Industry Insights

The first 30 seconds: what the safety inspector sees

Question: How many occupational hazards can an experienced safety professional find within 30 seconds of walking into a waste/recycling plant?

If plant safety is not being properly managed, the answer is a whole lot.

To a trained eye, a quick visual assessment can reveal serious safety issues. For example, there are certain levels of housekeeping, cleanliness and organization for recycling plants that divulge how well a plant is being run. If there are deficiencies in any one of these areas, it is likely that safety is not being proactively managed.

Here are other safety issues that can be quickly scrutinized:

  • Faults in plant design
  • Positioning of sort stations
  • Slip and fall risks
  • Unguarded or poorly guarded machines
  • Potential lifting hazards

30 seconds is just the beginning.

When safety inspectors see these issues it’s time to dive in deeper. During an actual inspection, the inspector looks more closely for problem areas that could trigger an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation.

For example, most recycling plants have mobile equipment on the plant floor, including forklifts and skid steers / loaders. If unmanaged, the continuous interaction between people and these machines on a plant floor can create hazardous conditions. So can servicing and maintaining machines. It is critical that plants follow lockout/tagout (LOTO) standards, such as using lockout or tagout devices to protect employees from unexpected releases of hazardous energy.

An inspector will look for proper lighting and ventilation inside the building. He will ask what the procedures are for managing spills, leaks, damaged goods and hazardous waste. He will inquire about steps being taken to prevent combustible accumulations and dangerous chemical exposure.

Gear and Personal Equipment

Good personal protective equipment is essential. What are workers wearing? Do they have the right kind of gloves? Are they wearing earplugs, hard hats, safety glasses, and steel-toed boots? All of these safety items are the industry standard and should be firmly enforced by onsite operations managers.

If your plant is falling short in any of the aforementioned areas, you should consider addressing them as soon as possible. Safety is for the health and benefit of your workers, and the organization. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like a complimentary safety audit, contact us today.

Contact Leadpoint at (800) 552-3136 for a personalized, complimentary safety audit.

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