Four ways to effective safety management

These four “Es” are necessary to replace the classic and fairly ineffective “three Es” of safety prescribed in the 1930s by Heinrich. Unfortunately for many companies, they just haven’t let go of these outdated and ineffective methods of engineer, educate and enforce.

Although there are aspects of Heinrich’s ideas that still have merit, the sophistication of humans over the past 80 years has made these simple approaches less appealing and much less functional. If you transplanted a worker from the 1930s into your work environment with today’s workers, they wouldn’t be very successful. Why would a management system for the 1930s be expected to work today?

Here are the Four Hows in more detail:

Delivering safety programs to uninspired passive employees is doomed to failure. Safe production of your company’s products and services needs the people who do the work to do the safety work. Practical human management principles tell us that without encouragement, people just won’t do the things needed to help your company be successful. How could they? More importantly, why would they? Would you?

You can’t deliver safety like a pizza in a box. The tasks involved to create safety require the very people who do the work to use the “safe” methods to make it safe. The failure of safety programs can typically be tracked to doing safety to people rather than with them. Engagement gets almost immediate results. It’s a logical and practical way to do work without taking unnecessary risks.

Humans evolve; we evolve in our thinking and our physical being. Over time we change - not always for the better - but change is not a surprise, it is predictable. Safety management is not immune from this natural evolution process. Over time we learn what works well and what doesn’t work so well. We learn from our experiences. Things that bring us positive results are likely to become, over time, the way we do things. As we get better at what we do, we need to learn new things to meet the new challenges we face since solving the previous challenges and problems. It’s natural and expected to have to evolve your efforts over time. Standing still is simply not an option for us even if it sounds somewhat appealing.

Here is where the power of ISMS (integrated safety management system) demonstrates the realities. What works is what works! Your evidence will prove to you that you are doing the right things to make your production “safe production.” You’ll see evidence of safety if you know where to look. You’ll start to see safety in a different way than ever before. This new vision will help you know what you need to do next to make safe production a natural and logical way to do the work that needs to get done for your customers. The results will tell you when you are successful, and they will tell you when you’ve failed.

The tools
Right in the center of all of these whats and hows are the tools needed to make the management of ISMS happen.

Almost all companies have these tools available to them, the Internet is filled with tools you can use, free for the taking, to help make safe production more likely at your company.

Hazard assessments, incident investigation forms, signs, work procedures, safety rules, communication techniques, memos, emails, websites, etc. are all just tools. These things help you get the job of creating safety more likely.

The real power of these tools comes from the encouragement, engagement and evolution of letting your employees and contractors own the safe production of your products and services. The process of creating and tweaking the ISMS tools is where real safety starts to be empowered.

Alan D. Quilley is the author of The Emperor Has No Hard Hat – Achieving REAL Safety Results and president of Safety Results Ltd., a Sherwood Park, Alberta OH&S consulting company. You can reach him at aquilley@