What safety should know about occ health role

Employees at U. S. Pipe and Foundry's North Birmingham (AL) plant seem to have a "sense of well-being and security" when they come into the office of Jonelle K. Leach, BSN, RN, CRRN, CCM, COHN-S, an occupational health nurse and medical services technician. Leach credits this to close collaboration with safety, as follows:

• She trains safety and as a result, enlists their help.

Leach says her duties are "almost completely blended" with the safety director's. "We are actually set up as our own department and work as a team," she says. "He, of course, doesn't feel very comfortable treating injuries—although he can put a Band-Aid on and hold pressure on a cut until I can get to the patient! He does assist me as needed."

Leach has taught First Aid techniques to the safety director, along with 43 other managers, supervisors and a handful of non-management employees. "They do a really great job helping me to take care of all the workers. They make up our First Responder Team, and are amazingly right on it when someone needs help," she says.

Leach also trains all new Safety Captains on the company's Behavioral-Based Safety Program. "I provide them with a weekly topic information sheet, but often the departments come up with their own topics," says Leach. "I serve as a resource for them if needed."

Keep safety informed of real-time concerns

Lavonda F. Shires, RN, COHN/CM, an occupational health nurse who also handles environmental health & safety for one of Shaw Power Group's power plant construction sites in Cliffside, NC, says she's fortunate her employer "values the impact worker safety has on the bottom line."

At the beginning of every work week, the entire site workforce of 2,100 employees participates in a mass safety meeting. "Separate, smaller meetings are conducted in different languages so that all employees are kept informed," says Shires. "Each crew begins every single day with a safety meeting. I keep site safety management apprised of real-time issues and concerns so that immediate investigation is initiated."

As a North Carolina Star site, safety management maintains a close working relationship with Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) representatives.

Internal auditors visit the construction site annually and conduct records audits as well as visual inspections. "As site occupational health nurse, accurate OSHA recordkeeping begins with me," says Shires.

• She cross-trains on tasks normally done by safety.

While going on site to investigate a workplace injury is normally done by the safety director, Leach does this as needed. "I make sure an incident report is generated, and I follow the report to completion," she says.

• Successes are celebrated jointly.

Every month without a recordable injury means a celebration dinner is held for employees. "We serve them a meal that is cooked by our manager of engineering and maintenance," says Leach. "It's a real family affair, in that our plant manager joins right in with us. He helps to serve and encourage the guys as well."

Also, each department that has a perfect score on their audits and turns in all their data by the deadline each month gets a special lunch ordered and delivered to them.

Quarterly, the injury rate is also celebrated. A Total Recordable Injury Rate scorecard is used, which is the number of injuries times 200,000, divided by the number of hours worked. This rate is factored in, along with departmental audits and training documents to determine if everyone qualifies. If so, every employee in the plant is awarded a gift card to Wal-Mart in varying amounts, depending on the score.

• New projects are tackled together.

If the safety director is asked to improve compliance for a particular Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard, Leach also gets involved. "We put our heads together and brainstorm and work up the plan together. Then, when it is ready to put into place we each take a part in completing it," says Leach.

Recently, the corporate office asked all plants to come up with a Severe Incident Prevention Plan. This involved assessing their particular hazards, determining the severity of each hazard, deciding if the safety measure in place was adequate and then if not coming up with a plan to increase the safety measures for the hazard.

"All employees were involved in doing this and we acted as facilitators. My role was to provide information and support to the safety captains and supervisors," says Leach.