Safety management from A to Z

These are the signs and triggers that help us have the safe behaviours we need to have to make safety more likely. Reminders, emails, reports, telephone calls, group meetings and websites all serve as activators to our safety. Do it today, improve one of the activators you are using to help people remember safety.

Safety is very much about what we do with the tools, equipment, materials and work environment. Through our actions and inactions we create a culture of safety or one that lacks safety. Choice is important. We choose every moment of everyday what we are going to do next. Choose to do something that reduces your exposure to harmful energy. No one else can do it for you.

Putting our safety management systems in control is essential to our success. We need to manage the factors that create safety through systems and measurements to make safety more likely. It’s been said that you can’t control safety, but you can put systems and activities in place to put your safety management activities “in control”.

Deviating from a known standard creates predictable disasters. We know how to create safe behaviours and environments. These things are not mysterious unattainable mythical beasts. They are logical and practical actions we can take. Do things that you think will improve your safety.
We know we’ve been hurt when we’ve been exposed to harmful energy. Energy that exceeds our body’s limits creates injuries and illness. These energies are rarely surprises to us. We can either eliminate those energies or create barriers for them so their effect on us will be minimized.

It’s often been said that “safety is free”. This is not to say that investment isn’t needed. Of course many of the things we need to do will require us to spend some of our valuable resources (time and money). If we’ve been practical about what we do about safety, we will get a return on our investment that is a multiple of our expenditures.

Companies achieving excellence in safety are NOT going broke. There isn’t one successful company that doesn’t know that their management of unintentional losses is a good investment – not one! So this is 100 per cent predictable. If you do the right things to increase safe production, you will get the results you hope for. Logically, what works in safety management is simply WHAT WORKS! Do things to create safety then adjust as your own evidence reveals what is accomplishing the outcomes you want.

Groups of employees creating safe production are powerful. Giving folks you work with the challenge to create safe production will empower them to do what they need to do to work safely. Challenge them to create a safe place to work.

Hazards are those things that we need to seek out and remove or reduce. Hazards have their base in harmful energies that can somehow make their way to hit us. Look for the energies and control them…the hazards will be controlled.

Ideas not used are useless. Engage the people most likely to have the ideas you need to make your place safe: the people doing the work! After all they are really the only ones who can create safety in their work.

Humans only do what they do because of what happens next. These consequences for our actions justify why we do what we do. They are the logical outcomes for what we do. The best safety efforts provide positive justifications for our investment of our time and money into making our places of work safe. Create a culture where the justifications for safety feel good. Positively recognize the creation of safety where you work.

Keep records of what you do. There are many reasons to document the actions that you take to make your workplace safe. Remember, bad things can happen to good people so you may be challenged to demonstrate that you are doing your “safety activities”. Being asked in a court of law how many inspections you did the week of the accident when the accident happened two years ago would be a very difficult question to answer if you don’t have the records. Do it and record that you did it.

A+B=C. It’s a simple concept with far-reaching and impressive implications. If A + B=C then it’s logical that B+A=C and that C-B=A, and so on and so on. The idea that what works in safety management is simply, what works, is powerful. Try something. If it looks like it gets you what you wanted, then try it again. Over time the logic will be overwhelming. The truth will emerge. Your safety efforts need to be logical. If they are not, the people who are needed to make it happen won’t make it happen.

To measure is to motivate. We do what gets us the positive outcomes we want or we do what we need to do to avoid the negative consequences. Measuring safety activities and providing positive results and reactions make it more likely that people will do what it takes to be safe. Try it today. Start measuring safety activities that people do. Providing positive feedback to those people influences behaviours. You’ll be surprised at how well it works.

Simple enough: don’t wait, do it now. In safety management, delay without reason just exposes more folks to the hazards we’ve found. Don’t wait. Do it now. Fix that problem. Communicate that message. Pick up that dropped tool. Replace that broken light bulb. Waiting for someone else to do it will only get someone hurt!

Managing safety efforts is an opportunity to improve the morale, efficiency and effectiveness of your company. The process of designing and carrying out work where safe production is the result will pay back in many ways. Use the opportunity to make it safe. You’ll like the outcomes!

Since we first started to actively manage safety we’ve been making it look different than our business. We have “safety” meetings and “safety” procedures and “safety” audits. If we’re to be practical about safety, we’ll stop making it different and start making it the way we do work. Safety is an outcome no different than efficiency or cost-effectiveness. We need to find ways to do what we do with confidence that the quality of what we do is built into every process, practically creating safety through clever choices of how we do work.

Quit making excuses. Start managing safety as aggressively as you manage your budget; as aggressively as you manage your customer service, with the diligence that you give to keeping within your budgets. Nike has it right…Just do it.

Reward folks for doing it safely, and I’m not talking about safety trinkets. I’m suggesting that sincerity in communicating our appreciation for doing a good job safely isn’t going to make anyone go broke. It is certainly going to increase the chances that the people we thank will want to do it again. Define a good job as doing their work efficiently, effectively, safely, on-time and within budget. After all…isn’t that what we really want?

Statistically significant
Say what you do, do what you say and measure often. This credo of quality management is also true for safety management. Measure and analyze the outcomes as compared with the efforts. You’ll know when you are doing the right thing because the differences will be statistically significant. Things will have changed because of what you did. If they didn’t, then you’ve probably done the wrong thing or done it in the wrong way. Adjust, then measure…you’ll get it right.

Trust your own rules
An interesting thing that humans have going for us is that our inner voices often act as a gauge as to the wisdom of our choices. If your inner voice starts to work overtime trying to tell you that the thing you are doing or about to do is wrong then you are probably trying to break your own rules for your behaviour. If the voice is yelling, “Don’t do this!” Listen.

Universal protection
Many places I visit have opted for universal protection rules. These are rules that apply to everyone in a specific location. In the shop area, you are required to wear a hard hat and safety glasses. If you enter the pump room you need to wear hearing protection. These can be great rules, and often protect us from hazards and dangers.

Universal rules are easy to establish but hard to enforce, especially if they don’t make sense to the people who need to comply. So if you’re going universal with safety rules, make sure that they make sense and actually protect your people against a real hazard. Making people wear protection they don’t need is not only impractical…it’s stupid. Treat your people with respect by making and enforcing good rules.

If you know what to do to make a job safe, keep doing it. Do it all the time. Be meticulous about following your rules and make sure everyone follows those rules. There is no good reason to follow safety rules only when someone is watching. Either the rule is stupid (see above) or you’re being silly for not protecting yourself from a known hazard. Make it make sense, then do it always.
Despite our best efforts, the unintended happens. There are many reasons for these unintended results. There are many theories about incident causation and almost all of them are based on the belief that incidents are caused by actions, inactions, oversights, human error or failure, and failure of physical things. The best incident investigation approach is to simply ask why. Keep asking why until you uncover all the reasons the unintended event happened. Then do what you can to eliminate those reasons so that the situation doesn’t happen again.

Well there are only so many words that start with the letter X so here goes. Just like an X-ray, digging deeper than the surface will uncover what’s going on in the core. When you face a problem, don’t stop at what presents itself on the surface. Start asking why. Keep asking why until you get to a spot where you have little or no influence over the outcome.

Bill slipped on a patch of oil. Why was the oil there? The forklift is leaking. Why is the forklift leaking oil? Maintenance is backed up with work orders. Why? The foreman is on vacation and they set one of the mechanics up as relief and didn’t replace him. Why? The budget was cut this year. Why? The economic situation is such that the workload is down. Why? Well, world economic factors are influencing the customers’ confidence. Why? By now, it’s about time to say, “Just because.” When you get there, stop asking why and start to try to influence those things you can.

You have a responsibility to make your work and play safe for you, your family, your friends and co-workers. You. Take this responsibility personally and do what you need to do to make it happen. No one else is going to do what you need to do.

Zero injuries is what we want, don’t make the mistake of only recognizing perfection. Reward the creation of safety through sincere appreciation. Celebrate if you get to a point where no one is hurt for a long period of time. And thank people often for doing what it takes to make safety happen.

Well, there you have it — the whole alphabet covered. Talk about this at your next safety meeting, have folks think about their own list. Talking about safety can change what we think and do about safety. It’s a worthwhile exercise.

Alan D. Quilley is the author of The Emperor Has No Hard Hat — Achieving Real Safety Results, and president of Safety Results Ltd. in Sherwood Park, Alta. You can contact Alan at [email protected]