How to Improve the Safety of your Workplace
Knowing where you really stand is the first step to improving the safety of your workplace. All too often, I have seen managers respond to a directive to improve their plant safety by trying to cover up accidents. See my article on How to Improve your Safety Metrics without Improving Plant Safety for examples.
In order to fully understand how to make your plant safer, you need to accurately assess where you currently are in terms of safety compliance. Where are your trouble areas? How well do your policies and procedures reflect current practice? What is the emotional environment of the workplace?
If we fail to accurately assess the current situation, our measurements of improvement will be skewed. Sweeping problems under the rug will not help in finding effective solutions to them.
When beginning a new safety awareness program, we often see a spike in recordable injuries and illnesses. Sometimes this is due to employees learning what to report. Sometimes it is due to improved record keeping. But more often it is due to the safety programs being focused on accidents and injuries. The Law of Attraction teaches us that whatever we focus our attention on, we will get more of. New safety programs often demonstrate this law all too well.
Many managers seem to be afraid to accurately assess their actual workplace safety for fear of having their plant shut down by OSHA. If their plants are really that unsafe, then perhaps the reality of the situation is that the operation would be better off shut down and replaced with a safer one.
Allocating the time and resources to accurately assess a workplace environment requires a high level of commitment. However, you will not be able to effectively improve the work place safety until you accept the reality of the current situation.
Perhaps the reality of your situation is that you already have a very safe plant. Improvements may be hard to make. Compare your self to other operations in similar industries to see how you are actually doing. However, I find the only real and meaningful safety goal is zero accidents and injuries.
If you do find that you are truly the best in your industry as far as safety goes, then please make and effort to share your knowledge with others. Once you can accept where you really are in terms of work place safety, then you will know in what areas to focus your energy for the most effective improvements.
Begin by looking at your OSHA logs. Do they accurately reflect what is going on in the workplace? Or are injuries going unreported? Or do they show only frivolous results while the real problem goes unreported?
What about your safety policies? Do they really tell people how to do their jobs safely? Or do they simply list things they can do to get hurt? Remember that whatever you write down or focus on will expand in the thoughts and minds of the employees. Focusing on teaching them how to do their jobs safely will be much more effective than telling them not to get hurt.
How well do your work instructions reflect current practice? I will never forget a comment I heard during an audit review; “I did not know that was a procedure we were supposed to follow; I thought it was one we wrote just to satisfy [our customer]!”
By allocating the resources to audit your procedures and accepting the results, you will soon know where to focus your energies to create a safer work environment. Too many times I have seen audit reviews treated as punishment rather than a learning exercise. Management often fails to accept the poor results and rather than work to improve, they try to cover up the situation or become defensive.
Accepting bad news may be hard on the ego, but it is a necessary step in improving the process. Only by accurately knowing where you are starting from can you measure your improvement.
If you need help in making a true an accurate assessment of your workplace, you may need to bring in an outside auditor. Just be sure you are committed to accepting the results of the audit. OSHA tends to take a strong stance against employers who fail to correct situations that they have been made aware of.
If you would like me to help you assess your current situation and offer suggestions on how to improve, just contact me by email. Or you can read my other articles to know just what I would be looking for if I visited your facility. I am also available on a very limited basis for phone consultations. Email me for details. Just be prepared to accept the results before you ask for my help.
For more information on applying the principle of acceptance to personal development see these articles:http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/self-discipline-acceptance/