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Does Your Organization Have Room for Improvement in Safety?

Find out by engaging with diversity, evolution, and innovation

I am forever learning and changing. W. Edwards Deming


Dr. Edwards Deming was the father of continuous process improvement and he would be proud of how safety has embraced many of his philosophies.  In the 1980s I was asked to be a quality advisor in my company which required some training.  During the training I began to wonder why we had not come up with these ideas on our own. Since then I have realized that it was because we didn’t know we had a problem.

Creating a workplace where it is difficult to get hurt requires continuous process improvement.  It also requires that you ask the people closest to the issue to be involved in the improvement and not depend on management and safety people. This is a form of diversity that works because everyone has a viewpoint of the issues.  Many times, I conduct facilitated safety discussions with groups of employees and learn as much from them as I could ever hope to learn.

Typically, in the beginning of the discussions I find that employees are not very forthcoming with information but after a bit of encouragement they open up and really provide some great ideas.  Some of the ideas are good and some are not so good, but part of the process is to let their ideas evolve into an action that they will do.

The evolution of ideas means that we are taking some basic concepts and stretching them into some “what if scenarios” that can change our viewpoint.  I have had leaders observe this process and they are amazed at the engagement that takes place.  Sometimes a session can bring out an issue that may not be directly related to safety but in the grand scheme of things will lead to improvement that ultimately makes a safer workplace.

In one such session a few years back, a worker shared with me that a part they were using in the field was failing on a regular basis.  During the meeting I asked if he would stay behind after the session and tell me more and he said, “I guess it couldn’t hurt but nobody has listened to me yet.”  Suffice it to say that after the meeting he brought a box of parts to me and had done a great job of measuring the failure rate.  When he took the problem to his management, they didn’t take him seriously.  I was able to help him put the information together in a format that management would accept.  Once he presented it the management team, they listened, acted, and stopped using the part. The part was causing many workers to be re-exposed to hazards to make repairs.  In the long run this evolved into a change in how the company purchased new parts. Engineers in the company began to see the value in having the employees responsible for the work to test and give feedback before changing parts, tools, and procedures.  This company was soon innovating their own as well as industry standards.  No big surprise that morale improved and so did the injury rate.

The bottom line is that by gathering a diverse group of people together and creating a safe environment for them to bring issues, a free flow of information results.  

Remember, a major component of process improvement is to be willing to gather information from players throughout the process in question.  Not all information is good and usable and sometimes it may just seem like complaints, but there is value in venting too.  Collecting this information through a facilitated process can lead to many improvements from a diverse group who are allowed to evolve into problem solvers. In turn, those who are bought into improvement innovate by finding new ways to do the same old jobs safer, more efficiently, and with increased productivity.  Finally, the result is a workplace where everyone takes responsibility for safety and everyone can go home every day without injury.

Be Safe!

Carl Potter, CSP, CMC

Carl Potter is an independent safety professional who observers, evaluates, and speaks. He has the unique ability to connect at all levels of organizations to help his clients move forward to improve their safety culture. Carl is available to help you assess “where you are” and what the barriers are to “where you want to be” with your safety culture. When he presents his findings and recommendations all levels of the organization will be challenged to take safety to the next level. Many organizations trust his insights to attain, maintain, and sustain their workplace safety goals. Email Carl today and schedule a call with him to see if his services are right for your organization: carl@safetyinstitute.com

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