Safety awareness important economic driver, advocates say

2012-07-13T18:00:00Z Safety awareness important economic driver, advocates sayBy Bowdeya Tweh, (219) 933-3316

RIVERDALE | Businesses that emphasize safety in their operations also find benefits in production efficiency, product quality and operations costs, a group of workplace safety advocates said Friday at a training seminar.

"By doing work safely, one often takes care of the rest," said David Holmberg, environmental, health and safety specialist and membership services coordinator at the Calumet Area Industrial Commission.

Instituto del Progreso Latino and the commission organized a five-hour health and safety training seminar to help share best practices with managers and employees from local businesses.

The session was the second one organized after the Chicago-based Instituto del Progreso Latino received a $170,000 grant last year from the U.S. Department of Labor. About 30 people attended the training at a facility at ArcelorMittal Riverdale.

Tom DuBois, director of new initiatives at the Instituto del Progreso Latino, said companies with less than 250 workers often don't get the same health and safety training as larger companies. But the free event was designed to get representatives from a range of companies, especially those in the metals industry, to share best practices to improve health and safety performance in those firms.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched a targeted effort for the primary metals industry in May 2011 to help reduce and eliminate worker exposures to harmful chemical and physical hazards.

The effort, or National Emphasis Program, was in direct response to concerns about data that showed the industry had higher levels of fatal workplace injuries and worker exposures to hazardous substances.

Attendees received training in heat stress, slips, trips and falls, and learned about business consultation services available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Holmberg said workers and managers have to be aware of hazards in their facilities, even what they may not immediately perceive as issues. Those details are often what make differences in accidents, and what can save someone's life at work.

"When it comes to safety, don't overlook the obvious," Holmberg said.

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