THE 14 POINTS OF WORKPLACE SAFETY
By Phil La Duke
1. SAFETY IS NOT YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY
If safety were truly your number one priority you would close your doors and mothball your business. Your number one priority should always be the continued survival of your business. Anyone who tells you different is either a liar or a fool.
That having been said, you won’t be in business long if you don’t effectively manage safety. Safety is neither a priority nor a goal; instead it is a criterion by which manufacturers measure the efficacy of its efforts to be successful. Safety is a strategic business element that needs to be managed as scrupulously as quality, delivery, cost and morale.
2. MISTAKES ARE INEVITABLE, INJURIES ARE NOT
People make mistakes; it’s practically embedded in our DNA. Stop trying to remind people not to make mistakes and focus instead on preventing the injuries that so predictably happen when people screw up. You may not prevent every injury, but that doesn’t make it impossible.
FMEAs and other predictive tools should be used to identify areas of greatest risk and efforts should be made to reduce the risk of injuries to the lowest practical level. The true benefit in this point is the belief that it is possible and the disappointment we feel anytime we aren’t successful in prevention.
3. FOCUS ON PREVENTION
Preventing injuries is more efficient than reacting to them. If you spend your money preventing injuries you will spend less money overall. Stop thinking that you might get lucky and avoid a serious and costly injury; you won’t. Injuries are typically caused by failures in the system. By managing hazards (procedural, behavioral, and mechanical) organizations can reduce unplanned downtime, injuries, and defects.
4. MOVE BEYOND COMPLIANCE
Compliance with the government regulations is important and tends to correlate to a process that is in control. But we can never mistake being compliant with being safe. Stop congratulating yourself for doing only that which is mandated by the government; you get no credit for doing what you were always supposed to have been doing.
5. INSTILL UNIVERSAL OWNERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SAFETY
Every job plays a role in ensuring workplace safety. Everyone must be answerable when processes and protocols fail to keep workers safe. Hold workers accountable for eliminating hazards rather than for injuries.
6. SHIFT THE OWNERSHIP OF SAFETY TO OPERATIONS
Operations has the greatest control and oversight of the safety of the workplace. Operations leadership should conduct routine reviews of key safety metrics. Safety as a function should be instructive and should help Operations to be more efficient.
7. THE ABSENCE OF INJURIES DOES NOT NECESSARILY DENOTE THE PRESENCE OF SAFETY
Safety is an expression of probability. No situation is ever 100 percent risk free. Safety must be managed in terms of risk not by taking a body count.
8. AVOID SHAME AND BLAME POLICIES AND TACTICS
Workers do not want to get hurt and manufacturing processes are not supposed to hurt them; no amount of behavior modification will change this.
9. INVEST IN BASIC SKILLS TRAINING
The best way to ensure worker safety is by providing them with good foundational training in the tasks they are routinely expected to do. People who are skilled at the basic tasks associated with their jobs are far less likely to be injured.
10. END SAFETY GIMMICKS
There is a cottage industry devoted to taking your money in the name of safety rewards. Incentives should only be used to reward active participation in safety, not to reward an absence of reported injuries. Frankly, why isn’t coming home in one piece reward enough?
Most workers I’ve talked to find safety incentives condescending and somewhat insulting. As one put it, “They give us a pizza party at the end of the month if we don’t kill anyone. It’s as if they think the only reason we will ever work safe is for the pizza”.
11. STOP COMPARING YOUR SAFETY PERFORMANCE TO THE INDUSTRY AVERAGE
Measuring an organization’s safety record relative to the broader industry average is meaningless and should be abandoned. Instead, use a combination of lagging and leading indicators to attain a more meaningful view of your overall performance in safety.
12. ENCOURAGE BETTER DECISION MAKING
People take risks and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Our policies and procedures can never cover every contingency. We need to invest in training to help our workers to avoid making bad judgment calls and stupid decisions.
13. STOP LETTING SAFETY BLAME OPERATIONS FOR ITS OWN INADEQUACIES
Whenever I suggest a substantive change in how the Safety function does business, I am invariably told that the Operations leadership will never support my idea. Safety must be a key resource to Operations and stop whining every time it doesn’t get its way.
Instead of impeding Operations and hampering its progress, Safety must support Operations to find safe ways of accomplishing organizational goals instead of working at cross-purposes with Production. Safety needs to get out of the business of telling Operations “no” and Operations must collaborate with Safety to reduce risk as much as is practical.
14. STOP TRYING TO MANIPULATE WORKERS’ BEHAVIORS
Safety is not about managing people’s behavior; it’s about managing risk. Behavioral psychology is overused and frequently misused in commercial safety solutions. Behavior-based safety appeals to operations executives who are looking for a magic bullet. In reality, it is too often snake oil being sold by the greedy to the dim-witted.
It’s high time that we stop treating safety like it’s some mystical secret. Let’s stop hiding behind the platitudes and get to work. If the Safety function can’t support business than it’s time to get rid of it. Those safety professionals who understand the core business of the organizations in which they work should be celebrated, while those who simply collect a paycheck should be excused out the door.
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About the Author: Phil La Duke is a partner in the Performance Assurance Practice at ERM: Environmental Resources Management, 3352 128th Avenue, Holland, MI 49424, 313-244-2525, www.erm.com. You can also follow Phil and reach him on his blogs at www.philladuke.wordpress.com.