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Safety First and Last: February 2016

Companies must clearly define work plans and compliance expectations prior to the start of the job or project. Supervisors must have a full understanding of safety measures in use and what is required to achieve them. Job tasks must be defined, planned, communicated, and executed according to plan, and then measured and evaluated.  


February 9, 2016
By Jeff Thorne

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With the above defined, supervisors should then be able to identify substandard acts, practices or deviations from set plans. This can be achieved through formalized documented compliance audits, discussions, monitoring or site inspections. Any deviations from the safety plan must be acted on immediately and corrective action identified and documented.

Supervisors must exercise competency in recognizing, assessing, controlling, and evaluating hazards. Most definitions of competency across Canada speak to this fact. Having knowledge about job tasks and hazards so that proper information, instruction and supervision can be provided to the worker is crucial to the supervisor’s effectiveness. In addition to regular job tasks, many work environments change frequently throughout the day, so it is important that supervisors recognize tasks performed outside of the identified scope of work and evaluate any new hazards that may be presented.

It is also important that risk assessments are reviewed to ensure they are current, adequate and the identified controls are being implemented. If hazards or deviations have been identified, the supervisor must determine which control strategies to apply and then communicate and document changes.

Legislation in Canada prescribes that the employer develops and implements a health and safety system to ensure reasonable precautions are taken for worker protection and compliance with applicable legislative obligations. Supervisors share this responsibility. Employers establish a compliance system, educate supervisors with respect to their roles and responsibilities within the system and then supervisors carry out the responsibilities assigned to them. In order to manage compliance successfully within the system, supervisors must be familiar with the law. Failure to be familiar with applicable legislation can leave supervisors facing some tough questions if something goes wrong.

Monitoring work or job-site activity is crucial to safety success. Supervisors must verify that standards and procedures are in place and being followed through routine inspections. Results must be documented.

Monitoring can also involve performing behaviour-based observations. These observations provide opportunities to assess worker understanding and compliance with safe work practices and procedures. This may involve orienting workers new to a position or task, confirming workers understand hazards and controls, observing behaviour and taking the time to address positive and negative safety performance. All actions must be documented.

Managing compliance involves the removal of unsafe tools, material and equipment. These items are to be addressed directly when they are encountered.

Workers must have the knowledge, skill and ability to perform assigned tasks. Supervisors should verify worker training and competency requirements through documented spot audits. As we all know, lack of training can equate to lack of knowledge and therefore skill, leaving workers open to the risk of injury or illness.

Compliance monitoring also involves monitoring the safety equipment to be used in the workplace and dealing with substandard acts directly. Supervisors must verify that inspection and maintenance of equipment has been completed, guarding is in place, and training on specific equipment is in place.

At the end of the day supervisors must develop and ingrain positive habits that support company objectives to protect workers from harm. Safety is no different than other company objectives, it needs to be planned, communicated, carried out and evaluated. Keeping this in mind and carrying out these duties is one step that will help others make it home safely at the end of the day. 


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