New safety initiatives are launched at companies all the time. Management decides to make safety a top priority, often after an accident or series of accidents. Do these initiatives lead to long-term, permanent changes in the safety performance of workers? Often they do not.
James Roughton, a certified safety and Six Sigma Black Belt, described how making safety a value at your facility can lead to long-term safety performance at the National Environmental Health Association conference in cooperation with the National Environmental Safety and Health Training Association in San Antonio, Texas.
Some safety managers make false assumptions about safety problems and how to bring about long-term improvements in safety at a workplace. They use traditional methods to promote safety and believe that:
- "Stuff" just happens
- Near-misses are just part of the system; no need for special attention
- Conditions cause incidences
- Investigating incidents will improve safety
- Enforcing rules will improve safety
- Putting up some new warning signs will improve things
- Re-writing the safety manual will help things will get better
- Show some gory pictures of accidents and attitudes about safety will improve
None of these things will improve safety performance in the long run by themselves.
Safety is a process, not a program. It must be integrated as a value in the work culture for any improvements to have permanence, not just presented as a new priority or procedure that has to be followed. Many safety managers are in a tough spot: they are often the only bridge between management's culture of what safety is in the workplace and the worker's culture of safety. Management often views safety as a cost of production. Workers often view safety as an additional task that must be performed on top of the work they get paid to do.
Safety should not be viewed or stated simply as a priority. The priorities of a company can change over time, and even on short notice, but values do not. To say that safety is a priority means that it will change based on the needs or urgencies of the moment and will not always be on the top of your priority list. Safety is a mindset and an attitude for everyone; it must be considered a core value that is instilled in all parts of the organization, part of the overall business culture.
INFO: More information about Mr. Roughton is available at his website at www.emeetingplace.com