Three Questions to Improve How You Manage Production Pressure

Three Questions to Improve How You Manage Production Pressure

By Eric Michrowski

At the end of the day, every operation needs to deliver a product or service at a certain cost and quality level in order for the business to succeed. Improvements in productivity have a direct impact on the ultimate success of a business. The flip side is that most incidents tend to happen because of unsafe shortcuts due to the pressure of meeting customer or productivity needs.

So what is the solution? It’s not about choosing between productivity and safety. Instead, it’s about creating a solid balance where people drive results and continuous improvement but don’t feel pressured to deliver them in a way that could compromise their safety. Additionally, that every team member knows and is expected to stop work, pause and reassess or speak up with a safety concern.

The bottom line, which people across all organizational levels need to understand, is that no injury or loss of life is acceptable or worth any production outcome. It is especially important that this be understood and put into practice at the front line, where a small mistake can lead to devastating results.

Too often, production pressure is prioritized over safety.

This is a problem across industries. At one construction site, workers faced an upsurge in injuries and stand downs due to increased pressure from production delays. Management refused to address production pressure as a root cause, instead rationalizing the increasing injury rate by claiming that the site must have been a cursed burial ground.

Another example: At a metal firm, supervisors fixated on getting things out the door because they kept getting “fines” for delays. No one was focused on coaching employees or on driving safety. As a result, 1 in 4 employees were hospitalized at some point. Prioritizing production over safety leads to unacceptable, distressing results.

An example worth following:

The airline industry is probably the best at maintaining the delicate balance between productivity and safety. In this industry, crews know very well that safety cannot be compromised, since a misstep can have devastating ramifications. Consequently, despite significant pressure to deliver on-time performance, the captain has full authority to delay any flight deemed possibly unsafe. Workers are encouraged to raise concerns no matter their place in the hierarchy, and are provided with tools such as the MEL (minimum equipment list) to make informed safety decisions.

It is essential for leaders to make it clear that safety is the #1 value, and that conversations take place to make sure that this is being reflected in actions.

Effective Questions

Here are some effective questions to extend to your leaders and team members to evaluate how you are prioritizing safety:

1. What approach worked best this week to reinforce safety over productivity with your teams?
2. What specific steps did you (or leaders) take to reduce people’s perceptions of stress and improve wellbeing?
3. When did someone stop work in your team? What happened? How did you recognize and share that decision?

Read more insights on Production Pressure:

Check out more blog posts in this series for more ‘Effective Questions’ to help develop your organization’s safety culture.

At Propulo, we offer valuable safety culture insights that help organizations improve their operations performance without compromising on safety culture.


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