Our most recent column (October 2017, pp. 16-17) covered part one (of three) in developing an actionable safety plan. First we described some key First Actions in implementation. Formatting your plan into First, Core and Sustaining Actions enables effective implementation.  Below we describe the three action areas. The rest of this column focuses on Core Actions. Part three will detail Sustaining Actions.

  1. First Actions include essential actions and activities needed to jumpstart the change process -- staff and timing, and need to execute in a precise order.
  2. Core Actions cover the primary components necessary to provide the functioning capability to lead and to manage the changes.
  3. Sustaining Actions enable the changes in your safety effort to become “the way people work.”

 An organization will achieve the level of safety performance its leadership demonstrates it expects. The operative word is “demonstrates.” Leadership is watched closely to assess and to model their actions and behaviors.

Consequently, any successful safety plan must be designed to demonstrate leadership’s commitment as well as its expectations.

Core Actions cover the primary components necessary to provide the functioning capability to lead and to manage the changes.  The numbering of those here continues from the previous column, and is not meant to be a prescriptive sequence.

Action 4: Refine and broadly communicate organizational level safety goal(s)

Safety goals are documented as “stand alone.” Establishing goals and aligned metrics are a critical first step to create a sound foundation for a change management process. This is particularly true for safety. Goals need to reflect leadership’s expectations about future performance and corporate values. Without the right future goals, corporate values that form the cultural underpinning of the business cannot be made actionable. 

Action 5: Refine, review and publish a set of safety metrics

Everyone pays attention to what management measures. “Keeping score” is important to measure the effectiveness of your actions towards goals. Establish a set of metrics that provide lagging, current and leading perspectives. To maximize effectiveness these metrics should be:

  • Simple, with close connectivity to desired outcomes
  • Objectively and reliably measured  
  • Broadly applicable across all operations
  • Easily communicated

Action 6: Refine and broadly communicate corporate leadership commitment  

A sharp, concise, widely-publicized policy statement communicates leadership’s commitments and promotes understanding and alignment among all employees and contractors. Be willing to take feedback or use groups to gain input in advance of release.

Action 7: Conduct a series of “Felt Leadership” workshops

Leadership’s safety-related personal actions and behaviors must be highly visible to ensure those commitments are “felt” in the organization. Leadership needs to continuously emphasize that safety should be consciously built into daily routines --”becoming the way we work!”  

Action 8: Assess training

If there is anyone in an organization who doesn’t act or behave in safe ways, essentially no one exposed to their work is safe. To ensure everyone is capable of keeping themselves safe as well as helping co-workers stay safe, there should be coordinated, formal training and communications programs.

Training should be tailored to the specific needs of the work groups. It needs to be delivered in a format consistent with the learning approach best suited to the group’s culture. Training can be accomplished in “micro-lessons” and needs to be integrated into everyday work.

Action 9: Design and implement a communications process for sharing lessons learned; include results of near-miss investigations

Delivering or exchanging information regarding safety policy, rules, concerns, hazards, controls, best practices, incidents and injuries in a clear, concise manner helps prevent incidents and injuries. The forums and formats should be formalized and standardized. Work in this area is well-suited to the use of the Process Improvement Team (PIT).

Corporate attorneys need to be active partners in this communications process. Unfortunately, many firms do not share details of incidents or lessons learned due to fears around maintaining “legal privilege.” The executive team must decide what is more important – allowing the organization to learn so as to not repeat and to reduce system errors, or making it easier for their attorneys to establish their defense. Which is more expensive in the long term?

Action 10: Design and implement a Contractor Safety Management Process

There must be a consistent contractor safety process across all businesses to ensure all contactors have the commitment and capability to work safely. The process must be flexible to match specific contractor needs. Core process elements should include: contractor selection, contract preparation, contract award, orientation and training, contractor management, and post-contract evaluation.

Action 11: Implement an observation and audit protocol

Direct observations discover and develop solutions to eliminate workplace hazards. Unsafe actions and behaviors are identified as part of site tours, everyday work and safety related audits. In addition they: reinforce positive safety behavior; raise safety awareness; test compliance with standards; and identify weaknesses in safety systems

Observations and audits that catch people doing “right” actions and behaviors support positive conversations and recognition.

Action 12: Implement an incident/injury investigation process

Not doing what is needed to prevent a recurrence of a safety incident or injury, including near-misses, is a leadership failure. To ensure no recurrence, all underlying causes should be determined and a robust solution developed and implemented through a formal investigation process. Benefits include: identify conditions that could cause other incidents; recognize weaknesses in safety systems; communicate lessons learned; and increase employees’ confidence and knowledge

During the investigation and subsequent report writing, management must support the process without undo interference. The focus is on systemic improvements; NOT placing blame on any individuals.  

It is expected that management actions and behaviors are part of the underlying causes of every incident. Too many times we have seen workers blamed for failures in what was a very poorly designed, understood or communicated safety or work system.

Consider the “Core Actions” in this column as a guide to formally initiate a culture change process. Stay tuned for the next part of the series on “Sustainable Actions” to lock your gains into place.