Sutton Report: Supervisor Safety Responsibilities

April 6, 2015

Not a week goes by without an injury, near miss, or a death on a job site. Most of these incidents involve equipment. We recently covered a particularly tragic accident involving a trailer full of gravel tipping over and crushing a young mother. According to news reports, construction workers had asked her to move her car to a safe place, and the trailer tipped while she was in the car.

Job site safety is rightfully identified as a key focus by construction companies, and many specifically list it as a core value. There is no sense of cliché when we hear managers say they want every worker to go home safely.

Nor is there anything cute or funny about construction equipment, despite the #fail videos we see in social media. We’ve operated machines countless times during media events, and we’re always cognizant that we are in a piece of equipment. Even in these controlled situations, we acknowledge the powerful forces at work in these machines.

Our respect for the men and women who operate equipment is heightened because of what we have experienced ourselves in the cab, and also by what we’ve seen professional operators do during new-product demonstrations and Construction Equipment Field Tests.

“Safety and the Supervisor,” a guide published by The Public Education Section of Oregon OSHA, has influenced us as we have attended new-product events this year. Interestingly, it relies on a simple rule many parents over the years have applied to raising children: Actions have consequences.

“The No. 1 reason employees do not follow rules in general is that they don’t know why doing so is important,” the guide says. “Employees will be much more likely to follow safety rules if they know what the natural and system consequences are.”

A system consequence of breaking a safety rule could be anything from a reprimand to an OSHA fine. A natural consequence of breaking a rule could be damage to the machine or the death of oneself or others.

These safety consequences not only apply to operators, but also to shop and field technicians. The truth is, equipment presents all sorts of safety hazards whether at work or at rest.

Oregon OSHA lists the five basic supervisor safety responsibilities as:

  1. Provide safety training
  2. Provide resources and support
  3. Enforce safety
  4. Oversee work
  5. Demonstrate safety leadership

Most of the equipment professionals we talk with understand these responsibilities. But we all can use reminding about how to execute these responsibilities in a way that ensures “everyone goes home safely.” For that reason, we’ve uploaded the OSHA guide as a tool for training in the five areas of responsibility (see below).