‘Everyone has the right to be safe at work’

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‘Everyone has the right to be safe at work’

By Rajiv Raghunath - August 08, 2018

Jim Poage, Safety Director of US-based Formetco shares his perspectives on the safety and health standards for OOH. Jim commands over 20 years of experience in the creation and implementation of safety programmes in numerous industries. He is a professional trainer on a wide variety of safety, health and environmental topics and a recognised guest speaker from previous Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Safety Summits, as well as the Independent Billboard Operators (IBO) organisation

Quite many people working in the OOH industry in different markets are having to deal with health and safety hazards. What has been your experience working with OOH companies enhancing the safety standards at their workplace?

I have over 20 years of experience in out of home safety programmes.  I have created and maintained company safety programs for that time.

Which are the areas where the health and safety hazards are particularly high for workers? What steps would you advocate to mitigate the risks to the workers?

The hazards are different for every job, so it is necessary to evaluate the hazards for each job before work is performed.  Some of the common hazards are falls from heights, electrical exposure, weather hazards, and driving.  The place to start a safety programme is to develop a Job Hazard Assessment where each job will be evaluated and the hazards identified.  From there the hazard can be eliminated or controlled through either engineering controls or personal protective equipment.  A critical point in any safety is the training of employees and workers.  They have to be aware of the hazards as well.

How do you engage with the industry in promoting safety standards? Do you reach out to the companies separately, or do you work with any particular Industry body or forum to address the issues?

I work with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, the IBOUSA, and Formetco Inc, to reach as many different companies and workers as possible.  I teach safety courses and inspection programmes several times a year.

Are the advertisers aware of the health and safety risks to workers, and do you see any interventions from their side in augmenting the OOH industry safety standards?

Some are, but most are not.  They assume the installer is working safely and do not think there could be an accident.  There are a few that will let the advertiser know if they see something unsafe being done on a billboard where they are advertising.

In markets where the regulatory standards are not very stringent, OOH firms are seen to be go light on the standards themselves. How would you deal with this challenge?

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates safety on the job across the country.  This is the minimum, but some states can have stricter laws.  If a company is found not to be providing a safe workplace, they can be fined or even have their company shutdown.  This is usually enough to cause the company owners to be interested in protecting their employees, but some truly do care and try to go beyond just the minimum compliance requirements.

Have you worked with any industry body in drafting the safety standards and best practices?

I have been a part of the American National Standards Institute in the Fall Protection Division.  This group writes the recommendations for safe working standards.  It is a group of experts that recognises the best practices for specific safety hazards.

If the Indian OOH industry were to take up safety promotion in a big way, how would look to engage with the industry here?

I feel that everyone in the out of home business has the right to be safe at work.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s the United States or Mumbai in India. People should not have to worry about dying or being injured on the job.  I am always available to answer questions and provide advice on situations as well as recommend products for worker safety.  I have a number of Safety Talks recorded that are available on the Formetco website, and am happy to share information that I can provide on the subject. 

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