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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Profiles in Safety: 'Vertical Slice' Can Reduce Risk

siegristAs Director of the Physics Division and Associate Laboratory Director for General Sciences, Jim Siegrist doesn’t have a lot of down time. But he’s not so busy that he can’t take time to ask Division staff, “What do you think of safety? What do you think of your ergo set up?”

While the Lab provides a number of tools that help Siegrist get answers to these questions, he has also been using a process known as “vertical slice” for the past 10 or so years to see what’s working or what needs to be improved in its safety systems. “When you do a safety walkaround, you get personal anecdotes about someone’s experience with safety,” he says. “With vertical slice, you get systematic data from a cross section of the Division’s population.”

Every two years or so, Siegrist launches vertical slice by authorizing Physics Division Safety Coordinator Marty White and Physics Division Safety Committee members to interview 80% of the Division’s employees—a sample representative of the scientific and administrative staff, students, and guests. While Siegrist is also a member of the Physics Division Safety Committee, “Division management is excused from participating in the interviews because we want to get honest responses about safety in the Division,” says White. By asking them a series of 21 safety-related questions, White and the other reviewers gauge the effectiveness of safety measures such as the Job Hazards Analysis system, on-the-job training, and personal protective equipment.

The result? According to White, Division employees, whose risks are mostly ergo-related, haven’t had a recordable injury in three years. She credits the Division’s safety record to Siegrist. “Jim has taken to heart that the key to safety is talking to people and encouraging them to talk to you,” she said.

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