By Michael Hughes
In most places I have worked, occupational health and safety has been an afterthought.
It’s not like death and dismemberment pose inordinate risks for most reporters and editors unless they work in unstable countries or war zones, like my former college colleague Chris Hondros. His career in war photography led to his untimely death recently in Libya.
But for the most part, writing, editing and talking to people do not rise to the level of making sure huge factory machines don’t slaughter the help.
But as age catches up, health concerns do, too. A historical lack of attention to office ergonomics means I suffer from computer back. And latching on here at the Institute of Industrial Engineers has given me a glimpse of how IEs in health systems, quality, human factors and safety try to keep us away from danger.
Thanks to IIE expertise, I now sit in a nice chair with properly positioned armrests, although I still slump too much. And thousands benefit from IIE’s GOErgo community and the Applied Ergonomics Conference. The conference not only hosts the prestigious Ergo Cup competition, it gives out Creativeness in Ergonomics Awards. This year’s CE Practitioner of the Year was Allison A. Stephens of Ford Motor Co.; the Student of the Year was Kristen E. Miller of Texas A&M University.
But Farman A. Moayed thinks IEs should pay even more attention to safety and health. His cover story “Keeping Employees Alive and Well” appears on Page 26.
Moayed contends that simple compliance with regulations from OSHA and other government safety bureaucracies only makes your organization an average enterprise. After all, injury and illness cost U.S. businesses about $160 billion a year during the 1990s. And the human cost of fatal occupational injuries totaled 5,214 in 2008.
Moayed writes that IEs have the skills and expertise to provide engineering controls to manage hazardous materials and processes, plan for emergencies and make the workplace safer. So use your lean tools to eliminate waste, but don’t remove necessary safety processes. Apply reliability analysis to safety. Discover the root cause of near misses, not just actual accidents.
Making the workplace a secure sanctuary can help your organization stand out from competitors. Because all things being equal, people want to work at places where they won’t get killed. Or suffer from backaches.
Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 349-1110.