Who’s In Charge of Safety?

By Scott Schweyer

safety cultureFor over 20 years The CLEMMER Group has been making organizations better for people by helping organizations achieve their desired culture. There are many facets to culture change, and one of the harder aspects to having a great safety culture comes down to who is in charge of safety at your organization. The safety representative? The safety committee? The management team? Your supervisor?

There’s no doubt they all contribute to the safety of your work place, and during a safety culture initiative we work with all of those people, but the short answer is that YOU are responsible for safety!

This could be seen as a very simple answer, but we all know that without all employees doing their due diligence when they see or hear about an issue, the safety of the work environment can be compromised.

We recently worked with an organization that used two-way radios for communication on their site. We asked those who drove on site to raise their hand. We then said they had to lower their hand if they answered ‘Yes’ to our next question: had anyone driven their vehicle on site while using their radio in the last six months? Everyone lowered their hand.

Not long ago, we developed and facilitated a leadership workshop for supervisors focused on their role in building the right culture to have the safest work environment possible. We talked about their crew meetings and they said that while they brought up a daily safety topic, it was a struggle to get employees to participate, so they’d simply give the key points and send the crew off to work.

What do these examples have to do with YOU being in charge of safety? Does driving while using a radio matter? The site allowed it so everyone did it — but we believe most people would know using a hand-held radio while driving is obviously a distraction. Does it matter if crew members do not participate in a crew meeting or a safety talk? Maybe not, but we do know when people are passive while going over a safety topic they don’t have the ability to retain information as effectively. And if people do not get involved in the discussion about relevant examples for their work, they will not be as likely to look at their work situations with the same critical eye.

Building a safe work culture happens when everyone is paying attention to the details of what goes on in the work environment, which leads to all employees having the passion and energy to get involved and do something about what they see, hear and experience.

During a safety culture change initiative it seems as though the very last factor to change is for each individual feeling they are truly in charge of safety in their workplace. It can take quite a while for people to believe that no matter who is involved in a potentially dangerous situation, you are comfortable bringing it up and having the conversation with the person yourself. You are not tempted to ignore it, assume someone else will deal with it, or at best, tell a supervisor so they can deal with it. You are willing to and want to talk to the person to address the issue.

Our best bet for knowing whether there is a safe work culture is the type of discussion and feeling (yes, we know that is not scientific or analytical) we get when we attend the crew meetings and by watching the interactions on the floor. Far too often employees won’t bring up issues or concerns at the crew meetings and people ‘complain’ after the meeting you were just in together. Most of the time that interaction never gets to the near miss report — and more importantly, if it is brought up to someone, it is often left to the supervisor to DO something about it. Rather than creating a more open environment where the person who sees something feels comfortable bringing it up to their team member, and talks openly in a crew meeting about the hazards and concerns that exist.

We love going in to team meetings where you can feel the crew members know they make a difference. You see the honest discussions. You hear the commitment to do things differently for the safety of themselves and for each other — and you hear what the company will do to help the situation and how quickly it gets changed.

Far too often we see people who assume everyone knows the risks and then don’t take the time to speak up. With an average of over 900 deaths a year for the last 20 years in Canada, there are a lot of people not speaking up and making a difference.

You make the difference for safe work, safe production. No excuses — just a whole bunch of leading.

When ‘You’ and everyone around you take the opportunity to speak up, then there is a great opportunity to have a truly safe work environment.

We would love to talk with you about how to attain the safest work environment in your organization. Contact us today to find out how we can enhance your organization’s safety culture.

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