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Sawmill Safety

Sawmill Safety


 Joseph Denig

 Assistant Professor and Wood Products Extension Specialist

 North Carolina State University

Lately there has been great interest by smaller lumber manufacturing companies in developing safer operations. The purpose of this Wood Products Note is to help these saw mills develop their own safety program. As a course of action, it is suggested that the mills management team sit down as a group and view the video Thumbs Up for Sawmill Safety1. After viewing the video, the management team should discuss developing their own safety program, keeping the following points in mind:

1. Importance of Safety – Review your past safety record, look at your losses, both in human and financial terms. Regarding financial losses, examine lost productivity, increased insurance premiums, and the increasing problems of locating and keeping good labor.

2. Set Your Goals – A goal of zero accidents should be targeted.

3. Set Your Standards – How do you expect your management team and employees to act in order to reach your goal of zero accidents? What type of personal protection equipment are employees expected to wear? By setting standards, accidents will be avoided. For instance, many employees would not wear safety glasses if given the choice. The reasoning is, “I know when to protect my eyes.” But, then, why do we have problems with mill workers getting particles in their eyes? To set your standards to be within ever changing legal safety requirements, use your state’s occupational safety organization, trade association, and insurance company as information sources.

4. Get the Word Out – Educate your employees as to what your standards are. Use safety meetings, one-on-one contact by supervisors with employees, newsletters, and bulletin boards. You may wish to show new employees the video Thumbs Up for Sawmill Safety; then discuss your specific standards. The new employee should be given a written copy of the safety rules.

5. Lead by Example – Your employees do basically what they see, not what they read or hear. If you do not follow your own standards, don’t expect your employees to follow them either. Also, we, as management, tend to say, “accidents will not happen to me.” By adhering to our own standards, we will help prove this statement true.

6. Enforce Standards – If you make standards and don’t enforce them, you will not see a change in the accident rate.

7. Try to Use Positive Reinforcement – Reward employees for not having accidents. Some firms use safety prizes such as hats or jackets; others use cash awards. Having an award program, such as offering an award to employees each accident free month, encourages positive peer pressure for a safer working environment.

1Denig, J. (Producer) (1987). Thumbs Up for Sawmill Safety [videotape] Raleigh: North Carolina State University, Department of Agricultural Communications.

(July 1988)