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Safety in the Workplace: Be Rigorous, Not Ruthless
by Carl Potter and Deb Potter

 
   
 
   

You may have read the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. In his book he explains how many companies thought being good is… well, "good enough." In these times of constant change and global competition, it is important to always look for improvement --especially when it comes to safety.

Who wants to settle for "good enough" safety? In most cases, good means the company is willing to settle for an injury. "Good enough" safety means setting safety goals based on lagging indicators. (An example is to reduce lost time injuries by 10%.) Great safety means setting a rigorous goal of zero injuries. According to Collins, you want to be rigorous and not ruthless when growing your company. This same concept should also apply to safety in the workplace.

Is Your Safety Process Rigorous or Just Plain Ruthless?

Ruthless safety could be characterized as a company that tends to punish employees by verbally beating them over the head with the safety manual for getting hurt on the job. Don't read this wrong…every company must have a disciplinary policy to get the attention of employees who don't understand the consequences of unsafe behavior. But to truly change behavior frontline leaders must always clearly identify the behavior required to prevent injuries. After all, the goal is "Nobody Gets Hurt."

Rigorous safety could be characterized as clearly defined behaviors that workers are held accountable for that prevent known hazards from injuring them. If a worker continually proves that he or she has no intention of behaving safely, then disciplinary action must be taken. Rigorous safety means that leadership has the best interest of the employee at heart.

Five Factors for Rigorous Safety Leadership

Leading employees to behave safely on the job is not an easy task. During our 15 years of experience of consulting with top executives on workplace safety, we have had many leaders tell us that if they had known leading employees to behave safely on the job was so hard to do, they might have turned down the position of supervisor, foreman or lead. Yet, there is hope.

Leaders from the frontline can be effective by learning about dealing with these five human factors:

  1. Expectations:

    Unspoken, unrecognized expectations in the workplace can lead to job frustration, substandard safety performance, decreased job safety commitment and even high turnover. Understand that most employees expect to have a workplace free of hazards. Workers have varying expectations when it comes to factors such as autonomy, work/life balance, career opportunities, stability, structure, and teamwork. The key is to learn what expectations the individuals in your organization have and then work with them to meet or, in some cases, adjust those expectations.

  2. Communication:

    Being a superb safety communicator is difficult to accomplish. Think about the people to whom you communicate safety requirements on a daily basis. You will notice some are strong in certain communication skills, but weak in other skills. Learn everything you can about your communications style and how it affects others - what impact do you have? If you don't usually get a positive reaction from those around you, take a course in interpersonal skills.

  3. Innovation:

    Change, whether anticipated or unanticipated, can be difficult. To innovate, grow and improve a safety culture requires individuals who are able to see the big picture. Accept that change is a part of life and learn let go of the past and embrace and apply new techniques, technologies, and tools when appropriate.

  4. Organization: Safety innovation cannot be done without teams of people dedicated to hitting the goal: A Zero-Injury Workplace. Leaders must be able to organize a team and motivate it towards the goal. Imagine everyone leading each other to the goal of a zero-injury workplace.

  5. Appreciation: Great leaders accomplish great things. Great leaders appreciate the people who make things happen. Understanding how one reacts to certain situations as a leader is vital to being a successful leader.

Get Rigorous for a Bright Future

Becoming rigorous about safety is hard work, but it is rewarding. When a company and its leaders commit to improving their effectiveness with rigorous safety programs, employees are more motivated to behave safely so they can home to their families every day without injury. After all, no matter what level you are in the company, the goal is "Nobody Gets Hurt." That's a goal everyone can live with.

Adopt A Safety Code Of Conduct

Whether you are a leader or a follower, see if you recognize any of the attitudes and behaviors described above. Chances are, you do. Maybe safety just isn't a personal thing for you. But, if you are injured, it will become very personal to you and your family. You don't want that to happen! Take a forward-thinking approach to safety and adopt a code of safe conduct. A code of safe conduct is a set of personal parameters that you will always follow; they are the standard by which you operate day in and day out. Here are a few ideas for your consideration:

  1. Safety is my number one priority.

  2. I will look out for others and myself.

  3. I will immediately stop any job or task that I believe is unsafe.

  4. I will seek excellence in my work.

  5. I will always behave as a professional and will learn all I can about my work.

  6. I will recognize and manage risks appropriately.

  7. I will always address any hazards when I become aware of them.

  8. I will adhere to the company's safety rules.

You can certainly adopt this list "as is" for your code of safe conduct; it will be an even more meaningful list if you make it personal by adding a few of your own parameters. Ask yourself what you need to do every day, in every job to keep yourself and others safe. This will ensure that your personal approach to safety is at the highest level so you can go home every day to your family without injury.


     
   
     
   

The Authors

 

Carl Potter, CSP, CMC and Deb Potter, PhD, CMC work with organizations that want to create an environment where nobody gets hurt. As advocates of a zero-injury workplace, they are safety speakers, authors, and consultants to industry. For information about bringing Carl and Deb to your company or your next conference, contact them at Potter and Associates International, Inc. 800-259-6209 or carl@potterandassociates.com . Visit http://www.safetybooks.com/ for additional information and get a copy of their latest book, Zero! Responsible Safety, By Design at http://www.SimplySeamlessSafety.com .

     
   
     
   
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Copyright 2007 by Carl Potter and Deb Potter. All rights reserved.

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