Leading Safety – Revisited

I have been writing these notes in this type format for over three years now. I have posted them to the website noted below for future use and reference. I recently looked back at the data regarding how often these different messages have been accessed/read over this time period (I would assume primarily by non IP folks based on the data). The topic most accessed/read was one entitle Leading Safety that was posted several years ago. It was by far the most read post among all the others that I have put on that site; not even close.

That fact tells us a lot. People are interested in how to improve their leadership in the area of safety. From my experience over the years, it is clearly the most difficult aspect of a manufacturing business to manage. If one can successfully manage and lead safety, they can no doubt handle the other stuff!

With those facts in mind, I thought I would share some additional thoughts about leading safety in this month’s message.

Planning for Success:
It start with the ENVIRONMENT. Have we established a safe work environment with the proper guarding, 5S housekeeping plan, an effective traffic flow plan in the facility, and equipment that is maintained to provide us the opportunity to work in a safe environment?
Next, is the PROCESS. Have we developed a simple/easy to understand way to get work done, a 5S easy access to do the right thing, and a consistent safety priority working with our other focus areas such as quality and production goals?
Finally, is an effective TRAINING plan. Are we effectively transferring needed information to new and existing employees, validating understanding of this training, explaining why we do things and not just what to do, and ensuring that everyone recognizes hazards in the work place?

Executing/Doing for Success:
This area starts with leaders INFLUENCING regularly. Are leaders setting the expectation for safety compliance, prioritizing safety in all aspects of the operation, and driving safety focus throughout their interactions with employees?
Employee FOCUS on safety compliance must be maintained. Safe Work Observations are the best way I have ever seen to accomplish this task. Are our people (supervisors and employees) making daily safety observations with meaningful contact with an employee/coworker?
Employees ASSESSING a task before they start work is critical. Whether it’s a pre-task assessment form or some other approach, are our people asking “what could injure me” and “how can I do this safely” before they take action?

Monitoring/Checking for Success:
A sustained approach for EVALUATING compliance is critical. SWO results/feedback and audits can be valuable tools in evaluating the effectiveness of our planning and executing phases noted above. (SWO’s have multiple benefits)
ENGAGING employees in discussions to get new ideas to drive continual improvement is also key in this area. Are we routinely asking our employees what they think regarding safety, why there are instances of non-compliance, and how we could improve safety performance?

Making Adjustments for Success:
PRIORTIZING people and being willing to make adjustments based on information gathered is essential. Are we willing to make adjustments to the work environment, the process, or train differently if we discover we have gaps or could be better?
Managers and supervisors have to be committed to providing LEADERSHIP too. If we discover we have areas of noncompliance or lack of involvement, are we taking the time to really influence our folks, built trust, and get buy in?

That’s about as simple as I can lay it out. It is not overly complicated, but it can sure seem that way if we don’t break it down into some manageable way of looking at it (how it works together). It is a system that builds upon itself, not just a bunch of random stuff to do. If we aren’t careful, we just keeping adding more random good stuff, and we just get busier and busier; whether the results get better or not is always the question.

So think about managing and leading safety as a closed loop system (see above). See how it all should work together. Take a look at what you are doing today in light of the above flow and challenge yourself on those key capitalized words above.

Hey, it will be the toughest thing you ever manage on an ongoing basis. Don’t ever get comfortable. Don’t ever think you have arrived. It’s a daily focus that will never stop. Drive success through the system. It may be the hardest thing you do, but it will be one of the most rewarding also.

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