Many organizations in the manufacturing and industrial field often find themselves working tirelessly to ensure employee safety is practiced through the utilization and procurement of a wide variety of PPE equipment.  The immediate threat of COVID-19 to the workforce has also created greater visibility within the safety category to ensure employees are properly protected.  The purpose of this blog is to help establish a roadmap related to the processes and procedures that will help your organization improve its safety program while also establishing significant cost savings. 

Well before the process of aligning on safety SKUs should be made, the first critical step is understanding and agreeing on the key decision makers within your organization regarding anything safety related.  If an Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) department is not established within your organization, now is the time to do so.  A reporting hierarchy within your EH&S department should also be clearly established.  For instance, an EH&S Director should be the final decision maker for safety compliance and SKU standardization at all facilities across the organization, while an EH&S Coordinator should be responsible for compliance and enforcement at the local level.  This reporting structure is a critical piece of your overall safety strategy not only to ensure compliance across the organization but to also guarantee significant cost savings.  

Once your EH&S team hierarchy is built and properly aligned, the next step is to understand the “need to have” vs “nice to have” safety SKUs for your organization.  Any “need to have” SKUs should be rather clear – these would include OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) required equipment related to your specific field or any gear that is paramount for employee safety that should be identified and clearly defined (hardhats, fire retardant coveralls, COVID facemasks, etc.).  Working to solve for the “nice to have” category is often times a very difficult to define gray area between comfort and cost.  For instance, if your team works outdoors often, consider investing in the “nice to have” option of weatherproofing materials to ensure rapid moisture evaporation and rain proofing to help drive efficiency.  When addressing the “nice to have” category, there are usually significant cost ramifications that need to be properly evaluated before making any significant decisions.

Once the need vs nice to have discussion has been aligned on, the next step is to begin understanding and developing a SKU consolidation strategy.  This critical step is what often separates a good safety program from a great safety program.  The goal here is to fully understand what PPE categories need to be utilized by your employees, and to establish EH&S approved only SKUs within each specific category.  This process will lead to a custom internal catalog between your employees and awarded safety supplier to ensure ease of purchasing and compliance.  In addition, this custom catalog will protect your organization from “off-catalog” non-compliant PPE gear that would create additional costs while also putting your employees at risk for potential injury.

When identifying the SKUs that will qualify for purchase in your custom safety purchasing catalog, it is important to do your due diligence and full evaluation of each SKU in the running.  For instance, when aligning on an item such as safety gloves, performing on-site testing and a comparison of cut-sheets for each product under consideration will help provide tangible data to help influence your decision.  The EH&S team can oversee this process by distributing the PPE gear under evaluation with accompanying surveys to select employees in the field, while also internally reviewing the safety standards and specs identified in each cut-sheet.  This process will establish both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of each pending SKU, which will prove to be tremendously helpful in guiding the EH&S team towards a final decision in establishing cost savings within an improved safety program. 

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Ryan Ganley

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