At this time of the year, our thinking usually turns to a summer break or a well-earned rest after a busy year.
However, from a safety perspective we cannot take the focus off, or, neglect our procedures and systems at this time, or in fact at any time of the year.
Safety never takes a holiday.
Planning for the end of year requires focus
The end of the year is definitely not a time to take the pedal off and relax.
Statistics illustrate that a disproportionate number of injuries and fatalities occur in the months of December and January.
You would expect this number to decrease given that more holidays are being taken with fewer workers on the job.
Despite the term ‘holiday’, many organisations use this block of time to perform shutdown or turnaround work.
Repairs, rebuilding, new plant and equipment, maintenance and even painting and gardening is often performed when there are fewer workers on site.
This makes sense as interruptions, temporary restricted areas and even painting where fumes can be an issue are best done when fewer people are around.
During this shutdown time we need to focus on risk management techniques, contractor management systems and induction processes for contract workers.
Frequently the work is non-routine, sometimes unfamiliar and often there are rarely procedures in place for the intermittent work.
Taking steps to prepare
In readiness for the holiday work, a few steps should be performed.
This will make sure that gaps are prevented and planning for safety success is achieved.
So here are a few prompts:
- set up a roster for available or on-call staff;
- seek the assistance of a reputable casual or labour hire organisation to provide trained, experienced and reliable workers;
- induct and train the new workers; and
- ensure a safety resource is available or dedicated during the holiday period. Don’t forget safety officers and managers like to enjoy their holidays too.
Returning after the break
Upon returning to work we should look at an orienteering or re-induction process so that the gears are changed from rest mode to operational mode.
A commencement meeting with a theme of reinforcing the safety message and a quick review of existing policies and procedures is a good place to start.
Similar to the break-up party we enjoyed before the holidays, get the workers and staff together for a briefing, toolbox or communication meeting at the resumption of work.
Remember, safety never takes a holiday
While it is important that we de-stress, relax and rest during our holidays, remember not to drop the ball or turn a blind eye to high safety standards that have got us to this point in time.
In fact, we should ramp up the safety focus to those who work during this time of year so that when they take their holidays, they can enjoy them without illness or injury.