Stupid ways to improve Workplace Safety.
I noticed that the most common search term associated with workplace safety is “free safety slogans.” Is this how most people are trying to improve work place safety? Probably.
When I worked in industry as a safety director, I was often told I needed to reduce injury rates and then not given any budget to work with. I was still able to reduce our TCIR from 24 to 3 over a three year period.
I still get irritated when I see companies trying to improve workplace safety by reacting to accidents and injuries. It really annoys me when I see employees blamed for getting hurt. Yes employees do stupid things sometimes, but they often have very good reasons for doing them.
When I first took over as Safety Director, I got a lot of experience in taking people to the hospital. We had about two injuries a month that required medical attention. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in the waiting rooms with injured employees.
I found that they were always angry about something. They were either angry at a spouse, a friend, a relative or the company. But the injured employee was always angry about something. They never meant or expected to get hurt; they were always just trying to do their job the best they knew how. And they were then angry or guilty that they got hurt. And they knew that they would get more guilt added by their supervisor when they got back to work.
In her book You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay says that 95% of the time injuries are the result of anger or guilt. When an injury occurs it is the sub conscience’s way of getting attention to a feeling that is really not of benefit to the body.
To truly improve workplace safety, we don’t need to be looking for a new free safety slogan; we need to be looking at the root cause of accidents and injuries. We need to look at the state of repair of our equipment, the policies and procedures that are in place and the emotional state of our workers.
Many injuries are caused by employees being aggravated that the machines are not working properly. This aggravation may come from a design flow or simply wear in the machine. Often there is a disconnect between maintenance and production on what constitutes a well running machine. The maintenance worker may assume the machine is fine if it performs most of its basic functions. However, if the machine is not operating at its full potential, then the production worker may become aggravated at not being able to make its production goals.
Policies and procedures are critical in reducing work place injuries. As one free safety slogan says; “It is not enough to know safety, you must practice it.” If your policies are not being followed, then they are not worth the paper they are printed on. Policies and procedures are too often used to punish people rather than to promote correct employee behavior.
Work instructions and procedures must be written to instruct employees in the safest and most effective way to produce the highest quality product. If any of these elements are missing the procedure is ineffective. If employees are not following the procedures, they you must find out why and correct the issue or the procedure. See my article on why written procedures are important for more information on this subject.
The most important single factor in reducing accidents and improving workplace safety is creating a positive emotional environment for employees to work. Happy workers will produce more products at higher quality levels and they will not get hurt as often.
There are many factors that influence the emotional well being of employees. Having to deal with stupid free safety slogans is probably one of them. Every time they look at a sign with a safety slogan and them look back at the job they are asked to do they either see that you care about their safety or you care about looking good on a spread sheet.
So instead of looking for new safety slogans, let’s start looking at how we can reduce the aggravation level of our employees. How can we make their work environment more conductive to making good product? How can we better educate them in the right ways to do a job? How can we better reward them for good behavior instead of providing hidden rewards for taking short cuts?
When we start to focus our workplace safety energy and resource to creating a better work place environment, we will be able to stop focusing on accident prevention and injury response. Lets all work together to find ways to improve the emotional environment of the workplace and stop looking for stupid free safety slogans.
Have a safe and productive day! How’s that for a free safety slogan?
link: Occupational Health & Safety
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