6 Tips for Making Your Work Environment Safer
Using technology to communicate with your company's workforce allows you to promote safety more efficiently and effectively.
In the sea of worn out safety tips such as "Be aware of your surroundings," "Take regular breaks," and "Stay sober," you can't blame anyone for thinking of workplace safety as a checklist of rules and regulations. But workplace safety is much more than that. It is an intrinsic part of the success of your business, and it should be built into the foundation of your organization.
Here are his six tips to help you do exactly that.
Safety Tip 1: Culture Is Paramount
Safety processes, rules, and targets are important, but the most critical determinant of safety is the culture a company instills in its people. A strong proponent of this was Paul O’Neill, who headed up Alcoa in the late eighties and nineties. During his time in charge of Alcoa he reduced the worker injury rate to one-twentieth of the U.S. average by focusing on what he termed keystone habits.
He insisted that every injury be reported to him by the president of the unit where it happened within 24 hours, and to include a plan for preventing a recurrence of such injuries. This forced all unit presidents to pay closer attention to the factory floor, improve communication, and encourage ideas for how to ameliorate safety.
Safety became entrenched in the company’s culture. This had enormous benefits in regard to profitability, too, due to better communication and innovation, improved staff morale, less time lost due to injuries, and more harmonious interaction with employee unions.
(Learn more in Face-to-Face Safety: The Right Way to Build a Safety Culture.)
Get the culture right and everything else will flow from there. Someone once said to me: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, and technology for lunch.”
Safety Tip 2: Leading, Not Lagging
Running a safety program with a focus on lagging indicators has been likened to driving a car by looking only in the rear-view mirror. Leading indicators predict the likelihood of an event. Close monitoring of indicators such as unsafe behaviors, maintenance of equipment and vehicles, audits and inspections, and training helps drive proactive prevention of safety incidents.
Purely focusing on an end goal, like Zero Harm, can also encourage inappropriate behavior. If incentivized to reduce injury or incident statistics, employees might decide not to report certain events or injuries, providing an inaccurate picture of workplace safety and preventing future improvement from taking place.
(Find out How to Build an HSE Incentive Program That Works.)
It is important to distinguish between negative and positive leading indicators. Praise, reward, and reinforcing safe acts and proactive measures and don't focus only on poor behavior.
Safety Tip 3: Words Matter
Some simple renaming can change people's attitudes and reinforce the message that your company cares about the safety of every worker. Rather than a dry name like Site Observation Report, refer to it as the I Care report. This makes it more immediate that safety observations are being made because, in this company, we care about each other’s safety and welfare. Now, instead of it being just another task to be completed, the primary intention of ensuring the safety of others is kept top of mind.
Safety Tip 4: Focus on Controls
Good controls prevent bad events. There needs to be continual monitoring to ensure that the controls in place are adequate as well as effective. Particular effort needs to go into identifying which controls are critical and then ensuring that there is good visibility and systems around these controls so that any lapses can be quickly remedied.
Safety Tip 5: Standardize
Ensure that there is consistency across the organization when it comes to reporting methodologies and systems. Does one business unit tally “falls from height” and another “falls from ladders?" There needs to be a common safety language across the organization in order for meaningful analysis to be carried out, and for the lessons that are learned to be shared.
Safety Tip 6: Communicate
Modern technology makes communication around safety far easier than it used to be. Regular webcasts scheduled at different times to suit different audiences can be used to disseminate information such as new procedures, trends that have been noted, and to encourage ideas for improvement. These webcasts can then be stored as easily accessible videos for new employees or those who could not attend.
People respond strongly to visual stimuli. Instead of describing a near miss, re-enact it in a video so that it becomes more immediate to the audience and can be used in inductions and safety focus groups.
Tools like Chatbox can be used for regular Q&A sessions, allowing you to tap into the wisdom of the corporation. Regular safety meetings, and a safety minute at the start of all of them, also go a long way towards spreading good ideas and inculcating a culture of safety.
IsoMetrix recently hosted a seminar entitled “Safety Culture Starts at the Top”. Experts from heavy industry described what has – and hasn’t – worked in their experience of instilling safe working practices and behavior.