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Safety: What’s in Your Personal Safety Culture?

What are the barriers to completing a job without injury?  This is a question I have asked audiences all over the United States and Canada.  The answer that pops up most is Attitude.  When more individuals believe that getting the job completed is more important than finishing with no injury, and a quality job the results are predictable.

In my 20 plus years as a safety consultant I have seen improvements in safety processes, equipment, and attitudes.  With a push to establish ANSI Z10  Standards  in every workplace we are on our way to creating even safer workplaces.  What we need is the engagement of every worker to prevent their own injuries and then commit to recognizing hazards that slip into their workplace and take action to control them.  What I hear from many leaders is the desire to have employees that will engage in safety by:

  1. Not just walking on by a hazards when they see them
  2. Taking action to guard or fix the hazard and not turn in a work order
  3. Making sure that they keep their personal workspace free of hazards
  4. Not leaving hazards behind  or someone else to deal with after completing their work
  5. Work with their direct supervision to improve the workgroups safety culture

One of the biggest issues I have seen is the “Walk-on-by” mentality practiced by all levels and roles in the organization.  Even the best of the best can become complacent in this area.  When I interview employees and safety professionals and ask them, “Why did you walk past this hazard and leave it”, the answer in most cases is, “I thought, this isn’t my job.”  To overcome this behavior each of us has to make a personal commitment to not walking-on-by.  The point is that action must be taken to control the hazard.

When we see a hazard, we must do something to make it safe.  Take that cord , or hose across the  walkway for example .  It may be that it is not being used at the time and needs to be rolled up.  It may be that a more permanent control such as another outlet being added to the other side of the isle, or plumb a faucet across the isle.  Looking around your workplace you can use your imagination to find better ways to create a safe personal work area.

They say that most automobile wrecks happen within 20 miles of our home.  This may be because our circle of operation is about 20 miles much like our workspace that might be a 20’ circle or square.   Before starting your work cycle, look around and conduct your own hazard recognition assessment.  Ask yourself, “What is in my area that could cause injury ?”  Then take responsibility for taking care of the hazard by applying a control.  Then before you leave your work area make sure you are not leaving a hazard for the next person to deal with.

A common comment during my Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop employees will say, “What about the person who left the hazard behind?  What can we do about them?”  The answer is, you can only control your ability to take responsibility.    If you find that you are constantly picking up after, or fixing hazards left by other co-workers, bring it up in your next team meeting .  Make the statement that it is a problem and as a team member you think each of you should commit to picking up after yourselves.  Then create a process to work with co-workers to transfer the work area safely.  If you are a supervisor , crew leader,  team leader, or lead take your safety leadership role seriously.

Safety leadership is not only the responsibility of the safety department and executives.  Injuries occur at the level where the work is actually performed, therefore it should be handled at that level.  In most modern organizations employees are given the authority to stop work, or take care of an unsafe condition.  However, the authority is not easily taken and sometimes is not used properly.  It is easy for upper leadership and supervisors to say, “You are responsible for safety” to an employee or supervisor.  Without proper training in creating a safe workplace, but also in how to communicate and lead an overzealous employee or supervisor can make things worse.  The intent of ANSI Z10 is to recognize areas of improvement that include management commitment, employee engagement, work area assessment, hazard recognition and control, and safety training.

As I have pointed out in my book Safety Attitudes, your attitude towards improving your workplace’s safety culture begins with you.  The most powerful tool in the organization is each individual’s attitude.  With each poor attitude towards safety the organization as a whole suffers.   Even the best safety process cannot be successful when more individuals don’t believe or have a desire to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.

- John Stuart Mill

Improving an organizations safety culture is an ongoing improvement process.  I am encouraging all of my clients to learn more about the ANSI Z10 Standard.  The journey to a safe workplace is never done , but the process is easier when the responsibility is spread throughout the organization.  Organizations that have been successful find that safety has become simply a seamless part of their business and the result has been reduced risk, with increased production and profitability.

If you have not experienced my Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop (which will help in your pursuit to meet ANSI Z10 Standards) and would be interested in scheduling a pilot workshop, please email me at: carl@potterandassociates.com for information.

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