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Safety

Protecting people and business

In the tradeshow business, anything can go wrong, but the best businesses have the right processes and people to prevent problems and  a plan in place to deal with them when they arise, quickly and efficiently. This includes safety.

Injuries are extremely costly to both individuals and businesses. Tolerance for unsafe working conditions or situations is an unnecessary hazard that is usually preventable. By practicing safety with open communication, individuals and companies are empowered to protect people and their business.

Costs to humans and companies

An injury causes physical and emotional suffering, not only to the injured but also to their families and loved ones. If an injured worker takes forced time off to recover, their dependents are without income. Add medical costs to the equation and the family is financially burdened. If the injury is severe, the worker’s career may be threatened.

An injured worker also is a loss to a company’s productivity and can hinder its ability to be competitive. Once a person is injured, e work must stop immediately so the situation can be addressed. The business usually contributes to medical costs, and their insurance rates increase.

Photo credit: Corey Johnson

Photo credit: Corey Johnson

Potential hazards

“The show floor can be a dangerous place. With narrow aisles crowded with flat crates, tall crates, forklifts, it can be like obstacle course getting around from booth to booth,” said Don Minot, vice president of operations at Eagle Management Group.

From the potential to slip from ladders, dislocate shoulders from carrying heavy boxes, trip over debris on the floor or be struck by equipment, there are many ways that a person can get hurt.

Potential (and preventable) hazards include:

  1. Tripping over debris
  2. Trying to squeeze by machine lifts
  3. Walking underneath overhead work
  4. Not using the equipment required for a task
  5. Lifting a load that is heavier than expected

Worker sobriety is paramount to worker safety. Occasionally workers head to lunch and return to work intoxicated, which is extremely dangerous if they drop tools or lose their balance. Not only is alcohol a problem, but also a drug that’s becoming legal across the U.S. – marijuana. With four states and the District of Columbia legalizing weed, labor companies are increasingly seeing their workers showing up high.

Besides the preventative measures that businesses and individuals can take to prevent injury, there are also long-term potential health issues. These workers can walk 20 miles a day on concrete, adding up to thousands of miles over many years. When installing exhibits, they are often forced to hold awkward positions for long time. And above all, the fumes from equipment inside poorly ventilated buildings are a huge hazard.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, “Diesel exhaust is a mixture of gases and particulates produced during the combustion of diesel fuel. The very small particles are known as diesel particulate matter (DPM), which consists primarily of solid elemental carbon (EC) cores with organic carbon (OC) compounds adhered to the surfaces. The organic carbon includes polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), some of which cause cancer when tested in animals. Workers exposed to diesel exhaust face the risk of health effects ranging from irritation of the eyes and nose, headaches and nausea, to respiratory disease and lung cancer.”

However, in a mostly unregulated industry, little has been done to address the potential health risks to  workers breathing the fumes.

Unregulated by the government

Without a centralized organization and recognition by regulatory bodies, tradeshow safety is alarmingly unregulated. OSHA is the construction safety regulations, but the governing body does not regulate tradeshows. Additionally, there’s no worker’s comp specifically for the tradeshow industry. Companies and unions take actions to regulate themselves, but this means that regulations differ by region, and labor companies face challenges when managing crews across the country who have different levels of training, skill and care for safety.

Companies take control of safety

With the need to take control of safety, companies like Eagle Management Group have strong programs in place to ensure the safety of their crews across all locations. Minot has established a strong safety program  and says that most accidents can be prevented through planning, training and cooperative effort.

Twice a year managers and supervisors are instructed on safety standards and the training  trickles down to whatever crews they manage in any region. Leaders are taught to open the lines of communication about safety with their crews.

“We believe that if you’re not talking safety, you’re not thinking safety. We teach our city managers to take five minutes every morning to talk safety,” said Minot. “This empowers both the managers and workers to look out for each other, then speak up and take control in unsafe situations.”

When it comes to safety, everyone is accountable and no one is allowed to take shortcuts. All workers are encouraged to speak up in unsafe situations and ask for the tools or equipment they require to complete a task safely. This is especially important when a crew has been instructed that a forklift is not necessary, but someone thinks otherwise. With their preventative measures in place, Minot said that their No. 1 injury is hands being cut by box cutters – a relatively small injury.

A safe company is a successful company

In the New York Times bestseller, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg tells the story of the Aluminum Company of America, or Alcoa, a manufacturing corporation that was transformed when Paul O’Neill stepped in as CEO in 1987 and told investors, “I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for zero injuries.”

While investors panicked that “the board put a crazy hippie in charge,” employees of the company got the message that everyone mattered. When they were empowered to speak up for their safety and the safety of others, they also came forward with other great ideas to improve productivity. With an empowered workforce and efficient operations, Alcoa’s profits were a record high within a year, and by the time O’Neill retired to become the Treasury Secretary in 2000, its market capitalization had risen by $27 billion. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-duhigg/the-power-of-habit_b_1304550.html)

Posted in I&D Series, Part II - People
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