The View from 30 Feet: Cultivating Caution in the Workplace

by Jeff Peterson, editor-in-chief, PostPress

Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

Finishing and binding environments afford many opportunities for potential accidents. As a result, it is important for companies to establish a comprehensive safety program – perhaps even more so than in other types of plants based on the variety of equipment used in finishing and binding departments.

In most manufacturing plants, three or four different types of equipment might be used to produce a specific product. However, a finishing and/or binding facility could have as many as 20 to 30 different machines. This creates the need for more specific safety rules.

All plants should be concerned with several areas, including knowing the laws for each specific region and/or state. Safety regulations are not always consistent from state-to-state. All factories also should have an Emergency Preparedness and Response program in place – no larger safety issues exist than those potentially caused by fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, flood or a chemical spill. Furthermore, all companies should have response personnel trained in first aid, CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). It may not be mandatory for all personnel, but at least one person, or more, should be trained to administer first aid on site for all shifts.

Establishing a consistent program

A quality safety program can be set up in many ways. The key is to make sure a consistent, comprehensive program is available for new and existing employees to follow. For example, at Trojan Litho, headquartered in Renton, Washington, safety is engraved within company culture. Trojan provides mandatory safety training once a month and covers, in detail, one specific topic. New Trojan employees participate in a safety orientation their first day on the job. Two weeks later, those employees and managers are expected to review that safety training and address specific job safety functions in a more in-depth way.

“As a safety department, we spend a great deal of time on the shop floor every day talking with the employees,” said Sandy Burns, Trojan Litho’s environment health and safety manager. “We believe constant engagement is the greatest help in making sure safety procedures are being followed correctly.”

Trojan Litho also has implemented “total productive maintenance” (TPM) and performs an annual audit on all of its equipment, which helps the company address and stay on top of any safety issues with its machinery.

At MCD Incorporated, a print finisher in Madison, Wisconsin, training sessions are scheduled every two months and focus on a key area identified by OSHA. A video is played, along with questions and answers, followed by a quiz for all the employees. Employees must sign in for the training. For those who cannot participate, a make-up session is scheduled.

In addition, MCD has created a safety team from employees who work in different areas of the plant. “Every month, we do safety inspections and have a member of the safety team, along with a non-member, go through the shop and look for safety violations,” explained Glenn Gauger, MCD production manager. “This helps make safety more than just the safety team’s responsibility.” The safety team at MCD also will hold a cookout periodically as a reward when the plant is doing well across the board in all areas of safety.

Independent Printing Co., Inc., De Pere, Wisconsin, also believes that providing proper safety guidelines for employees is of utmost importance. The company offers safety and material data sheet training during initial orientation before an employee is ever allowed on the production floor. Lift truck certification also is required by any employee who will be operating powered hand trucks. “We even go so far as to require stretching exercises by all employees before their shift begins to help prevent injury or strains,” stated Jim Smarzinski, finishing supervisor.

Dressing the part

Wearing the proper clothing and safety glasses also is an important aspect of safety on the production floor. It is imperative that companies have specific written rules on what is considered proper attire and when safety glasses are needed.

“Because we have so many different types of production areas on the MCD shop floor, we don’t have specific rules across the board,” explained Gauger. “However, there are rules in place with personal protective equipment (PPE) for all employees, which include no open-toed shoes and restrictions on baggy clothes to prevent anything being caught on a machine.”

Independent Printing has similar rules on clothing, including long pants only (no shorts) in the production area and a ban on open-toed shoes. “We have rules for specific functions, such as requiring cut gloves when changing knives or having welding gloves on when handling hot stamping dies and cases,” added Smarzinski. “In addition, safety glasses are required for certain functions, such as operating a die grinder.”

“We have areas and tasks that require specific PPE,” stated Burns. “This includes hearing protection for some areas, tasks that require safety glasses, gloves, etc.” Trojan Litho similarly has a strict policy on excessivly baggy clothes and requires long-sleeved shirts (uniform shirts are provided). In addition, no jewelry is to be worn, long hair must be tied back and, as with most plant rules, closed-toed shoes must be worn at all times on the production floor.

Rewarding safety

To keep safety in the forefront of all the employee’s minds, Trojan Litho has established a monthly bingo game where numbers are drawn daily and prizes are awarded to the winners. The tie-in with safety is that if there is a recordable incident, the game is canceled and will not start up again until the beginning of the following month.

“This has been a fun way to keep safety in the minds of our employees at all times,” concluded Burns. “Everyone knows how important safety is in our plant – from management down to part-time workers. We are very proud of our programs and safety record.”

The Foil & Specialty Effects Association recently updated its Safety Self-Inspection Checklist that was specifically developed for the finishing and binding industries. The checklist covers several areas, including facility, protecting employees and equipment. It is an excellent way to help start or update your current safety program. If you are interested in receiving this detailed checklist, contact Brenda Schell for a PDF.