Safety Concerns at Rescue Missions

Accidents can bring large expenses to nonprofit organizations, including lost wages and increased insurance costs, not to mention the human suffering and misery involved.  Safety is often not much of a priority for rescue mission employees and clients. And, it is this lack of consciousness about safety that tends to lead to accidents. Therefore, safety consciousness must be raised in their minds and be reinforced constantly. This heightened awareness takes organization and effort.

Probably the key ingredient to implementing a safety program involve the mission’s employees in regularly scheduled safety meetings with required attendance. Few rescue missions have a full time qualified safety officer, it is important to delegate the responsibility of coordinating your safety program to one staff member. Give that person a more challenging assignment than simply defending your rescue mission against workers compensation and medical insurance claims (this is often the job of personnel and risk management officers). The goal is to pre accidents before they happen

Effective supervision is the key to a successful employee safety program. Management support of supervisors' safety initiatives and management's recognition of supervisors' performance in the safety field are critical.

The rules should be clear at the outset. Advise your supervisors in the beginning that the safety record of their crews will be included as a factor in your evaluations of their job performance. Then give the supervisors the training, tools, and equipment they will need to improve the safety record of their crews. Do not forget to monitor systematically the results of your efforts.

Here are some points to remember:

  1. Employees and clients will usually help identify safety hazards if they are given the opportunity and incentive. Therefore, a formal system must be put in place that will encourage them to report safety hazards.

  2. Instead of leaving the investigation of reported safety hazards to rescue mission management and supervisory personnel, appoint a member of the staff to serve as the mission’s safety officer. His/her job can be made more effective by establishing a safety committee with the authority to investigate reported safety hazards.

  3. One important source for developing a safety plan is OSHA.

  4. Many safety hazards can be minimized the regular use of protective clothing, including foul weather gear, goggles, hard hats, gloves, and steel toed shoes.

  5. Always make sure the first aid equipment is available and well-stocked.

  6. Radio and mobile communications may be the best way to keep work crews in touch with offices and supervisors; scheduling equipment helps set priorities; and aerosol paints are used to mark pavements and trees. Some of these miscellaneous items follow.

  7. Rescue mission buildings undergo the same stresses as any other structure, if not more. Therefore, an effective maintenance program is also reduces safety hazards.

    Particular attention must be paid to:

    • Aging and deteriorating roofs

    • Unsafe or inadequate heating equipment

    • Restroom and shower walls and floors that are not properly protected and sealed.

  8. Other potential safety hazards include:

    • Unsafe doors, windows & fixtures

    • Unsafe Floors with inadequate or improper covering and coatings where safety/non-slip surfaces should be installed.

    • Improper use or maintenance of equipment such as gloor sweepers, scrubbers, vacuums, and washers.

    • Inadequate vermin control

    • Inadequate or improper vehicle maintenance.

  9. Ideal setup for locks & security system:
  • Facilities should be protected by master keyed systems of locks with a very few master keys in care of the highest level supervisors.

  • A small quantity of submasters are issued to other supervisory personnel.

  • Locks and keys for protection of personal items in individual rooms and lockers is given to individual employees and clients.

  • Duplicates or master keys remain with supervisors.

  • Proper use of locked doors, walls, and outdoor fencing can also be useful in directing foot traffic away from potentially hazardous areas.




Portions of this section were quoted from the magazine article, Safety Programs, Public Works, April 15, 1996