How Safety Teams Work to Keep You Safe
by Xenia Roman

ccording to the National Safety Council, 540 workers are injured per hour, 12,900 per day, 90,400 per week. This equates to 7 million work-related injuries per year (

Statistics show time and time again that for every 600 near misses there are typically 30 property losses, 10 lost time accidents and one major accident which included death. The top three levels are part of the reactive process of an accident where it is too late: damage has occurred, and people got hurt.
The basic definition and purpose of a safety team is to bring employees and managers together to promote and maintain a safe and healthy work environment. This team approach ensures that safety is treated as an integral function of the company. Their primary mission is always to develop and improve working conditions and reduce work-related injuries. The bottom line is that safety programs make good business sense.
Safety teams observe current processes and recommend viable options to perform the task more efficiently with a safety mindset.

Their existence is not to get in the way.

Safety teams
Here’s a closer look at what safety teams do and who they are. Their most obvious role is to share their insight on visible safety hazards and provide recommendations to mitigate risks. That includes:

  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Forklift safety and hazard awareness
  • Job Safety Acknowledgments (JSAs)
  • Shipping hazardous materials and proper labeling
  • Accident reporting and root cause analysis
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Lockout/Tagout reviews

Their not-so-obvious work involves:

  • Acting as partners and liaisons
  • Providing coaching and recommend best practices
  • Providing a fresh set of eyes to avoid the typical day-in, day-out safety fatigue
  • Engaging other departments by bridging them together for open and honest feedback
  • Providing resources at times overlooked
  • Assisting in implementing new processes and procedures
  • Acting as a pivotal resource during and after merger and acquisitions, branch relocations or new equipment installations
Safety teams promote and foster workplace safety.

They are not seeking to add to your workload with busy work.

Not all organizations have a dedicated team of safety and operation experts to assist in areas that may require attention. Naturally, the employees who work in the space day in and day out tend to overlook, or even bypass, areas that could pose safety risks. It’s part of human nature. Desensitized to their daily element, the workers performing repetitive tasks sometimes overlook areas that could pose safety risks simply because it is part of what they see each day.

This is when a secondary view becomes optimal. Having an inside team of experts onboard can make the difference between a simple tweak to a process or adding a safety guard to a piece of equipment to eliminate a risk. In addition, safety teams can potentially detect areas that may improve some inefficiencies. From the leadership teams to the individual employee, awareness is essential.

“The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has commemorated its 50th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. In roughly half a century, OSHA with assistance from, state partners, employers and safety and health professionals have had a dramatic effect on the workplace safety.” (

On average, worker deaths in America are down from 38 per day in 1970 to 15 per day in 2019. The latest statistics indicate that more than 618,000 workers can say their lives have been saved since the passage of the OSH Act.

A poor health and safety culture can be disastrous for an organization, its customers, suppliers and employees. Investing time and money to get it right is essential. The consequences of a poorly managed safety culture can extend to increased risk of health, injury and death, a decrease in productivity and increased turnover and not least important the legal repercussions with hefty fines and even possible jail sentences for all involved — from the manager to the business owner.

In short, not being informed or doing nothing about a potential risk at the workplace will not constitute a “get out of jail” free card for anyone, particularly upper management.

There is still plenty for us to do. Partnerships between the employers, workers and safety teams are the key to reaching safety milestones. Therefore, the next time you have a safety team in your organization reviewing certain conditions and asking pertinent questions, keep in mind their “real” job function and goals. Be transparent and help them help you develop a well-rounded safety culture that will ultimately benefit the organization and save lives.

Safety teams can foresee safety gaps that can save a life. They evaluate changes to job tasks and hazards which essentially can safeguard the organization from costly penalties and violations.

Their goal is not to make anyone uncomfortable.

Since being in the plastics industry for the last 27 years, 10 specializing in safety, I am encouraged by the increased engagement with safety teams. Let us continue to explore ways to increase the conversations, share ideas and develop best practices.

Talk to your safety teams. They are listening.

Xenia Roman is an operations specialist for Piedmont Plastics. For more information, contact Piedmont Plastics at 5010 West W.T. Harris Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28269-1861 USA; phone (704) 597-8200 or (800) 277-7898, fax (704) 598-7912, or