MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY Ga. -- Workplace accidents cost American employers billions of dollars each year, according to government surveys. Lowering accident risks in the workplace while continuing operations is every employers goal, including the Marine Corps and Department of Defense.
Employee safety and productivity were the topics of discussion Sept. 19 - 21 at the Annual Supervisor Safety Training seminar held in the Base Auditorium here.
The seminar, organized by MCLB Albany Safety and Occupational Health Office personnel, featured safety instructor Michelle Ashby, a representative from Safety and Wellness Partnership, Inc. Ashby covered industrial safety, personal protective equipment, machine operation safety and ergonomics awareness in the office workplace during the seminar.
According to William Young, Safety and Occupational Health Office manager, in previous years, personnel from the base safety office held the safety seminar, and concentrated mainly on Marine Corps safety requirements. However, this year, he invited an outside safety instructor to speak about the requirements of the Occupational and Safety Health Administration.
Young, an Idaho Falls, Idaho native, said he invited Ashby to host the safety seminar this year because MCLB Albany operates similar to a business institution.
According to Young, Marine Corps and OSHA requirements are similar in some ways and different in others. OSHA requirements are the minimum requirements of the law. Marine Corps requirements are far above that in most areas, but in some respects the military cannot abide by all of OSHAs regulations due to the nature of combat operations.
Young said the base has a safety record similar to that of other installations in the Marine Corps, except MCLB Albany has far fewer serious accidents.
We (Marines and civilian Marines here) have some minor accidents where people are injured on the job, but we have only had one fatality in six years, said Young. That fatality was in an automobile, and the driver did not follow the safety guidelines we set forth.
Sighing and shaking his head as he continued, Young said safety regulations are intended to increase workplace safety, but they will not help if they are not followed.
According to Young, only practicing safety prevents accidents. The goal of the Base Safety Office is to maintain worker safety, but they cannot replace employees taking responsibility for their own safety.
According to Young, some employees may think all OSHA regulations are not practical, and therefore, may disregard them. But most of those regulations exist because of serious work place injuries or deaths.
Young said the seminars primary goal was to educate supervisors about safe work practices so the supervisors can implement them in their work sections.
According to Young, MCLB Albany safety personnel check workplaces here several times each year, but implementing safety procedures is the supervisors responsibility. Supervisors know job requirements and how to implement new procedures with minimal negative impact on production.
Young said future safety is also the reason Safety and Occupational Health personnel investigate accidents.
We generally dont investigate to find out who was at fault, said Young. We investigate to find out how the accident happened so we can ensure it doesnt happen again.
A topic covered at the seminar, which was not as strongly emphasized in previous years, was workplace ergonomics.
In the workplace, ergonomics is altering the work to fit the physical requirements and limitations of an individual.
According to Young, OSHA does not have an ergonomics standard, but the DoD is in the process of establishing one.
Ergonomics in the workplace makes the job easier, said Young. Sitting in one place and typing for a long time or performing the same action repeatedly was found to stress the body. By changing how we work, we alleviate that physical stress.
Ergonomics is not only good for the worker, continued Young, it has also been shown to increase productivity. When you change someones job to accommodate their physical characteristics, they can work faster and more effectively.
Above all else, Young stressed individual responsibility and safety awareness. He said it is up to the worker to ensure the proper precautions are in place.
No one knows his job as well as the individual performing it, said Young.
According to Young, safety office personnel can suggest changes, but it is the individuals responsibility to make the changes. The different methods of operation may feel strange the first few times, but that is because the employee is not accustomed to the new method yet.
Ultimately, safety is up to the individual, and it is the individual who will be safe or risk injury, concluded Young.