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As a safety administrator it can be very tempting to jump from project to project, implementing a variety of different safety programs in your facility. While each individual project may be an improvement, the facility will not realize its full safety potential without an overarching environment that is focused on keeping everyone safe. In order to be most effective, a safety administrator should take a step back and create a culture of safety. To do this, it is essential to go through not only individual hazards in a facility, but also to look at the attitudes of employees (at all levels) toward safety, and the safety philosophy that is being followed in the facility.
To work on this process, go through each of the following sections and consider how your facility is treating each concept. Then, also think about how you can improve upon the way things are done. Visualize how each component fits together to create an environment of overall safety awareness.
Identifying & Reducing Workplace Hazards
When working on finding and eliminating workplace hazards, it is important for safety administrators to not do all the work themselves. There is no way any individual will be able to find every safety hazard, and create an effective solution to eliminate it. Rather than trying to find and eliminate hazards yourself, it is much more effective to create a safety program which invites everyone in the facility to participate.
The role of the safety administrator in identifying and eliminating hazards is to create the process where others can identify risks, and propose solutions. These solutions will then be evaluated by the safety manager, along with key team members in the impacted area, to see what the best implementation will be. By putting the responsibility of identifying hazards into the hands of the people who are directly affected, you’ll be able to identify far more hazards than you could on your own. In addition, the solutions to these problems will be more effective because they will be coming from people who work directly in the area.
Creating a safety system like this will encourage ongoing improvements that get better over time. This is a much more effective option than trying to identify and implement safety projects on your own. In order to be most effective, however, employees must be trained on how to use the new system. This isn’t difficult, but it is very important. Showing everyone how to submit safety hazards and solutions should be done on a regular basis. In addition, explaining why it is important, both for the facility and for themselves, to take advantage of this system.
Another benefit of creating a workplace culture that fosters continuous safety improvements is that it eliminates the fear of OSHA inspections and other types of audits. Since the facility is operating in a way that allows continuous safety improvements, it will naturally stay several steps ahead of any OSHA requirements or regulations. This not only helps to avoid the risks of fines or penalties, but also allows you to focus on more important tasks. Government regulations are an important safety standard to be aware of, but they should not be a source of fear for a well run facility.
One of the most effective ways to encourage everyone to identify hazards and help come up with potential solutions to safety issues is to implement and enforce proper reporting standards. Everyone in the facility needs to be trained on the importance of reporting all accidents and injuries to the safety administrator. Each of these reports can be used to help identify potential risks, and come up with necessary solutions.
Simply reporting accidents and injuries, however, is not enough. For best results, it is important to take it one step further and require employees to report all ‘near misses.’ It is estimated that for every reported injury, there are between 5 and 10 ‘near-misses’ or non-reported incidents. By collecting data on these events, it is often possible to track trends and hazards that would have otherwise gone unnoticed until someone was seriously hurt.
The reporting of both injuries and near-misses can be a part of the overall safety program mentioned above. In many cases, people will identify risks as a result of a near-miss, and then come up with a solution to improve safety. Reporting all of this at once should be a simple process that everyone can follow.
Setting Clear Safety Rules
In addition to having requirements that all employees report injuries as well as near-misses, it is also important to have clear safety standards throughout the facility. Requiring everyone to wear personal protection equipment in certain areas, for example, is very important. The use of other standard safety equipment and procedures is also absolutely essential.
All the safety rules in a facility should be taught to employees throughout the facility so they know the requirements they need to follow. In addition, new employees need to be trained not only on what the requirements are, but also why they are in place. Showing everyone that safety rules aren’t just a requirement from OSHA or other agencies, but are actually in place for their own good is very important. When employees understand this, they are much more likely to follow the standards.
When everyone knows all the safety rules that are in place, the next step is to ensure they are actually following them. As a safety administrator, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone is following the safety standards at all times. You’ll need to work hand-in-hand with the area supervisors to ensure they are not only enforcing all the safety rules, but that they are following them as well.
Everyone from the lowest paid employee to the CEO needs to be held accountable for every rule, at all times. There should be no exceptions to this practice, or it will quickly become difficult to maintain any type of safety standards in the facility.
Using All Available Methods of Motivation
Some supervisors and safety administrators alike have a hard time enforcing these rules, and motivating employees to follow them. This is likely because of the fact that each employee has a different personality type, and will respond best to different types of encouragement. Some people will follow the rules because they don’t want to be punished for violating them. Others aren’t worried about a punishment, but will follow procedures if they believe they may receive an additional award for compliance. Still others follow rules because they like their supervisor, and want to make him or her look bad.
Every employee, at every level, will have different types of things that motivate them to follow the proper safety standards. Rather than trying to fight against their natural inclinations, work with them. The safety administrator and the supervisors should have all the motivational tools possible at their disposal including:
Punishments – Corrective counseling, suspension, termination and other punitive actions should be used for employees when they refuse to follow the established rules. This will help keep one segment of the population of the facility in line with the safety standards.
Awards – Offering awards to those who have exceptional safety records is often an inexpensive way to improve overall safety. Providing gift cards, paid time off or other perks to anyone who meets their safety goals will help encourage many people in the facility to take safety seriously.
Teamwork – Other people might not care as much about how following safety standards impacts them personally, but they will want to help their team get recognized for excellence. Having team inspired awards (and punishments) is a great way to encourage everyone to take safety more seriously.
By identifying and implementing a wide range of ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ associated with facility safety, it is possible to get virtually everyone to take safety seriously. Working closely with supervisors and other members of the management team to ensure they are all on board with all the positive and negative motivation techniques will help ensure they are a success.
Additional Techniques Used for Learning and Motivation
In addition to the above mentioned strategies for keeping people in line with the safety procedures, it is also important to work to motivate individuals to do their best to improve safety. When working with individual employees, it is important to be able to use the specific learning and motivation languages that will be most effective. The following teaching and motivation techniques should be used when appropriate, based on the personality of individual employees:
One on One Coaching – Many people are able to learn the best when they are given one on one attention. This allows them to ask questions, and get direct answers or clarifications. Providing direct coaching can also improve the moral of many employees.
Working as a Team – People will be more likely to give their best effort when they know their actions will impact others. Creating a team environment for safety is a great motivational technique. It can also encourage peer-training, where employees can ask each other questions, which is how many people learn the best.
Rinse and Repeat – Repeating the importance of workplace safety is very important. It will keep this topic on the minds of employees, and help them to see just how important it is. Offering frequent training, visual reminders and ensuring that safety is discussed at important meetings by their managers will keep employees focused on the importance of safety.
Motivation – As mentioned above, rewards and punishments can be extremely effective at getting the desired results. When used properly, rewards and punishments can not only improve overall safety, but also benefit morale in the facility.
Dedication of Management – One of the most important things to ensure positive results is to show that this is a long term commitment to safety in the facility. Management at all levels has to be committed, and show their employees that they are committed, to the success of creating a facility that is focused on safety.
Training and Implementation of Safety Program
Once the overarching safety program has been created, it is necessary to ensure it is properly implemented. If employees aren’t trained properly, the program will not be adopted well in facility. Training and implementation is one of the most important phases of any safety program, so make sure it is well planned out and primed for success.
Providing training classes to employees is naturally challenging, because most employees will be resistant to any kind of change. With this in mind, a training program must be created that will address the different learning styles of everyone in the facility. Perhaps more importantly, however, is that a proper assessment of those who have gone through training is done. This will help to ensure everyone has gotten the necessary level of training.
When planning out the training and implementation of any new program, especially major safety improvement programs such as this, it is important to go through a number of different steps. This list will help ensure nothing is missed when creating your safety program implementation strategy:
Training Objectives – Knowing the objectives you want to achieve with the training and implementation is necessary before holding any sessions.
Scheduling – It is typically not possible to shut down an entire facility for an entire day to provide training on a new safety program. In order to get everyone trained, the scheduling will have to be set up to ensure everyone gets through the program, without causing a significant interruption of work.
Training Program – Once you have the objectives in place, you need to decide how the training will be implemented. Typically this will be a combination of written programs, safety training DVDs, classroom sessions and individual coursework. There are many options to choose from, using a variety of training options will help everyone learn in the ways they like best.
Training Assessments – Once training has been provided it is necessary to perform assessments to ensure everyone is up to speed on the new program. These can be done at the end of training classes, as well as at random times after implementation to ensure everyone is maintaining the necessary knowledge.
Ongoing Training – Once all existing employees have gone through the training and implementation program, it is tempting to let the program coast. Ongoing training, however, is very important. It will provide review to existing employees, and will also allow new employees to enter the company with a good understanding of safety expectations.
Understanding Obstacles – Finally, knowing what type of resistance you’ll likely get from employees is important. Many people won’t want to participate in the program at first, and knowing the potential obstacles ahead of time will allow you to respond properly, and take action to ensure everyone will work safely.
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Post Implementation Safety Administration
The process of planning out a safety strategy for a facility, training employees, and addressing any problems during the initial weeks and months after implementation can be exhausting. For many safety administrators, however, it can also be a very exciting time. Once this process is completed, however, many people are tempted to sit back and enjoy the fruits of this labor. When done properly, the safety of the facility should continue to improve as time goes by.
If the safety administrator is not proactive, however, the progress will start to slow down, and eventually start to roll back. Keeping the momentum from the initial launch is extremely important for the long term success of any safety program. The endless cycle of process improvement for any good safety program will include these steps:
Evaluating – Looking at how the current safety program is working, and identifying areas where improvement could be made
Improvements – Coming up with ideas on how the program could be improved based on the evaluation results.
Implementation – Implementing changes to attempt to improve the way the program works.
Analysis – Analyzing the results of the changes that were implemented. When the results are an improvement, they are left in place and the cycle starts over. If the analysis phase discovers that the changes were a step backwards, they are rolled back.
Since the safety program empowers and encourages employees and department leadership to find and fix many safety issues, the main roles of the safety administrator will be to assist in these improvements, and ensure the program itself continues to improve. Through a constant process of analysis, change, testing and adjusting, a facility safety program can be perfected over time.