June is National Safety Month and with a new Democratic administration, today is great time to beef up your safety training. I almost hesitate to use “beef” as a verb because I just returned from Seattle where I visited Pike’s Market. As you may know, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) just staged a protest against “fish tossing,” the practice of a certain fish monger at Pike’s Market who tosses dead fish around to amuse umbrella-toting tourists. It seems PETA took umbrage at the practice, even if the fish were dead (out of respect should I capitalize “Fish”?). Please check back soon when we will look at the lengths organizations must go to in protecting the workers from eco-terrorists and other groups. And word to PETA, which I will probably regret. There is an old saw (that’s a saying, for those of you under 50) that goes: “You may win the battle but you’ll lose the war.”
Although digressions are often entertaining, let’s return to National Safety Month. Congress is considering stepping up enforcement and increasing penalties, especially against repeat offenders. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the head of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration testified before Congress last week and what he said should come as no surprise. He has suspended the voluntary protection program President Bush put in place during his first administration, and recommends targeting repeat offenders with more frequent inspections.
With Dems firmly in place in Congress, expect changes to enforcement and increased penalties, many industry experts agree. For an excellent overview of what to expect with the upcoming legislation, see this link from law firm Beveridge & Diamond.
What can small businesses do to help avoid enforcement? Safety training is one of the best places to start. If you think training your employees has to be expensive, you are wrong. Two great resources are very inexpensive. One source is the National Safety Council, which has chapters in 46 states. For an organization with less than 100 employees, dues run $270 annually and include a subscription to their magazine as well as local chapter networking opportunities and access to important safety updates and information. Free weekly safety webinars are held, as well.
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is another valuable asset, with chapters in eight regions in the US and internationally in locations such as Kuwait, Nigeria and Ecuador. Geared toward the Certified Safety Professional, those who have safety responsibilities are welcome, as well. The organization is a wealth of safety-related information and training. ASSE membership is a bargain at $160, which includes state chapter dues. Not sure which to join? Attend a chapter meeting by viewing the organization’s website and locating your state’s chapter. Contact information or the next meeting will help you find the next event. Attend, and then decide which is right for your organization. The biggest benefit to association membership is the ability to network with individuals who make safety not just their career, but their passion.
Safety Skills is a free training resource for organizations with less than 100 employees. I took a basic electrical safety training course from their Basic Awareness Series to gauge the program and was impressed with the content and the ease of use. Visit Safety Skills and take a free course to decide if their program can help your organization work more safely.
In 2007, there were 5,488 fatal workplace injuries in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 90 percent of those injuries arose in private organizations. Investing in safety can save not only your budget by avoiding fines and loss costs, but may save your workers’ lives. Safety is not a luxury; it is the only way to work if you want your employees to go home alive.