Countertops Magazine Archive

Management Matters: You Need a Safe Shop

You Need a Safe Shop

Running a shop can be a 24-hour-a-day business. For many fabricators, there never seems to be enough time. It becomes a challenge to decide what needs your attention first. Sadly, one area that sometimes takes the back seat is safety.

In reality, safety should be your top priority. So much of your business relies on a safe shop. First and foremost, a serious injury could affect the quality of life for you or one of your employees. Secondly, a bad safety record will reflect poorly on you with your insurance companies, potentially driving up prices for coverage. Thus you will have less money to invest back into your business. Another important point is that when injuries occur your workflow suffers, quite possibly meaning longer lead times for your clients, or having to pay other companies to help you. In today’s business climate you can’t afford to have upset customers and your bottom line affected.

Here are four steps you can follow to help make your shop a safer place:

  1. Safety Meetings — They don’t have to last very long, but they are important. Perhaps cover one or two points to address shop safety. (For example: You could discuss why frayed cords are not allowed on the shop floor and the process for checking them periodically.) As you progress take all the points you have been discussing and put them in a binder marked “Safe Practices.”
  2. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) — Do you have binder for your catalogue of MSDS? This is very important. I once heard of an employee that inadvertently ingested a dangerous chemical .The emergency room lost valuable time trying to come up with the best way to treat the injury. The MSDS should have been sent with the employee. Having quick access to these sheets could be critical in an emergency.
  3. Safe Lifting Program — In our businesses we lift some very heavy raw materials and even tops. Industry wide, back problems are very significant. Once a back is injured, it generally takes a long time to heal, if it ever does. The cost can be crippling. Why not ask your insurance company if they have videos you could show to your team during safety meetings? Or, with solid surface, for instance, make a policy regarding how large a top can be before an extra seam needs to be added. What costs more, the extra seam or the Workmen’s Compensation bill?
  4. Protective Wear Program — Protective wear protects the eyes, ears, respiratory organs and hands. Let’s start with eyes. If you don’t think safety glasses are important here’s a test: Cover one of your eyes and try reading the rest of this article. Obviously, reading with two eyes is easier. Our eyes are remarkable pieces of equipment and irreplaceable. Surely the slight inconvenience of putting on safety glasses is worth the effort to protect them. How important is hearing protection? Here’s a list of tools that are used in many shops. Notice the cross comparison.

Drill-95 db ———————————————– Motorcycle-95 db
Random orbital sander-105 db ————————Boom box-100 db
Hand-held router-110 db ——————————-Car horn-110 db
Air gun-100 db —————————————— Snowmobile-100 db
CNC machine-110 db ———————————–Rock concert-110 db
Air compressor-110 db ——————————— Football game crowd-112 db
Miter box-115 db ————————————— Jet plane at the ramp-120 db
Panel saw-110 db ————————————— Chain saw-115 db
Shop general noise level-85 db ———————– Heavy traffic-85 db

Experts say that our pain threshold will tolerate 120 decibels of sound before being affected, but damage to the ear occurs at 85 decibels. I find it interesting that tools we might not consider dangerous to our hearing such as sanders and air guns are above recommended safe decibel levels. Almost all tools tested at 100 decibels or above. Therefore, we can’t rely on physical discomfort to alert us to dangerous sound levels. We have to be aware of shop sound levels and take proper action to protect our workers.

Dust masks are also very important. We want to avoid inhaling anything that doesn’t belong in our lungs, whether dangerous substances or just nuisance dusts. It’s just good practice. Of course, before using a dust mask read all the required information on best use. Protecting the hands during the gluing process and handling just creates a better work environment. Supplying protective gloves should be mandatory in every shop.

Of course, there are many other ways to make your shop safer, but these are some of the easiest ways to begin to develop a facility that promotes safety.

A safe shop is important and well worth the effort, but you don’t have to go at it alone. Your insurance carrier has many helpful resources. Even OSHA can help; in fact they want to help. OSHA will come to your shop, find the problem areas and help you to resolve them – without issuing fines or shutting you down. Their main job is to protect us all, not to hurt our businesses. And they are more likely to be out to help rather than punish if you are preventing problems rather than getting inspected after someone has been hurt on the job.

Remember, a safe shop is a productive shop, so please take the time to work safely.

About the Author
Jon Olson is a direct key account consultant for DuPont Building Innovations. Throughout his 30 years of involvement in the solid surface industry, he has gained knowledge in all aspects of fabrication and sales. He is the past recipient of ISFA’s fabricator of the year and ISFA’s Innovator of the year awards and can be reached at [email protected]