At the backbone of any successful production operation is worker safety. You know it, I know it, and yet it’s still talked and written about thousands of times every single day. Usually in the name of ongoing improvement, these discussions and articles namely touch on the technical aspects of safety programs: Writing procedures, keeping signage up to date and code, the maintaining and use of personal safety equipment, the elimination of hazards in the work space, the list goes on and on. However, one topic seldom touched on is attitude and mindset with regard to safety – and this extends beyond the employees themselves. In fact, as a manager, it is YOUR responsibility to first don a mindset that allows you to think openly and improve your operation with the best interests of all of those involved in mind. In this blog post, we’re going to go over a few ways to keep your safety operations positive, effective, and constantly improving.
Don’t Be Arrogant
Not everyone has a stellar safety program, but for those that do it can be easy to get complacent and think that nothing really needs changing. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” goes the old adage, but in an environment looking for constant improvement, that kind of thing doesn’t exactly fly. Be proud of your successes, but also don’t write off the fact that you might be able to learn things from other companies, even younger ones. For example, maybe others in the industry developed a new way to integrate employees into the creation of their own safety programs and are having great success with it. Maybe your own program is successful when it’s applied correctly, but you’re having some trouble with compliance. In this case, trying the approach used by other companies may increase compliance by giving workers a voice in their safety training. When it comes to safety, you don’t have the same kind of competition with others in the industry that you do when it comes to client acquisition, efficiency, and profits, so it’s okay to play nice. In fact, it’s usually a mutually beneficial endeavor to do so because you’ll gain another perspective.
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Don’t Change Just To Change
By the same token, don’t shake up your system just for the purpose of changing things. If you’re split testing for improvement, that’s one thing. On the other hand, don’t reinvent the wheel right away. Usually there are some parts of your safety metrics or procedures that stand out as the most in need of improvement, think of these as your safety “bottlenecks.” As you eliminate one bottleneck, something else becomes your lowest common denominator. Tackling things one bottleneck at a time can help you isolate and keep on top of the things that really need the most improving without wasting time on more marginal tweaks.
Start Up Top
By this I mean that just in the same way you are thinking of “safety mindset” instead of physical procedures for the purposes of this article, think in a picture bigger than just your workers on the floor. Are you involved in the process personally? What could you be doing to improve interactions and organization with regards to your roles in the safety program? How about your managers or others in charge of safety? Make sure that the training they receive before passing things along to workers is also continuously improved. Working from the top of the food chain down helps you improve the biggest section of your workforce with each action, because higher tiers can pass information down; training information does not generally travel as well the other way around (upstream, so to speak).