How serious are we on safety at work and other areas. We mostly provide a lot of lip service for safety, but ignore actual practice. We may place safety billboards at the main gate, bumper stickers on cars, and posters near the time clock, but never monitor effectiveness of such campaigns by measuring compliance.
Are the employees really serious about safety?
Is it fostering the most cost-effective culture? Are we doing your part?
Organisational responsibility for safety might formally be assigned to a specific department or a group of safety experts, but effective implementation involves everybody and depends heavily on engineering and maintenance. Nothing gets done in a facility that’s not installed and maintained properly. When there’s a safety problem, they need to get to it and do essential rectification.
Maintenance personnel stand more risk of accident and/or injury than other employees in view of the nature
of their job requiring specialised skills and at times work done in remote, difficult to access areas. They also are sometimes forced to work alone due to lack of access space in the work spot.
If safety was free and easy, everyone would be safe. But building and maintaining a safety culture takes time, effort and money. A company might go for a long time without a loss or safety incident and may not realise the risk. The cost of an accident can ruin a small company, and so can the consequential loss of knowledge and expertise. The cost of the injury itself (worker compensation and medical expenses) might be dwarfed by cost of lost production.
An arc flash may or may not kill, but equipment could get damaged and production lines may stop. With multiple accidents, the insurance coverage cost also would increase, in view of higher risk rating by insurance firms. It is cited that, as a result of improved safety, Schneider Electric’s North American Operating Division saw its medical incident rate drop 40% in 2006 at its North American manufacturing facilities. This translated to a savings of approximately $2 million, split between workers’ compensation and indirect costs.
It’s impossible to guarantee that investing in safety will prevent all incidents, but not investing in safety will result in increased probability of incidents occurring, either on or off the job. Avoiding the cost of a single incident that would have injured or killed an employee can pay for a safety training program for a group of employees.
Safety is a Culture
The specific regulations, staffing, equipment and training that is essential to maintain a safe working environment depend on the nature of the operations. The critical element is fostering a mindset that truly gives safety more than lip service. Like maintenance, some see it as proactive versus reactive. Like any initiative, safety must be driven from the top.
As a company’s number-one priority, it must be discussed first at every meeting, tracked with key performance indicators (KPIs), and part of every manager’s performance review.
As a complex combination of knowledge, observation, attitude and action, safety depends on day-to-day interaction of everyone in the plant. Goals, resources and systems depend on leadership and management. Workers who are most at risk have to feel that commitment from the top – that they can raise a safety issue with their supervisor.
Suggestion systems help the management see ways to improve safety. Maintenance and engineering are often
the critical links between recognising a hazardous situation and implementing a solution. Their talents are also critical on the safety committee, and as part of any incident investigation.
Behavior makes the difference
Walking through a facility can give some idea of a company’s safety competence, and employee behavior reveals the rest of the story. Every company has a safety culture, good or bad. Those companies that truly excel have a culture of safety where each person believes in safety, not just complies, and takes personal responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of those around them.
A safety-minded company will conduct a thorough incident investigation and try to analyse the information from
any safety mishap, even a “Near miss” event, reevaluate the process and make the necessary changes or
corrections to ensure that such incidents do not recur. A less-safety-minded company may not take the time
to investigate, just because there was no injury. Just because no one got hurt in this particular incident does
not mean that the outcome will be as favourable the next time about.
How to get safer
The two most often repeated keys: The drive to safety must come from the top, and it must become everyone’s
core value. Du Pont Inc follows a concept of “Felt Leadership” that indicates the visible management commitment and passion for safety. Some of the attributes are listed below:
· Is easily observable
· Clearly demonstrates belief in safety
· Makes a positive impression on employees
· Demonstrates a personal commitment
· Pervades the whole organisation
· Affects all employees positively
· Involves all employees
The principles of Felt Leadership include:
· Be visible to the organisation
· Recognise one’s role as teacher/trainer
· Develop own safety functioning skills and pass them along to the organisation
· Behave and lead as you desire others to do
· Confirm and re-confirm safety as the number-one value
· Place continuous emphasis and clarity around safety expectations
· Show a passion for zero injuries, illnesses and incidents
· Celebrate and recognise “zero” successes
Every employee has critical responsibilities to a safety culture:
Finance: Understand and publicise the business value of good safety performance.
HR: Develop guidelines that embody good safety performance and leadership as performance indicators used in promotion and pay increase considerations each year.
Supervision: Uphold full responsibility for the safety of every individual working in their crew and ensure that each and every employee receives the necessary training to perform their jobs safely.
Technicians and operators: Maintain individual responsibilities to respect safety procedures and make sure their fellow workers also are adhering.
Safety is worth the trouble. It’s not just about the company and the bottom line. When each person goes home to their family alive and intact, it keeps families together. Think about that.