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How to conduct safety meetings for your body shop

Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 07:00
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As an I-CAR instructor, I talk a little bit about safety as part of every I-CAR class, so the subject is always on my mind, as it should be. As the sign says, “Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility,” and safety meetings are great way to share that responsibility.

You need to hold safety meetings. Five of the top 10 cited Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations year after year are potential areas of concern for the average body shop — see No. 2, 4, 5, 6 and 8 in the list below. The remaining items may also be a concern for some. There are other benefits and reasons to hold regular safety meetings.

Most Cited Violations of 2016

  1. Fall Protection (29 CFR 1926.501)
  2. Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  3. Scaffolding (29 CFR 1926.451)
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)
  5. Control of Hazardous Energy - Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)
  6. Powered Industrial Trucks (29 CFR 1910.178)
  7. Ladders (1926.1053)
  8. Machine Guarding - General Requirement (29 CFR 1910.212)
  9. Electrical - Wiring Methods (29 CFR 1910.305)
  10. Electrical - General Requirement (29 CFR 1910.303

(FYI: 29 CFR 1960 states that employees also have responsibilities for safety compliance, not just employers.)

There are many benefits to and reasons for holding regular safety meetings. First and foremost, OSHA standards state that employees also have responsibilities for safety compliance, not just employers.

If your business gets a visit from OSHA, one of the first questions a representative may ask is to see the training records. This is to include your shop’s written training plan and materials, and a log of safety meetings.

Any action taken to reduce workplace injuries is positive, and your workers compensation insurance providers will certainly be on board to helping you provide the safest environment possible. Any loss of work, time and production is not good for business, and obviously no one wants to see anyone else get hurt. Maybe not so obvious is the statement you make to employees with regular safety meetings. They help promote a shop culture that holds value in the safety and health of each and every employee.

Many shops have opted to have outside companies lead their safety programs and conduct training or safety meetings. These companies, such as KPA (kpaonline.com) GMG Envirosafe (gmgenvirosafe.com) and others, do a great job.

There is a great value in having regular in shop safety meetings, including, as mentioned before, enforcing the value placed on all employees, but also that safety is part of the job, not just an occasional meeting. There is an enormous amount of materials available for safety meetings and general shop safety. For example, take a read of the safety precautions on a couple of SDS or labels or manufacturers’ product data sheets. Unfortunately, this may be the first reading for some.

There are a few basic components to conducting safety meetings:

Strike while the iron is hot. If there was a safety issue or workplace injury, you may not want to wait until the next scheduled safety meeting. I recommend taking a few minutes immediately, or soon after the incident, to talk about what happened, how it could have been prevented, and what action, training or changes may be needed to prevent it from happening again. Don’t forget to document the conversation — date, time, subject and notes — and include the names of all who were a part of the conversation/meeting.

Simple is good. Short, single-subject meetings are just fine. Safety meetings can be standalone events, or be part of a staff or production meeting once a month, including a 10-15 segment on safety. While some topics will require longer and more formal meetings or multiple meetings, such as Hazardous Communication, others can be handled nicely with a periodic review such as lifting safety, eye protection etc.

For most businesses, a monthly meeting is adequate. Again, keep it short — 10-15 minutes — and limited to a single topic.

It is perfectly OK for an employee to simply read the notes for the subject being covered. It is also OK not to have a lot of interaction at every meeting. Not all meeting will be interactive and conversational.

I’d suggest implementing a CBS (Caught Being Safe) Award occasionally. Perhaps for the employee always observed wearing safety glasses, or picking up items to prevent a slip or a spill, or pointing out a safety concern.

Keep everyone involved. Don’t leave anyone out; everyone needs to be part of the safety meetings. You may hold separate meeting for different departments. For example, welding safety meetings may not be needed for your office staff.  However, everyone needs to be involved and attend regular safety meetings; this includes the manager, owner or supervisor. Nothing says “this is required but not important” more than an owner or manager not attending safety meetings. 

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