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How to Avoid the Safety Surge (safety picture at bottom)

Several elements create a safe work environment.  First we make a workplace were it is difficult for any personnel to be injured.  Secondly, we make sure everyone knows what precautions to take (controls) to prevent injury.  Third, we observe and correct worksite conditions and behaviors to ensure no injuries occur.  Doesn’t that sound simple?

In more than 20 years of working to prevent injuries I have learned that it is simple but not that easy.  It takes constant vigilance to ensure these elements are in place, but like life in general it gets away from us quicker than we notice.  Creating a worksite where nobody gets hurt is the goal, and the key is diligence to that goal.  Hazards that cause injuries must continually be looked for, corrected and monitored to reach the goal.

Recently while conducting a walk-through for a client, the safety specialist said, “We just did a walk-through last year about this time, so I don’t expect to find much wrong.”  I asked, “So you think that your workplace doesn’t change much in 12 months?”  He responded with, “Not much.”

As we walked through the plant and my camera got busier and busier taking pictures his frustration mounted.  “I can’t believe it has gotten this bad!”  I’ll allow you to finish the story…

As I work across the country with manufactures, power plants, chemical plants and refineries the issue of maintaining a hazard-free workplace is consistent.  Someone gets hurt, OSHA shows up for an inspection, or it is time for the 12-month site inspection that is now at 17 months and everyone gets excited.  I like to call this condition a “Safety Surge.”

The Safety Surge occurs because we tend to focus on the day-to-day goal of keeping production going and letting safety go until it has to be done.  When interviewing employees I find that they are good at production, but they don’t really understand how to make the job safe.  No surprise here as I look at the training they receive.  Employees will also point out that their supervisor talks up safety, but is inconsistent when it comes to getting the work done and putting safety in second place.

Supervisors are a key factor to preventing Safety Surges.  Good supervisors understand the importance of consistently maintaining a workplace free of hazards.  They are also able to recognize unsafe behaviors and not just slothful production.  One reason for this consistent problem across every industry in the United States is companies that place supervisors in positions without any training, coaching and mentoring.

To prevent the Safety Surge, train your employees (from the CEO to the entry level) in hazard recognition and control so that they know how to prevent injuries.  Next, train your supervisors in the skills necessary to deal with people who are assigned to them.  This is not all it takes to create a safe workplace, but without these two areas covered you are guaranteed to have Safety Surges when someone gets hurt.

If you are interested in preventing Safety Surges in your workplace, send me an email so we can set up conference call to discuss, “How to.”


Pass on the following picture sent to me from a missionary friend in Lesotho

This job may quickly become a, “What was I thinking moment!”


One Response to How to Avoid the Safety Surge (safety picture at bottom)

  • Debra Carroll says:

    What a great example of people not thinking of the big picture. These people are oblivious to the life that is going on around them or what could potentially happen to them. I am going to use this picture in my safety meeting this week. Thanks!

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