Positive approach to safety

I’d like to offer a logical and highly motivating alternative — targeting and celebrating the creation of safety. There is no doubt we’ll always count our failures but, as an alternative focus, let’s count and measure activities designed to create a safe production process. Targeting and celebrating the creation of safety through an activity accountability system will leave managers — who previously managed safety by counting injuries — wondering why they didn’t do this sooner.

A simple accountability process consists of eight definable steps. Here are some details to consider when implementing a process that will ensure accountability.

Select it
It’s important to select the activities your company believes will create a safe work process. These can be behavioural type outcomes, such as requiring all staff and visitors to wear appropriate personal protective equipment while working in or visiting your plant. Other activities can also be those that ensure physical outcomes, such as a policy statement that says the plant floor will be free from defects and damage, and walkways will be clear of tripping and slipping hazards.

Define it
The next step is to define the measurable activities you believe will create the desired outcome. Instructions for welders to clear walkways immediately adjacent to work benches before and after every project is an example of a measurable activity that leads to the desired outcome. Consider conducting daily inspections.

Assign it
Nesting safety-creating activities throughout the hierarchy of the organization is essential to an accountability success. Each level of the organization needs to be accountable to ensure those reporting to them have done their safety creating activities. This ensures each level of manager will support those reporting to them and provide the resources needed to accomplish the activities.

Train it
Clarity on what is expected of the various levels in the organization will help achieve safety success. Far too often this step is missed. Training and coaching is a critical part of any accountability process. People must be both willing (motivated through accountability) and able (trained, competent and skilled) to do what they are responsible to do.

Measure it
It’s important to measure both the quality and quantity of the activities that have been assigned. Doing any activity poorly many times will not accomplish much in creating a safe environment. Inspections done in offices just to make sure the form is filled out will not enhance safety. A quality check must be part of the measures. If your people have been trained and coached to do a great job with their safety activities, they will look forward to being measured.

Evaluate it
In any implementation, it is crucial to test whether the desired results are being achieved. Activities conducted need to be supported by these results. If the activities have been properly selected and executed, expect to see goals accomplished. These results are usually observed through site visits and surveys of key individuals. People who have been measured for their activities will look forward to the results of their hard work.

Reports on levels of activities and their corresponding results are part of this management system. Executives should know clearly what their organization is doing to create safety and what results are being realized.

Celebrate and reward it
There is a time in every process to celebrate success. The process is not complete until those who have created the success can celebrate their accomplishment. These celebrations can be everything from a simple “thank you” to the team to, and including, a formal bonus system. Your culture will define how, what and when to celebrate your success — but don’t miss this step.

Start again
In any continuous improvement process there is a time to evolve and a time to move forward. Sometimes when a problem has been solved, further efforts will simply get no more significant results.

It is then time to move on to the next idea or the next activity that would add to the safety of the people performing the work.
Never forget that to measure is to motivate. There’s a very good chance the dependence on counting injuries and other negative outcomes will disappear — because there won’t be any to count.