Every day is safety awareness day

Over the past 16 months, we’ve all been living in an elevated state of awareness around workplace health and safety. Our relationship with our work environments, co-workers, even the way we access the business and comfort tools we use at work daily has changed dramatically.

The truth is, workplace safety should always be top of mind. A goal of zero injuries and zero fatalities in the workplace is both of absolute importance and theoretically achievable in this day and age. With the right processes, fail-safes and continuous employee awareness, zero/zero can be accomplished. It’s definitely the goal we aspire to at Bellwyck; something shared by fellow manufacturers and businesses the world over.

Back in March of 2020, COVID-19 forced Bellwyck to re-examine our office and printing facilities through a new lens. We had to institute processes that encouraged distancing, such as controlling traffic to the washrooms by making the hallways one way so that employees wouldn’t have to pass each other in the halls. We also took doors off where possible to reduce shared surface contacts, and added toe catches at the bottom of the doors that needed to stay on. All ideas and input were welcome, and while a couple of our team members did come down with COVID-19, these were isolated cases that didn’t spread. The safety measures we’ve introduced are working.

Outside of today’s dialed-up awareness of safety, implementing workplace health and safety best practices is a constant process. It all begins by creating a culture of safety that is understood and embraced across the organization. The first step in this process is to have all team members be aware of workplace safety risks and identify potential hazards. Eliminating hazards is the most effective way to prevent accidents before they happen, and is a foundational principle of our ongoing safety processes. All employees are encouraged to participate, and this practice has been helpful in eliminating certain risks.

Another obvious area of risk is our printing machines. Measuring up to 30 feet long, these machines have a lot of powerful and fast-moving parts, some of which could pose as hazards to our machine operators. We don’t take the risk these hazards pose lightly. We have strict measures in place that include detailed monthly inspections by our safety teams. These inspections include completing a visual inspection against a standard checklist to ensure all safety steps are followed, and interviewing the equipment operators. Once completed, the checklist is signed off by an engineer.

The machines also have a number of built-in safety mechanisms in place such as guards and light beams to help prevent accidents. Unbelievably, in our company history, we have experienced a few incidents where we have discovered a machine operator has removed a piece of safety equipment to make their job easier. The thinking here is backwards! First of all, no job is worth placing your safety at risk. Second of all, no reputable employer would ever expect productivity to be prioritized over employee health. If a job takes a certain amount of time to complete, there’s no reason to speed things up by taking a shortcut. Plus, if there is an injury, that ambition for improved productivity goes out the window.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Every accident is an opportunity to learn, change a process and recalibrate. Maintaining a safe workplace is also a constant process; sometimes when you fix one thing it can create a ripple effect and turn into a safety hazard somewhere else down the chain. That’s why even when there’s something like a “workplace safety awareness month” initiative like the one being run by the National Safety Council (NSC) for June in the United States, the effort is a bit misleading because safety is an ongoing process and should always be priority number one.

“Fortunately, we’re now well over 900 days without an incident so we’re doing well,” said Craig Colterman​, Plant Manager with Bellwyck. “There’s a really healthy spirit of safety at Bellwyck that encourages our team members to be proactive in identifying potential hazards. I also always try to remind people to slow things down. Accidents often happen when someone is trying to cheat a process or work faster than they’re supposed to. It’s not worth it. Just be careful, put in a good day’s work, go home safely to your family and we’ll see you in one piece again tomorrow.”

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