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Safety doesn’t happen by accident

September 2012 marks the ninth annual National Preparedness Month. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the goal of National Preparedness Month is to educate the community about how to prepare for various types of emergencies. Ready.gov is FEMA’s official preparedness website and a great resource for those looking for more information about the campaign. This year’s main highlights include home and family preparedness, back-to-school, and business preparedness.

Businesses are encouraged to participate in National Preparedness Month by developing a preparedness plan for their company. Their Ready Business program is divided into five steps: Program Management, Planning, Implementation, Testing and Exercises, and Program Improvement. Ready Business utilizes an “all hazards approach” encompassing everything from natural disasters to malfunction of technology-related systems. One of the most impactful hazards affecting the material handling, warehouse, and logistics/supply chain industries, categorized under “human-caused hazards,” is accidents.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the fatal injury rate for the warehousing industry is higher than the national average for all industries. OSHA estimates, for example, that “about 100 employees are killed and 95,000 injured every year while operating forklifts.” Warehouse operations can present an abundance of potential hazards for workers, and being prepared is absolutely imperative. Sadly, many accidents, injuries, and deaths could have been preventable had certain safety measures been in place at the time.

Pokaka Timber Products Limited, a New Zealand company, learned the cost of improper warehouse safety, after an employee suffered serious injury when his foot was trapped in an unguarded conveyer. The company was fined $52,500 and ordered to pay reparation of $20,000 to the victim.The conveyer was in full production for only two weeks before the accident. The victim was waiting at the end of the conveyor for timber product to be fed through the de-duster machine. He rested his arms on the table and placed his right foot underneath the channel guiding the chain while there was a break in the flow of wood. Pulled off his feet, he hit his head and his right foot became trapped between the chain and teeth of the sprocket.

The victim spent 17 days in the hospital. According to John Howard, the Northern General Manager for the Labour Group of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, Mt Pokaka Timber Products Limited “failed to identify the trapping point between the chains and sprockets as a hazard and there were no guards to ensure the safety of employees working on or near [the] conveyor.”

A crucial step in FEMA’s Ready Business program is to examine ways to prevent hazards and reduce risks. OSHA provides a pocket guide for the Warehousing portion of their Worker Safety Series. Included in the guide is a list of hazards and solutions, specific to the industry. Conveyor injuries, such as the Pokaka Timber Products Limited incident, are addressed with solutions including inspecting conveyors regularly, ensuring that pinch points are adequately guarded, and providing proper lighting and working surfaces in the area surrounding the conveyor.

OSHA also stresses the need to make sure that warehouse equipment meets OSHA specifications.  Safety is of the utmost importance at Bluff Manufacturing, for both our employees and customers. Establishing the highest industry standards is one of our fundamental principles. Adhering to the  ANSI MH30.2 standard testing process for our board and plates , we continually ask ourselves, “Is it safe?” We’ve developed Industrial Crash Guard Safety Products to help our customers protect their employees and equipment.

National Preparedness Month holds incredible significance for our industry, reminding us that safety cannot be taken for granted. It gives us a great opportunity to look closely at the safety-related programs we have in place, and assess where there is room for improvement. Has your business implemented a successful preparedness program? Please feel free to share your suggestions!