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Week of 8 April 2019: Who should do safety inspections?

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Many years ago I wrote a column about a safety inspector I personally witnessed in a hospital. He was, as rapidly as possible, taking last year's safety sticker off certain pieces of equipment and putting the current year's in its place. Since I had been in that room for a number of days, I knew he had not come around, tested the equipment and then was just tidying up the results of his work. His safety "inspection" was the process of changing stickers. I asked him about this and he said due to the quota of "inspections" he was required to do each day, this activity was all he had time to do.

Personally, I think at least two individuals should be involved in any safety inspection. The first and most obvious inclusion is the professional who has been "factory trained" to do the inspection. This person, we presume, comes to us with full knowledge of what regimen to follow in an inspection and what specific matters are involved in an overall pass/fail for the equipment, systems or processes involved.

The second individual (or individuals) should be the personnel who would be affected should the equipment, systems or processes fail.

Now, you are probably thinking of large, complex process systems at this point. True, those need this kind of attention. But so do fire extinguishers. Let's say you have an outside provider come around every three months and check your fire extinguishers for full charge. This person likely comes in, runs around to all the fire extinguishers, punches a hole in their tag and goes.

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This is an opportunity to take your safety up a notch. Each time they come in, assign a different employee to go around with them and check the fire extinguishers. In a short period of time, you will have several employees who know where all the fire extinguishers are, how they are used and when they are in a ready condition. If you are not doing this already, I'll bet less than 2% of your employees could identify the location of one fire extinguisher in a pop quiz. This is the same percentage that knows if a fire extinguisher is in a ready condition or not.

Bigger systems, perhaps you get more people involved. One important system is your house cranes. Machine dry end personnel should be intimately involved in this inspection.

Overall, what should be the rank of the employee in your mill hierarchy involved in these inspections? I would suggest, in most cases, the lower level employees are the better choice among many. I certainly don't want a manager along whose budget may be impacted by any identified repairs. Quite frankly, I don't trust them to use clear thinking on such matters. Lower level employees will see this as an important task and sing like a canary if remedial action is not taken within an appropriate length of time.

Of course, if you are just paying lip service to safety, you can forget this last idea, indeed you can forget this whole column.

For safety this week, need I say more? I have seen too many safety systems not properly inspected, inspection results glossed over. Get your act together.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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