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What’s In Your Gin Safety Program?

Over the past few months with the increased presence of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in many industries, the question is continuing to come up: What is your safety program? As we’ve been working with our members, their answer typically is, “We show the videos.” Or they point to the association’s safety reference manual that was provided to them. This just isn’t going to cut it much longer I’m afraid.

In the Southeast, we’ve seen more of OSHA than we really want to see since the new reporting rules kicked in. Although there is no requirement for a “safety program,” there are requirements for training in certain areas. We often leave it up to the “videos” to do the training. Although the authors of those videos have done a terrific job of trying to incorporate as much variety as possible, they can only do so much.

No two gins are exactly alike, and nothing will replace you, your gin superintendent or head ginner going through each person’s job and making sure all the steps are covered. Try to imagine how a person can get hurt when doing a job or not following the rules. The videos should be used as a basis, and then train the employees on how to do their jobs safely.

OSHA is currently seeking comments on a new guideline to what makes a comprehensive safety program. These pieces are mostly not new, and anyone who has opened any of the regional ginners association’s safety program manuals will find that most, if not all, of the elements are in there. OSHA looks for these things: 1. management leadership; 2. worker participation; 3. hazard identification and assessment; 4. hazard prevention and control; 5. education and training; 6. program evaluation and improvement; and 7. coordination and communication on multi-employer worksites.

If your safety program has all of these elements, you’re doing great. Keep it up. This article doesn’t have the space or time to dissect each element, but it’s really not that difficult to do these things. They don’t all have to be done at one time, and many can and should be done in the off-season when there’s not a lot of other pressures on the leadership at the gin.

Your ginners association staff can be a great help in finding what might work for you. The safety manuals have examples of things to use to build these elements, but no manual or video will know all of your equipment, procedures or processes, so you have to make it your own. No two safety programs will be the same, just like no two cotton gins are the same. We’re here to help.

Dusty Findley of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association contributed this article. Contact him at 706-344-1212 or dusty@southern-southeastern.org.

Gin Safety Lesson Tips
The National Cotton Ginners Association offers the following tips to make gin safety lessons more effective:

  • Safety meetings should be held at regular intervals during the season. Safety is a state of mind, and regular reminders can make gin workers more conscious of dangers.
  • Meetings should be held at a convenient time for everyone.
  • Each safety lesson should be conducted in the area of the gin that is most applicable.
  • Select a place near the equipment being discussed where people can be comfortable and are free of distractions.
  • If you are talking about portable equipment, such as ladders and hand-tools, have them with you so you may refer to them during the discussion.
  • Don’t let anything interrupt the meeting. Before you start, make arrangements for someone to answer your phone and take messages.
  • Let your employees know that you are limiting the meeting to between 5 and 10 minutes. If discussion gets hot and heavy, continue it at the next meeting.
  • You may want to read the lesson aloud or present it in your own words, or you may state the subject of the discussion and ask questions to develop interaction among the workers.
  • After your presentation, encourage discussion among employees. Review recent on-the-job accidents. Ask for suggestions about how the accident could have been prevented or the violation corrected. Don’t criticize anyone by name in front of the group.
  • Encourage employees to recall “near misses” – situations when they came close to having an accident. Try to get everyone in the group to learn from these experiences.
  • Keep a record of the lesson. The job is not done until you fill out the back of the lesson plan and put it on file. This record could be critical to the gin in the future.