Employee participation in safety and health systems at Calisteel is apparently lacking. The absence of elaborate safety mechanisms augments the problems of the lack of employee participation in the company. It is mandatory for the company to ask employees to point out the areas at which they think that safety should be boosted. However, there are no adequate safety systems in the steel manufacturing company, which translates to the lack of employee involvement. Hitherto, the company has not made any arrangements to install safety equipment. However, the company files show that they had hired an external safety auditor who did a shoddy job. It seems that the assessor was not appropriately contracted, so the systematic process of assessment is not evident. The files in the company show that the assessor worked in the company for a period of two months. The assessor came with a checklist that I got hold of during my inspection. The elements that he considered in his evaluation are significantly irrelevant, and they are not specifically concerned with the safety audit. Therefore, it is appropriate to say that safety assessment in the company was not done, since there was no safety mechanism to assess in the first place.
Structural design of the business premises is a critical aspect in the safety audit processes. The safety of the worker is in fact fundamentally affected by the layout and the plan of the premises. Ideally, there should be enough space for free movement of workers and proper manipulation of the machines and products. There should also be a fire exit that should be activated in case a fire breaks out in the plant. At Calisteel, the space in which the employees work is adequately spaced. Interestingly, this space is sufficient by default not by design. The management of the company did not allow for this much space because they wanted the workers to be safe. They created large workshops to allow handling of many materials in case the job blossomed. Therefore, in case there is a sharp rise in the demand of steel products, the workers will be forced to handle a lot of material in the same space, a situation that would further bolster their risk of injury. Less space for engineers dealing with steel and sharp metal objects increases the risk of getting cut injuries.
Change management is not only a safety precaution procedure but also an organizational strategy. The company should have a clear plan of how change is managed in the company to improve worker efficiency. Subsequently, this rotation improves the worker productivity, and in extension reduces their risk of getting injured in the workplace. Calisteel has a duty Rota that workers use in rotating between different departments. Again, this rotation is not designed for safety improvement but rather for enhancing productivity. Procurement of safety gear has not yet commenced. As I mentioned before, there was a proposal to install safety equipment in the company, although this was not implemented. The proposal included the process of procurement of among other things a company ambulance. Hitherto, there is no single health and safety asset that has been procured in the company.
I learnt from my interviews with some employees that there have been at least four incidents over the last one year. Two of the incidents occurred in the same plant and were related in nature. In particular, two workers suffered an electric shock after stepping on a bare live wire in the workshop. The wire was carrying high voltage power that damaged their skin and a few internal organs. The reason that resulted in the repetition of the incident was because the first one was not investigated. Due to the lack of proper occupational health and safety procedures, there is no provision of incident management, which consequently leads to the recurrence of accidents of a similar nature and magnitude.
Calisteel has a poor health and safety scoring. There are no existing records of safety audits. The company does not have an OSHA certification although the management said that they had applied for one. They also told me that OSHA officials have visited the premises on several occasions and promised to carry safety audits, but there is no evidence to show any of the visits. The employees also said that there have been several visitors that engaged them with similar questions that I was using, although the visits have not been common over the last few months. There was no employee in the company that has ever litigated the company for compensation, simply because the company responded promptly to cater for hospital bills and by paying the workers on medical leave. I also concluded that Calisteel uses quick fixes when cornered by OSHA officials. One of the employees hinted that at some points along the year, the company hires contractors to organize the workshops. During these instances, the workers are given new safety helmets and wear better overalls. However, the company is never serious on safety of its employees.
My recommendation to the company is that it needs to take employee safety more seriously. The company is only lucky to not have been closed, and its the high time that it fixed its incompetence. The first step towards the realization of a safe working environment is by making safety policies among them creating the office of the safety manager. The safety manager should then spearhead the installment of safety equipment and hire a resident medical staff. In line with good corporate practices, the health and safety officer should periodically invite psychological counselors, dieticians, and physiotherapists to review the employees. Finally, the safety officer should work towards OSHA certification which includes carrying out regular and thorough internal and external safety audits.
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