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PETERSEN'S PAGE: Safety's bread 'n butter

July 1, 2006
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Last month (June issue) and in this column, we are studying 20 essential elements of a safety system. You can assess the current status and need for improvement in any of these categories by using audits, interviews, perception surveys, or other tools.

7 — Goals

Some questions to ask: Is a system in place to set safety goals at all levels of your organization? Has training been done in how to set effective goals? Are employees involved in goal setting? Are goals written so they are achievable and measurable? Do individuals have written goals they are expected to accomplish? Is your system for goal-setting routinely monitored? Are people rewarded for meeting or exceeding goals?

8 — Inspections

A good system includes regular inspections of all operations with greater attention to high potential operations. Employees are aware inspections are being made and may be involved in conducting them.

Inspections should include identifying safety hazards, health hazards, management system weaknesses, and the causes of human error.

9 — Hazard correction

These systems include methods used to determine what hazards exist, and the means to prioritize those hazards based on some measure of: frequency of expected loss; seriousness of loss from the hazard; and cost of hazard removal.

Everyone in the organization must be regularly updated on hazard removal progress.

10 — Involvement

Some observable results from getting employees involved are: 1) Personal interest in safety; 2) Reminding others to work safely; 3) Correcting or reporting hazards; 4) Knowledgeable about safety record and goal setting; 5) Active safety involvement teams.

The real question is whether or not management has done things to ensure that any employee who chooses to be involved in some meaningful activities to assist in the safety effort can do so. How many employees choose to be involved is a good reflection of the effectiveness of management’s attempts.

11 — Awareness

Awareness programs (focusing on safety both on the job and off the job) seldom, if ever, affect behavior. But they are considered a part of the “tradition of safety.” Since most companies engage in these activities, any organization should check the level of employee acceptance of these efforts.

12 — Recognition

Only when there is a strong effort to ensure recognition does it occur. Many companies think of safety awards, contests, and trinkets as recognition. At best these might be awards, but they have little to do with recognition. Recognition refers to whether or not workers feel like they are told that they are doing a good job. It refers to on-on-one interpersonal recognition.

13 — Discipline

While discipline rarely changes or improves behavior, a poor discipline system, or a good one poorly administered by a supervisor or a manager, can affect behavior adversely over the long haul.

14 — Safety contacts

Contacts include safety meetings, one-on-one discussions, and other means used by supervisors and management to communicate.

15 — Operating procedures

Some companies call these procedures “rules”; others call them SOPs, SPIs (standard procedure instructions), etc. Procedures can be set by staff, by top management or by employees themselves. However they are set, the procedures can either be meaningful tools or pages in a forgotten manual.

16 — Supervisor training

The first step to supervisory performance is role definition — define the tasks or activities the supervisor should do. This can be done authoritatively or participatively. Once defined, however, the supervisor must know how to do the tasks. And performance must be measured and rewarded.

17 — Support

Is the whole organization seen as working together to create a safe work environment? Safety results obviously require support and behaviors from the entire organization. While this starts at the top, it is necessary throughout.

18 — Employee training

Employee performance in safety depends upon ability and motivation. Training makes employees able to perform safely. Therefore, training is essential.

19 — Management credibility

Is management seen as wanting safe performance, and are managers willing to work for it?

Perception of credibility is built over time, and is based on a number of things: decisions, reward structures, measurements used, money spent or not spent, visibility, etc. Measurable credibility is determined by what management has done in the past, not by what managers have said.

20 — Stress management

Check factors that lead to stress and stress claims, and signs that indicate stress is present.

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