Thursday, 01 December 2005 18:27

Taking Safety to the Next Level

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A look at the common denominator in companies that have successful safety programs.

Nobody wants to get hurt. No supervisor wants to take an employee to the emergency room. No manager wants to tell a family that their loved one was hurt on the job. Then why do accidents happen even when a solid safety program is in place?
First, you need to understand that 100 percent compliance does not equal 100 percent safety. The OSHA standards, along with other safety regulations, cannot account for every situation your workers might face. So, where do you go beyond compliance?
Over the 14 years that I've been a practicing safety professional, this has been the question that I have struggled with. There are lots of options out there and I've probably tried most of them. All of these different processes and programs had elements that were effective, but for one reason or another, they were never as effective as we hoped they would be.

In an effort to determine why some companies or facilities have excellent safety programs and others don't, I looked for a common denominator that linked these leaders. I finally came to the conclusion that those companies and facilities that had successful safety programs did have one thing in common—active participation by all employees, at all levels, on a daily basis, in their safety program. In order to achieve this, and to make it manageable, they had to integrate safety into everything that they did, as opposed to viewing it as a separate function of their jobs.
Let me give you an example. How often have you heard someone say something like, "I don't have time to do safety because of all my other work," or "It's time to put my safety hat on," meaning that dealing with safety issues was separate from regular work. Many times in my work experience, I would come upon a work situation where there was an obvious safety violation. When I would ask a supervisor or foreman to look at the situation, they often would not see the problem. It's not that these people didn't know the regulations or rules. It's not that they didn't care about their employees' safety. It was just that safety wasn't integrated into what they looked at when they looked at a job. This problem exists throughout entire organizations—from senior management to the worker.
What ASPIRE seeks to accomplish is to integrate safety into the everyday work routine of all employees of an organization. If you're in an organization that has ever attempted to integrate a new management process into its work practices, it's a fairly predictable process. The new system may deal with things like quality programs, ISO 9000 certification, cost control programs, or new technology. In the beginning, performing the new work practices feels very awkward. You have to develop new work procedures and checklists to help you through the process of learning the new system. However, using the system is not an option—it's a requirement. Some people will complain about the new system, how it makes the work more difficult, how it doesn't really do what it's supposed to do. In the end, though, people get used to the new process and it eventually gets incorporated into the way things are done. Before long, you don't have to use the written work procedures and checklists to know how to make the process work—it's just part of what you do. This same process can be used to integrate safety into every- day work practices.
Before you can integrate an effective safety process into your work practices, you have to determine where your safety program and safety culture stand. In order to do this, an assessment needs to be performed. There are two major areas that need to be evaluated during this assessment. First, basic safety compliance needs to be evaluated. If compliance issues are not in order, they need to be addressed. The second area that needs to be evaluated is safety culture. Every organization, every facility, and even departments within a facility, have different attitudes and behavioral norms that affect safety performance. An evaluation will help to determine each area's strengths and weaknesses. Safety cultural strengths need to be capitalized and built upon. Areas of weakness need to be improved.
When you look at it in total, the evaluation tool identifies the activities that you will engage your entire workforce in—from senior management to the workers. It will also show you which cultural issues need to be addressed, such as communication, trust, accountability and commitment.
ASPIRE includes several elements that are sometimes lacking in other safety processes. First, it includes measurement so that you can determine which areas need to be addressed and when progress has been made. If you can't measure something, how do you know you've achieved it?
Second, the ASPIRE process coordinates the safety activities of all members of your organization to ensure that they complement and support one another. The failure of many safety processes has been due to conflicting goals and activities of other processes, safetyor otherwise, that are taking place at the same time.
Third, all employees are given specific activities, along with an accountability system, that they are expected to achieve. These activities are meaningful for the employees involved and are selected based upon the results of the safety assessment. Every ASPIRE implementation looks different than every other implementation because everything is tailored to the specific needs of the subject organization.
Lastly, ASPIRE, as a process, is designed to end at some point in the future. The ultimate goal is for safety to be integrated into everyday work activities. The activities will go on, but they will go on without ASPIRE because they will be part of the normal work. ip

Read 5669 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 18:25
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