The role of a safety manager at a facility is often difficult because of all the different requirements and responsibilities involved. Several years ago, I was hired into a facility as a safety manager. Prior to being hired on, the facility did not have a dedicated safety manager, so the responsibilities were just performed by department managers, maintenance personal, and others throughout the company. This is quite common for smaller facilities, and when they finally grow large enough to need someone dedicated to managing the safety, things can be pretty bad.
During my first two or three months on the job I spent most of my time identifying the major hazards that existed, and working on getting them resolved. Luckily, the facility had not experienced any significant accidents up to that point, but it could have happened at any time. There were no safety procedures in place for performing maintenance on equipment, some products were stored in locations where they could fall or cause injury, and there were many other problems that needed to be addressed.
After about the third month, the facility manager notified me that OSHA was going to be coming through for an inspection sometime in the next three weeks. This was quite unexpected, and I knew the facility was not yet up to the OSHA standards.
I was very happy with the progress I had made improving safety in the facility, but by making all the changes and improvements, I had gone through virtually my entire budget for the year. I knew there was still a lot I had to do, and much of it would cost money.
Facility Walk Through
I had experience with OSHA inspections in the past, and I knew what types of things they would be looking for. With that in mind, the first thing I did after being told the inspection was coming was walk through the entire facility with a notepad and write down everything we needed. By the end of the day I had several pages of notes on what needed to be done.
The next day I began organizing my list of safety violations by order of importance, so I would know where to spend my time and limited resources. Some of the items I was able to resolve by simply putting new procedures into place, and providing some training to the employees. Others, however, would require direct intervention on my part.
I found that there was one category of problem that I had dozens of violations for, and it would require me to fix or the facility could be stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in fines (and I might be out of a job). The problem was related to safety signs, labels and other visual cues about safety within the facility. I knew these were missing from the facility, and they had been my list to address since almost my first day, but they just hadn’t gotten done yet. Well, I didn’t have the option to put it off any longer since OSHA was going to be there soon.
Getting Visual Safety Products
I took my list of what types of signs, stickers and other things I needed and went out to order them. I was quite surprised to see just how much it would cost to have them professionally created and delivered to the facility. It was well outside my existing budget, and my manager said there was no money for it anywhere else at the time. I felt like I was stuck between the preverbal rock and a hard place. I didn’t have the money to buy the things I needed, but I knew if I didn’t have them OSHA would fine the facility (which would come out of my next year’s budget, assuming I still had the job.)
After trying to figure out what to do, I finally reached out to a colleague of mine who worked for another large facility in the area, also as a safety manager. After explaining the predicament I was in, he kind of laughed a little bit at the situation, and said he had the perfect solution. He explained that several years ago he was looking into replacing all the safety signs and labels throughout his facility, and he found that he was able to save a significant amount of money by purchasing a industrial label maker, and printing everything he needed himself rather than ordering it from a third party.
He explained that he was able to create custom labels that met OSHA standards, and were actually more effective than generic labels he had ordered in the past. This seemed like an excellent solution, so I started researching the different options available right away. After some time, I settled on the LabelTac 4 PRO Printer.
This industrial label maker was within my remaining budget, and had a variety of great features that I would need. In addition, I knew that I’d be able to use it not only to help get brought up to OSHA standards, but also for many projects long into the future. This specific label maker has many great features that were ideal for any facility, including:
- Convenient Size Options – I was able to print off labels and signs that ranged from ½’’ to 4’’ tall, and as wide as I needed them. This was very important, since many OSHA labeling requirements have specific sizes that they need to be.
- Excellent Resolution – The printer has 300 DPI resolution, which means all the labels and signs I printed would be easy to read, and very clear.
- Indoor/Outdoor Printing – This printer could create labels for both indoors and outside.
- Easy to Use – Creating labels was extremely easy to use with this printer, so I would have to waste time trying to set up and configure complicated equipment.
- Affordable Printing – In addition to the printer being affordable, the ink ribbons and labels were too. Through my research, I discovered that ordering the labels I needed from a safety catalog would cost about $3.30 per label, on average. Other professional printers reduced that price down to $1.60 per label, which was still too much. The LabelTac 4 Pro cost just $.71 per label, which was well within my budget.
- Quality Labels – The LabelTac labels come with a guarantee that they will last at least five years. Due to the nature of the facility, this was very important.
Creating Labels & Signs with an Industrial Label Maker
Once the industrial label maker arrived, I immediately set it up and got right to work. I had many signs and labels that I needed to create, and time was running out. By this point, the OSHA inspector was scheduled to arrive within just a week, and it could be sooner (you never know when OSHA inspectors will come!).
Fortunately, I had my list of what I needed ready, so I didn’t waste any time. I found that the label maker was extremely simple to use, and many of the standard labels I needed were available to choose from. It took me two days to print and place all the labels I needed, which is less time than it would have taken for me to order them from a third party and have them delivered!
Some of the labels and signs that I printed included:
- High Voltage Warnings – Several pieces of equipment throughout the facility required these labels. I printed four of these labels for each machine so each side of the equipment to ensure maximum visibility.
- AED Labels – I printed off a label to place above the area where our AED medical device was stored. This made it much more visible. While everyone knew that it was located in the break room, this label makes it much easier, and faster to locate.
- Fire Extinguisher Signs – There were two different types of fire extinguisher signs that I printed off for each fire extinguisher in the facility. One was placed directly over each extinguisher, and the others were signs with arrows indicating where people could locate them.
- Chemical Warning Labels – We use several different types of chemicals in the facility, so I printed off new warning labels to place on the containers, and in the storage areas where these chemicals are kept.
- Steam Vent Area – We had one steam exhaust pipe located outside. While there was a fence around the area, I felt it was important to ensure everyone was aware of the specific risks of being in the area. This was an outdoor sticker.
- Custom Safety Stickers – I also created a number of different custom safety stickers to place in specific areas throughout the facility. These weren’t strictly required by OSHA, but they provide additional safety for those working around potentially dangerous machines.
- Reflective Stickers – One interesting thing I was able to do was print off labels with arrows onto reflective vinyl material. I used these labels on the floor where indoor vehicles drove to help ensure they could see where they should be located. This was much easier, and more affordable, than installing reflectors in the area.
The OSHA Inspection
Several days after I had completed adding all the signs and labels throughout the facility, it was time for the OSHA inspection. I met with the inspector and began showing him through the facility. While he was performing the inspection, he mentioned that this inspection was the result of an anonymous employee notification of multiple safety violations throughout the facility. I wasn’t exactly surprised, given the state of the facility at the time when I started.
As I showed the inspector through the entire facility, he was taking a lot of notes. Naturally, I was somewhat nervous about what he was finding. While I believed I had taken care of any major OSHA violations, it is often hard to predict what an experienced inspector will find. When he was done, he left and said we could expect a report in the coming weeks.
Results of the Report
The following week, I got the results of the report delivered to me. As requested, I went into the facility manager’s office to review the results. Like most OSHA reports, this one was quite lengthy and went over the entire inspection in great detail. In order to appease the facility manager, I skipped right to the end where it reported whether we passed the inspection, and whether there would be any fines for safety problems.
I am happy to say that the facility passed the inspections, and had no fines against it. Obviously, the facility manager was very happy with the report. After some brief congratulations, we went through the rest of the report to see what it had to say.
The inspector did find some ‘concerns’ he had, and requested that they be addressed sometime within the next 12 months. Most of these issues were already on my ‘to-do’ list, but I felt they weren’t a priority at the time. Out of curiosity, I looked at the section he had written regarding safety signs and labeling. I couldn’t believe it when I read that we had gotten the highest rating possible on this section.
I’m sure there were many factors that went into this, including the fact that virtually every sign and label in the facility was brand new. Whatever the reasons, however, I was very happy to see such a high score, especially given the fact that I was able to update all the signs and labels throughout the facility in such a short amount of time, and for such a small investment. Today, I frequently recommend using label makers to help keep facilities up to date on a variety of different safety requirements, and other visual cues.
Additional Benefits to Industrial Label Maker
After the inspection was over, I found that the facility had many other uses for the industrial label maker. Other departments throughout the facility began using it for a wide range of things including labeling tools for improved organization, and adding signs or labels to areas to make their jobs easier. Having access to this printer has made it possible for many people throughout the facility to improve the way their jobs are done.
While it may seem like a fairly small thing, having the option to create custom labels and signs can be extremely beneficial to many facilities. This is one piece of equipment that many people didn’t even know they needed, but now people throughout the facility agree that it is a key item. This printer has helped improve organization and efficiency in many ways, in addition to helping the facility pass the OSHA inspection.
Finding Effective, Affordable Solutions
When I look back on this experience, I recall just how stressful it really was. I was in a new role at a company, and knew that it was essential for me to pass this OSHA inspection. Fortunately, I had a friend who was able to suggest a solution that hadn’t occurred to me. Without his suggestion of getting the industrial label maker, I may not have been able to pass this inspection, and my job would have certainly been in danger.
This shows just how important it is to be able to find effective, affordable solutions to all types of issues, especially safety related problems. Being able to reach out to friends or colleagues, and ask for help is extremely valuable. If I would have kept the problems to myself, and been afraid to ask for other people’s suggestions, things could have turned out much differently. Whenever facing difficult situations, remember, it is much better to get as many options as possible, so you’re not stuck facing the situation on your own.
In this situation, I was able to not only accomplish my goals of passing the OSHA inspection, but I was also able to do it for a fraction of what it would have cost if I had the budget to buy signs and labels from a third party. In many cases, it is these types of high-pressure situations that bring out improvement opportunities. While I certainly wouldn’t want to have to prepare for an inspection in just a few weeks again, it really helped to benefit not only myself, but the facility as a whole. Overall, this was an excellent learning experience, which helped me to grow professionally and learn how to respond to these types of difficult situations in more productive ways. Click HERE to purchase your LabelTac industrial label maker.