Ginning season is just around the corner, and Southern Cotton Ginners Association Safety Director Larry Davis says now's the time gin owners and managers should be carrying out employee safety training and eliminating potential safety hazards.
“I'd love to go through the ginning season with no one being hurt,” he told members of the Mississippi Cotton Ginners Association at their annual meeting at Clarksdale, Miss. “With constant attention to safety, the opportunity for accidents can be greatly reduced.”
Ginning, like other industrial activity involving large, high-speed machinery and around-the-clock operation, is potentially dangerous.
Since 1992, nine people have been killed at gin operations, Davis noted. Since 1988, four have lost eyes in accidents.
Ironically, he says, six of the nine deaths were not equipment-related, but rather resulted from falls.
“These accidents point to the need for every employee to use extra care when working on ladders or at high elevations. This type of accident just shouldn't happen.
“And I think every ginner should consider making use of safety glasses mandatory for those working in the press area. Safety glasses are cheap, and these employees should be motivated to use them. We also have posters available to help make them aware of the need for eye protection.”
Davis says owners/managers would do well, too, to make hearing protection mandatory for those working near ginning machinery.
“Virtually all areas inside an operating cotton gin are above the noise levels for hearing loss. Use of ear protection will not only help avoid hearing damage, it can also help reduce fatigue, which can lead to accidents, and it can also help reduce insurance costs.”
Safety is an ongoing process, Davis says, and “all employees should be trained to put safety first in everything they do. It's important that owners and managers keep this message in front of their employees all the time and that they themselves be involved in safety programs. They should show, by example, every day, that they're committed to safety in every aspect of their gins' operations.”
Safety programs should be continually evaluated, he says, to determine what's been done and what needs to be done. “You should have a plan in place for your safety training program. Set times, in advance, for weekly or every-two-weeks safety meetings and follow that schedule to the letter. Don't postpone a training session because everyone's busy. Put safety first.”
Fatigue is “always a concern” in 24-hour operation, Davis says, “but with proper planning and employee scheduling you can help to reduce fatigue levels and keep workers more alert and less prone to accidents.”
Every ginner should conduct a thorough, detailed inspection of equipment and facilities, he notes. “Make a note of every potential hazard, no matter how minor it may seem, and then eliminate them before the gin is ever started up. Don't put it off.”
Davis points out that the ginner association makes available to its members a wide variety of safety training and awareness materials, including videos, posters, brochures, etc.
Gin owners/managers should keep thorough records of all safety training and the various efforts to enhance safety, he says. “This can be very useful if you're inspected by OSHA or other agencies.” And, he says, a good safety program can help to reduce costs for workman's compensation insurance.
Some 250 gins have made documented safety improvements through their participation in the association's yearly safety awards recognition program, Davis notes. “We hope to have another 50 added to that number this year.” He says one gin realized a $16,000 reduction in workman's comp insurance costs as a result of the safety measures it instituted.
Southern Cotton Ginners Association safety training seminars will be conducted at various locations around the Mid-South during August, Davis says.