Safety and morale

By |  August 7, 2015

Heenan_Michael_157x150-GIFMine operators rarely express appreciation for government regulation. Over the years, though, proactive management of mine safety and health, as well as related compliance with Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requirements, has increased dramatically.

MSHA safety and health standards are inextricably part of safety programs at every mine – even small mines without formal programs. Mine operators increasingly recognize that they cannot simply tell employees to be safe and then expect injuries not to occur.

All mine personnel – managers, supervisors and hourly employees – are prone to unsafe acts. The same thinking that prompts safety compromises, such as texting while driving a vehicle, can cause grave injury in the workplace.

Compliance with safety requirements, on the other hand, can avoid grave injury. Serious accidents happen most often when a person is in an unsafe position. Examples are a truck driver exiting a truck where a loader is operating; a person behind equipment with a malfunctioning backup alarm; a miner working at height without fall protection or a suitable ladder; an employee doing maintenance on equipment not blocked against motion; and a worker accessing electrical equipment or circuitry that is not locked out.

Blocking and locking out are perhaps the greatest preventive measures. Nevertheless, individuals regularly choose to forgo blocking and locking out, even though these precautions would practically guarantee freedom from serious injury during maintenance.

So who is most at risk? Hourly employees are. Why? Because they do the work.

Anyone assigned a job will prefer to make it easy. In many cases, it can be easier and faster to skip a safety step.
If I think it will just take a minute to climb up on beams to change a light bulb (as opposed to taking the time to find a ladder), then I am disregarding that I could die in that minute from a fall.

If I get off a loader to look under it after a sudden alarming noise, I could die for not chocking the wheels.
If I poke around in an electrical cabinet without making sure every single circuit in the cabinet is locked out, I could pay with my life.

Supervisors and managers are also at risk. They will sometimes do things they would not ask others to do. The typical thinking is: I need to get this jammed crusher operating, and I can do that best without locking out. The risk, of course, is getting pulled into the equipment or hit by material ejected when the jam is suddenly relieved. Such accidents happen under exactly these circumstances.

Employee morale

One thing above all else fosters employee respect and encourages positive motivation: employer demonstration of genuine concern for employee well-being. Nothing is more important than employee safety. From a business standpoint, the benefits of a strong safety program are obvious.

Employees who feel their employer truly cares about safety and is not just paying lip service will take seriously their own obligations to comply. A good safety program demonstrates that there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. This lesson extends to all employee duties – not just being safe. As with other aspects of work, an employer must state exactly what is expected.

Employees will do what the employer wants, but they have to know for sure what that is and is not. Supervisors must demonstrate how jobs are to be done safely, train and observe, and not accept deviations. Expediency does not justify disregarding safeguards to perform a job faster or more conveniently.

Supervisors must set good example at all times. Redressing unsafe behavior is part of consistency, and employees will respect discipline for unsafe acts if they see it applies equally to everyone. The message from the employer is: We care about safety and we will not allow you to put yourself or others in danger.

There are business benefits to be had for employers who demonstrate genuine concern for employee safety. For example, high morale among employees results in efficiencies. It also leads to enhanced MSHA compliance; better site safety and protections for employees, visitors and contractors; reduced injuries and workers’ compensation liability; minimized exposure to potential third-party injuries and civil suits; reduced work interruptions for abatement of MSHA citations and orders; and lower MSHA penalties and avoidance of elevated MSHA enforcement actions.


Take note

Serious accidents happen most often when a person is in an 
unsafe position.


Legal editor Michael T. Heenan is an attorney at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, one of the nation’s largest labor and safety law firms. He can be reached at michael.heenan@odnss.com.

Allison Barwacz

About the Author:

Allison Barwacz is the digital media manager for North Coast Media (NCM). She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she received a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She works across a number of digital platforms, which include creating e-newsletters, writing articles and posting across social media sites. She also creates content for NCM's Portable Plants magazine, GPS World magazine and Geospatial Solutions. Her understanding of the ever-changing digital media world allows her to quickly grasp what a target audience desires and create content that is appealing and relevant for any client across any platform.

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