Working in a lumberyard can be dangerous. Consider that employees might drive forklifts, operate saws or pneumatic nail guns, carry heavy loads of materials, and use flammable liquids—all in the same day. To protect your employees, your customers, and your company, safety and risk management should be a top priority at all times. With that thought in mind, PROSALES talked to safety experts, judges in this year's National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association's (NLBMDA) National Industry Leader in Safety Awards, and an attorney who specializes in OSHA citations to determine 10 trouble spots at lumberyards and how you can help ensure that your safety program is addressing employees' needs. Here is what they told us.
Housekeeping A top item on experts' lists, sloppy housekeeping creates the proverbial accident waiting to happen. Deb Potter, who co-owns industrial safety consultancy Potter and Associates in Tulsa, Okla., with her husband Carl, suggests a weekly effort to clean up around the building and eliminate hazards (one of her client companies calls it “Tidy Friday”).
Rotate members of your safety committee to get fresh sets of eyes that will see the hazards that can become invisible over time, adds Frank Perry, vice president of human resources for Redmond, Wash.–based Lanoga Corp.
Also, make one staff member in each department responsible for housekeeping, and rotate the position each month. “When you get people involved in keeping things clean, you get peer pressure working for you,” notes Ron Koons, president of RoSaKo Safety in Middletown, Ind.
Forklifts Forklifts are the most dangerous piece of equipment in a lumberyard. Every year, around 100 people in the country die in forklift accidents, according to Thomas Fife, a Unionville, Ind.–based safety consultant. Four steps can make all the difference in preventing forklift injuries, he says: driver training and certification, a company policy requiring forklift drivers to wear seat belts, regular maintenance of the equipment, and a safety inspection at the beginning of each shift. Of those, he says driver training and certification is most important. OSHA requires that a person be evaluated every three years for every class of forklift he or she will drive at your company. Fife highly recommends NLBMDA's “The Forklift and You” certification program.
Lock Out/Tag Out The failure to have a lock out/tag out program for equipment powered by electricity is one of the top OSHA violations for the LBM industry, Fife says. Having a program is a must. All machinery should be locked with a padlock and all pneumatic air tools should be drained at the end of a shift. If a piece of equipment is not working properly, it should be locked out so that no one can accidentally turn it on and use it when it isn't safe to do so. It also should be tagged with the name of the person who locked it out, the problem with the equipment, and the name of the person with the key.
Only authorized individuals should perform lock out/tag out steps. Also, keep a log detailing when equipment is locked out for repair and when it is returned to service. This can help identify equipment with persistent problems.
Equipment Maintenance Missing or damaged guards and dull blades on saws are common equipment maintenance trouble spots. Paying attention to these kinds of maintenance items helped Lanoga improve its recordable incidence and lost days rates by more than 40 percent each since September 2003.
Regular equipment maintenance is a must, along with daily and shift inspections to make sure that all guards are in place and blades are properly sharpened. Lanoga investigates near misses as aggressively as it does incidents, a practice safety pros strongly recommend and one that can often reveal equipment maintenance needs.
Fire Drills and Fire Safety Equipment Most companies don't have fire drills, and most employees have never heard the company's fire alarm or know how to use a fire extinguisher, Fife says. He recommends semiannual fire drills. For each department, assign “emergency action leaders” who count heads during a fire drill or emergency to make sure everyone gets out of the building. If you have disabled employees, assign an action leader to each person to assist him or her.