Improve Your Safety Systems
By Josh Williams, Ph.D.
One of the most important aspects of safety leadership is optimizing safety systems to prevent risky actions and incidents. Employees are more likely to be injured when leaders fail to address system gaps like inadequate personnel, unreasonable production pressure, excessive overtime, faulty equipment, insufficient safety training, unclear safety policies, non-existent safety meetings, poor safety communication, and blame-oriented discipline procedures.
Leaders improve safety culture by optimizing these key safety management systems:
· Close Call Reporting: Near-miss reporting should be encouraged from a learning culture perspective. Close calls help people learn from each other to prevent serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs). These should be easy to report and reporting should be reinforced by leaders. Near-misses should be shared enterprise-wide.
· Incident Analyses: Incident analyses should be system focused and not blame-oriented. Leaders need to differentiate between incidents with and without SIF potential. For instance, spraining your ankle stepping out of a truck is very different doing so falling from a telephone pole. Lessons learned from incident analyses should be shared with employees and system improvements should follow when appropriate. For isolated incidents, leaders should deal directly with the impacted employee and resist the temptation to create new rules or mandate retraining when it’s not really warranted.
· Rules and Policies: Employees should have input in determining safety rules for many job tasks. Leaders should avoid “blanket policies” when they’re not applicable. The rationale behind rule changes should also be shared with all employees.
· Safety Training: Safety training should be interactive and interesting. Employees should leave training feeling like they’ve been actively involved and learned something important. This may include in-field coaching. This includes job-specific, hands-on training along with soft skills like effective coaching, communication etc.
· Hazard Recognition/Correction: Employee teams should assist with hazard recognition and correction. Identified hazards need to be quickly and effectively addressed. Daily tailgates should be interactive (and sometimes employee led) and JSAs should be used when needed. Advertising improvements based on identified hazards improves safety culture and morale because employees sense company leaders care about their safety.
· Employee Participation: Employees should be actively involved in the safety systems above. Exhortations to get involved are far less effective than having employee representatives actively involved in systems like observations, rule changes, and safety suggestions.
Improving safety systems influences employees’ attitudes and behaviors and decreases the likelihood of at-risk behaviors. Take steps today to shore up your systems and minimize any contributing factors to human error. This will help improve safety culture and prevent serious injuries and fatalities.
At Propulo, we help leaders optimize safety systems to prevent serious injuries and fatalities.