Safety innovation brings a layer of protection to industries in all sectors. Here’s how it’s changing the workplace for the better.
Safety innovation is becoming an increasingly important component of workplace safety management. Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals confront workplace hazards every day. Innovation, whether in processes, technology and/or approaches to people, is helping to solve those ongoing safety problems, and most importantly, helping employees go home safely after every workday. Just as technological innovations such as cloud computing or mobile devices have transformed our way of doing business every day, innovation can also transform the OSH function.
Richard Gerlach, Cintas’s Senior Director of Safety and Health, explains that OSH professionals are leveraging their creativity “to develop other tools, more predictive measures of when and where a workplace injury might occur and how we can then have better information to act on to prevent that injury or illness.”
To help stimulate more innovation in workplace safety, Cintas has partnered with the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) in sponsoring the third annual ASSE Safety Innovation Award, which “celebrate[s] individuals who develop creative programs, processes or procedures for improving workplace safety and effectively integrate these changes throughout an organization.”
A Case Study in Workplace Safety Innovation
The 2015 winner of the Safety Innovation Award presents a strong case study in how innovation can help solve issues related to workplace safety. Jack Reiter, president and CEO of Machine Safety Management Corporation, sought to reduce workplace accidents related to machinery while streamlining the process of auditing the maintenance data for that same equipment. Reiter invented Machine Safety Management (MSM), a cloud-based software program enabling users to accurately manage machines and ensure that safety audits are being conducted. It allows users to document due diligence regarding safety measures and safety inspections — which helps with hazard detection and preventive maintenance — and facilitates regulatory compliance/reporting.
OSH professionals and regulators at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have long recognized the danger of hazards around machines. In 2014 alone, for example, OSHA recorded 2,701 violations related to “machine guarding,” putting it among the top ten OSHA violations for that year. OSHA requires that “any machine part, function or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded . . .the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.”
As Reiter explains, his safety software helps do just that because it “allows users to conduct risk assessments on machines. Following the initial audit, safety professionals can perform risk assessments to identify areas of risks and noncompliance.” By using the MSM software, OSH professionals can detect maintenance problems before they emerge, prioritize which machines need maintenance and make plants safer, sooner.
ASSE President Trish Ennis, CSP, ARM, praised Reiter’s innovative software and its safety impact last June, saying “Injuries related to machinery are all too common but can be prevented.” She added, “By helping streamline safety processes, this new technology can be applied within a wide variety of industries to improve the safety and lives of many workers.”
Other innovators recognized as “honorable mentions” in the 2015 Awards include:
- Grant C. Chustz, a crane operator supervisor who invented Barricade Buddy to offer additional protection to those working near cranes
- Cory M. Davis, the developer of a mobile safety application that can be used by contractors, owners, construction managers, program managers and facility managers to access a list of best practice safety questions related to the work being performed
- Sally L. Koch, who created a safety management training program to challenge all employees, from all levels of the organizational hierarchy, “to become world-class safety performers by letting their own safety superhero shine.”
While innovation of any kind is never an easy thing, it’s clear that OSH professionals are creatively tackling workplace safety problems with innovative solutions every day. The results of these innovations are worthy of celebration: fewer work accidents, more safety-conscious workplaces, reduced costs for all involved and higher levels of organizational health and productivity.