Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Making Your Safety Manual Stand Out

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Making Your Safety Manual Stand Out

Article excerpt

As a risk communications consultant, Mary I. Woodell has been in and out of a lot of different plant offices.

When it comes to plant supervisors' offices, she observes one characteristic that stands out - a bookcase typically overloaded with enough manuals, workbooks, and handbooks to sink a small battleship.

Since a large part of her job is to assist in the development of clients' safety manuals, Woodell, of Boston's Arthur D. Little Inc., says that's something that bothers her. Part of the problem, she points out, is that most of these publications tend to look very much alike when they're crammed together on a shelf.

"You need to be able to distinguish the safety manual from just another workbook," she stresses.

But how is something like that accomplished? Woodell, along with fellow consultants and corporate safety officials who are charged with developing safety manuals, will tell you it's not always easy.

They'll also say it involves a lot more than ordering a bright cover, or printing the manual's title in large, screaming letters.

The effective manual, they say, is one that stands out in people's minds because of its clarity, readability, and blanket-like coverage of both a company's safety policies and the government standards and regulations that are applicable toward the establishment of a safe workplace.

In short, Woodell says, the safety manual must be user friendly" in its design.

The best way to make sure that goal is accomplished, she stresses, is to know just who the "user" is.

Targeting the Audience

According to Douglas Clark, vice president of safety and health program development at the International Loss Control Institute (ILCI) in Atlanta, the core audience for the standard policy and procedures safety manual is the first-line plant supervisor.

Clark, who edited the institute's publication, How To Develop Your Safety Manual, points out that the manuals should be used by supervisors as a quick and easy reference to turn to whenever a question about a safety issue affecting their subordinates is raised. "The manual's primary purpose is to give guidance to the managers, to let them know what's expected of them, and how they are expected to do that," Clark says.

Charles Ezell, director of safety at Dan River Inc., the textiles firm headquartered in Danville, Va., says that, in developing the manual, a clear impression that the company means business must be made at the start. The way to do that, he says, is to get a message from the top.

"If there's anything to prioritize in developing a manual, it's that you want the policies and procedures introduced by as high ranking an official at the company as possible," says Ezell, who also serves as president of the National Safety Management Society.

"They should be issued by the CEO, so they carry the weight they deserve."

Both Ezell and Clark acknowledge that, after the policy statement, what gets included in a company's safety manual pretty much depends on the company and its line of business. In a nutshell, both advise that manuals be written as detailed outlines of the company's safety policy, and address issues, concerns, and legal considerations that are unique to each facility.

For example, when Ezell formulated the Dan River manual in 1979, a great emphasis was placed on policies involving lockout/tagout procedures - a subject with which the corporation stresses its employees be familiar. Much of the information focused on standards - information Ezell feels can never be overlooked or underemphasized.

Strict company policy guidelines and thorough information on standards and regulations are also stressed by Midas International Corp. Director of Safety George Swartz, who developed the safety manual for his company in 1977. Information on regulatory requirements concerning personal protective equipment is one area emphasized in the Midas manual. …

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