The Sounds of Safety

The Sounds of Safety

It all loops back to safety.

The country of Japan has the fastest, most efficient train system in the world. It transports more than 40 million people each year, and the “Point and Call” safety system is given credit for its high efficiency. This system has been proven to avoid mistakes by requiring every worker to call out what they are doing or what is happening as they point to it. For example, “I’ve checked the engines” or “I am closing the doors right now.”

The Japanese Industrial and Health Association adopted the “Point and Call” occupational safety method that requires co-action and co-reaction communication. The result is the engagement of the operators’ brains, eyes, mouths, hands, and ears. Gesturing and speaking out the status requires and maintains focus and attention. It guarantees intentionality and keeps the employees and riders safe. Efficiency increases productivity. While Japanese train drivers first used the method, it is now commonly used in other Japanese industries. It is also used in our own New York City subway system.

While some perceive this system as impractical for many businesses, it warrants consideration because it demonstrates that a relationship between safety, efficiency, and productivity exists. Efficiency is, in part, the result of a successful safety record. Efficiency always increases productivity. Productivity results in more significant revenue, and revenue drives everything in business. It all loops back to safety. There is enormous value in training and implementing safe work practices. As necessary, it is the responsibility of the business owner to provide a safe place for employees.

Provide a Safe Physical Environment
Creating a safe physical environment for employees and customers is essential. Maintaining the physical building and its property requires monitoring for safe conditions to prevent accidents. While the property owner is ultimately responsible, a business owner wants to do all he can to keep employees and customers safe. The most common accident in an office setting are accidents that involve falls, so to increase workplace safety, consider posting warning signs for icy conditions, and conducting seasonal inspections to confirm walkways remain level. Confirm that all entrances, exits, and parking lots are well-lit. Install handrails and non-skid stair treads, runners or stair tape on concrete stairs, and keep hallways and floor space clear of obstructions. Following all safety measures may not prevent an accident, but it will reduce the chances for one.

Establish a Written Evacuation Route
Regardless of the size of the building, every business should post a written evacuation route in plain site of employees and visitors in the event of a fire or emergency. An annual fire drill should also be planned where employees gather at a safe meeting site near, but off, the property. Managers must account that every team member is present.

A plan for the emergency condition weather condition of tornados should also be in view. One customer said she was visiting a business when the emergency broadcast system interrupted the music playing in the reception area with menacing and repeated warnings of “take shelter immediately.” With a glance out the window at the green sky told everyone the threat was severe. The employees of the business panicked. They were at a loss and offered no guidance. The customers in the building were the ones who asked for the location of the nearest stairwell and interior walls. It was an intense and chaotic scene. While the tornado touched down nearly one mile away, the reputation and expertise of the business suffered in the minds of the customer who experienced this threat. It is the responsibility of the company to ensure it keeps both its employees and its customers safe on the property.

Know the Risks of Vehicles on the Job
Another area where a lack of safety knowledge can impact the business financially is vehicular accidents on work time. Firms who provide work (fleet) vehicles recognize the potential for accidents. They routinely train for safety, monitor the driving records of employees, and have adequate liability insurance. Small business owners that do not offer fleet vehicles may underestimate the likelihood that an employee driving their vehicle to run work errands presents a potential danger for the business. Should an accident occur, the business may be targeted for legal action. A large workman’s compensation claim and higher premiums may be the result of an injury to the employee. A smart business owner plans for the unexpected.

First, identify all employees who utilize fleet or personal vehicles to perform duties for the company in any capacity. This includes the service tech who is on the road each day as well as the admin clerk who purchases cleaning and office supplies at Costco each week and goes to the bank and post office each afternoon. While it doesn’t include private contractors who work for the company, it does include the salesperson visiting potential clients, the management person checking on employees or visiting current clients, as well as the vice president meeting with a client to negotiate a contract.

Many companies fail to recognize that any employee performing duties for the company that would be considered “work” is liable for the safe action of the employee in the general public. Therefore, it is essential to consider the driving record for all employees who drive while on the clock. Whether the employee is in a company or personal vehicle, implementing a safe driving program will provide long-term benefits for the employee and the company. For the small business without a fleet, the driving program may be regular safe driving discussions at the daily huddles or monthly staff training. It should always include awareness for monitoring the driving records of any employee who spends any portion of their workday in a vehicle.

Why is safety important? For every dollar invested in a good safety program, four to six dollars are recovered through lower workman compensation costs, increased productivity, and higher employee morale.

The Japanese “Point and Call” method may not be necessary for every business or occupational setting, but there is a compelling need for co-action and co-reaction communication. When employees and employers incorporate safety into their efficiency and productivity efforts, a business can truly thrive.

Refer to Cogent Analytics for more information. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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