Saturday, November 7, 2015

OSHA Penalties on the Rise

Do you own a business? If so, you need to be aware that OSHA has been unleashed to increase penalties.

Congress recently passed the budget and it was signed into law on November 2 by the Obama Administration. The budget allows the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties to be increased for workplace-safety violations.

OSHA will be reviewing their options as to how much they will increase the penalties. The increase could be from 52% to as much as 80%. The new fines are expected to be set sometime around August next year (2016), or sooner.

Experts and consultants like myself were caught by surprise by the new mandate. The penalties could likely increase to a maximum for the most severe citations (willful) from $70,000 to as high as $125,000, and for other serious violations from $7,000 to $12,500 for the first initial increase in 2016.

Moving forward, the new budget will also require OSHA to review the penalty structure every year for possible increases which will be based on inflation and cost of living.

Some large companies view OSHA fines as "just part of doing business." OSHA fines should never be looked at this way. Obviously, these type increases could be very damaging to small businesses.

So we see the increases are coming. We hope that OSHA never shows up at your doorstep, but we can reduce the impact by getting our houses (in this case, our workplaces) in order, so that if they do show, we will be ready.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Does Your Mission Statement Cover Everything?

You can tell a lot about a company by reading its Mission Statement. But does it tell the whole story?

A Mission Statement must cover three basic areas of your company:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • What you are committed to

The commitment part is where most companies fall short. I have read many statements -- they cover the fact that the organization is committed to making a profit, making sure the shareholders are happy, making a good product, and providing good service. But the story doesn't stop here. So many fail to show a commitment to the safety of their employees.

The fact of the matter is, if it were not for your employees (your biggest asset), you most likely would not be in business.

When a company makes a commitment to safety, the owners are making a commitment not only to themselves but also to the people who work for them. It does not matter if you distribute books or manufacture cars, you must make this commitment. It will say a lot about how you respect your employees. It will also challenge your employees to stay safe and watch out for others.

When you write your Mission Statement for the first time, or when you perform your annual review of it, make a commitment to safety. As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story."

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Bad Rap

More times than not, safety gets a bad rap. People hate to see the safety guy coming, because more times than not, he will find some issue that could become a hazard and cause possible injury. If an accident does takes place, though, he becomes the next best thing to sliced bread.

Safety may seem to be a nuisance, but someone has to keep an eye on things. It’s easy for people to get complacent on the job. Even the little things that are pointed out may seem small and insignificant to the supervisor and employees, but if they are not addressed, these little things can change the whole dynamic of the day.

Some companies look at safety as the necessary evil. It can even seem as though you’re throwing money away, but in the long run, a good program can save a company a LOT of money. We must realize how important it is to have a good program in place, and someone to maintain it, to keep things on track. For some tips on how to keep the lines of communication open about safety, see this previous post.

Yes, we safety guys have a knack for getting under people’s skin at times, but don’t shoot the messenger. Take a good look in the mirror. When you get right down to it, safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Year-Round Resolutions

The New Year has begun -- the time when most people think about setting new goals and reflect on the ones they made last year. What went wrong and what went right? Where can we improve? Where do we need to focus our attention?

There are always many areas in business that can be improved upon and safety often starts at the top of the list, but like many New Year's resolutions, ideas to improve safety quickly taper off, becoming more like the daily nuisance.

How do we keep safety at the top of the list year round? Here are a few things that I feel will help you and your employees stay on track:

  • Allow your employees to present ideas for improvement. Employees know more than we give them credit sometimes. It helps people to feel really good when they know they can go to their supervisor, manager, or safety representative to present an idea for improvement, and he or she will really listen. People can get discouraged when they feel they either don’t have an open door or never receive any feedback from their ideas.
  • Show your employees that you appreciate their efforts. When you see, or even hear of, an employee doing something that is proactive, recognize it and let everyone know. Make a big deal of it in a positive way.
  • If it's your company's practice to provide safety talks at the beginning of each shift (which is a great custom, by the way), don’t be tempted to present them halfheartedly. Be enthusiastic. Let your employees know that you are genuinely concerned about their safety and that what is being presented could make the difference in their going home with or without injury. Sometimes it can be more effective to let one of your employees present the safety talk.
  • Involve your employees in training. Have your senior employees become mentors to the young and new employees -- they all need someone to watch their backs and help them through new challenges. New employees are usually eager to look to the employee that has been on the job the longest for advice and direction. Put together a mentoring program for senior employees so they can help.
  • Show employees that you care. We all hope that an injury doesn't occur. But if it does, have some compassion. Let the employee know that the first thing on your mind is that he is okay and that he's going to receive the proper medical attention. An employee who requires medical treatment can get very nervous and worried that he is going to lose his job just because he got hurt. When he returns to work, sit down with the employee to discuss the incident and how it happened, with concern.
  • The last thing, don’t cringe in front of the employees when you see the safety guy coming. Where health and safety are concerned, he's your team's biggest fan!
Let’s start out the New Year with a good attitude and strive to make it fun. After all, our jobs are our homes away from home.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Our Greatest Hazard

Where do you put most of your focus when it comes to hazards in the workplace? How you guard the equipment during operations? The Lockout/Tagout process during maintenance? Slips and Falls on stairs or platforms? These are all great concerns and are very important, but the greatest hazard any workplace has is... people.

Think about it. Equipment and machinery are predictable. We go to work every day and push the start button on our machines -- they most likely will start and continue to make the same motions all day long as they have each day before. However, people are not like this. You never know what someone will do from one minute to the next. No matter how much training and awareness have been provided, we somehow (not on purpose) find ourselves in harm’s way.

We are all individuals. We have many things on our minds and they begin to cloud our thoughts -- we lose focus. When this happens, we start taking shortcuts, and after a split second, we're trying to explain the accident or near-miss that just happened. It all boils down to just not paying attention.

So how do we protect ourselves from wandering minds? It is impossible to completely stop thinking about things that are not job-related. We can’t program our minds like robots as we arrive at our workstations. Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where there is no concrete solution. We will always bring a piece of our personal lives to work with us -- we think about that great vacation or the problem that has to be fixed on the house when we get home.

The best thing we can do as supervisors and managers is to listen to our employees. If you sense that they want to let you in on their thoughts, take the time to listen. Show your concern or share in their excitement. Sure, we have to keep a balance, but it’s very important to talk with your employees while on the job. The day can be long, and positive interaction not only builds great working relationships, but can build a greater bottom line at the end of your fiscal year. 

As you engage your employee, you may just find that he or she stays better engaged with the task at hand all day long.

And if it helps, just “whistle while you work.”

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Safety Always

How many times have we seen or heard the slogan Safety First? Then we ask ourselves, is that really true? Do we really need to put safety first, even if it means falling behind on production, risking our own job security?

Most companies do want to keep their employees safe and it’s great to say “Safety First,” but often when the rubber meets the road, production can easily take precedence. After all, without production, why would we need to worry about safety? Right! So it's easy to see where many companies put their true focus, and that is production... that's where the money is.

No Production -- No Product
No Product -- No Income
No Income -- No Business

Don’t get me wrong -- managers and supervisors are concerned about safety. It’s just that it is hard to balance safety and production. We lose focus because we get so caught up on the production side and start to take shortcuts or forget things, like not performing an inspection prior to startup. This can result in accidents with injuries.

When an accident does occur, it quickly becomes the focus of managers and supervisors -- how did this happen, and why? Now we have to stop production, get the injured person medical care, investigate the accident, and determine the root cause. Many times, the accident occurred because of the failure to make safety first priority.

I recently saw a slogan that gets it right: Production First, Safety Always. We should not just think of safety first; it should be on our minds all the time.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Our website is currently under construction. Until then, please reference this site.

K. E. Little Safety and Environmental Consulting is a company based out of Birmingham, Alabama, owned by Kelly Little.

Kelly is a dedicated, versatile individual. His extensive experience in safety/environmental management, quality control, purchasing, inventory control, and drafting has allowed him to become well-rounded and knowledgeable to perform multiple tasks within an organization. He enjoys working with people, and helping companies meet their safety and environmental goals.

For the past 19 years, Kelly has had the opportunity to become well versed in safety, environmental and quality programs, including ISO 9000/TS Quality and ISO 14001 Environmental. He has established safety and environmental procedures, training and documentation programs, as well as instituted programs to reduce lost-time accidents, and implement drug testing programs that include pre-employment, post-accident, suspicion testing, and random testing. A pre-employment agility test has also been created to ensure an employee’s capability to perform a job.

With different companies, he either established or maintained successful ISO documentation and training programs. All ISO third-party audits conducted have resulted in successful certification or re-certification. Additionally, he has enjoyed positive critique from third-party auditors regarding the strength of the documentation program in outline and detail.

K. E. Little Safety and Environmental Consulting is the wave of the future. More and more businesses and schools, both large and small, are in need of safety and environmental programs, but are unable to hire a full-time employee to handle meeting the necessary requirements. Whether you need something as simple as first aid or forklift training, or as challenging as the ground-floor establishment of a complete safety/environmental management program, we can assist you. We can be onsite to help you pass a scheduled audit, or within a phone call when the OSHA rep shows up at your door. You'll be glad to personally know someone who cares about you and your company.

Please check out the services that are available and call or email so that we can get started in helping you meet your needs.