnel to provide first aid and life-saving treatment in emergencies.

Proactive Inspections

Hold a safety inspection. State inspectors can provide free safety inspections for an entire facility or for specific programs or work areas. Why should you invite state safety inspectors into the workplace? By proactively conducting a state inspection you can prevent unexpected OSHA visits. After completion of a successful state OSHA consultative safety inspection, an employer qualifies for a one-year exemption from a routine OSHA inspection. Most fabricators fall into SIC classifications that are high on the OSHA list for unannounced inspections. A proactive inspection can help you identify and correct potential problems and avoid OSHA fines.

Insurance inspections also are free. Although not trained in OSHA regulations, most insurance inspectors have a good working knowledge of both state and federal safety requirements. In addition, an insurance inspector who observes a company's strong commitment to safety should provide a favorable rating for the company when insurance premiums come up for review. A positive rating by the insurance inspector might reduce a company's workers' compensation and commercial liability premiums.

Sources of Safety Information

Safety information, safety strategies, and safety statistics pertaining to the metal fabricating industry can be obtained free from various safety Web sites, such as, from local libraries, insurance carriers, and industry publications—both print and electronic. OSHA field offices, state health field offices, and your insurance carriers all have free brochures for your use, and many of these organizations' Web sites have electronic brochures that you can download and duplicate.

Some trade associations also are good sources of industry health and safety information. The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Intl.®(FMA)/CNA volunteer Safety Committee supports the Safety Focus on The Safety Focus contains free safety and health articles and information about the latest safety products and news items. Safety Committee members answer questions from the industry, both on the Safety Focus page and in the association membership newsletter.

Members of FMA and its technology council, the Tube & Pipe Association Intl.®, have another safety resource at their disposal, the Metal Authority—professionals who assist members in researching safety and health issues.

Safety Training

Your vendors may provide free safety training. The company that annually inspects your fire extinguishers might have a lending library of fire extinguisher training videos. The company that maintains your forklift truck might have a lending library of instructional training materials on forklift safety.

New equipment suppliers may include videos and instructional materials on safety with your purchase. The manufacturer of a product you use—for example, chain—may have a local sales representative who could provide training on the proper use and care of chains and accessories.

Safety Certification Programs

Successful completion of safety certification programs by your personnel can save the company money. Become knowledgeable of your vendors' certification programs. For example, OSHA requires regular inspection and testing of hoists, chains, and hooks. Sending equipment to the manufacturer for testing can cost a substantial amount of money. Some chain and hoist manufacturers have free programs that allow your employees to become certified chain and hoist inspectors. Employees who complete the certification process can inspect your equipment onsite and in compliance with OSHA regulations.

Insurance carriers look upon certification programs, such as chain inspection, standard first aid, and adult CPR, very favorably.

Safety paysis more than a slogan, it's a reality. The energy, time, and money invested to achieve a successful safety program are recouped many times over by low absenteeism, lower insurance rates, and a safety-minded workforce that seeks continuous improvement.

George Eberl

Eberl Iron Works Inc.
Buffalo, NY
George joined the FMA/CNA Safety Committee in 1993 and served as chairman from 1997 through 2001