By: Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSP, CUSA
Has your organization implemented a new safety procedure that was well developed by the safety department but fails miserably in the actual application? If you answered yes, don’t feel alone because a large percentage of your peers will answer the same way.
Why do you think these well thought out safety programs and procedures, when implemented, are failing? I would suggest that failure can be linked to organizations that hold the safety department solely responsible and accountable for employees’ safety. Early in my working career, a top officer in my utility would ask me regularly “are you keeping people safe today?”. Reflecting back on his statement frankly infuriates me, but at the time, I really thought it was my responsibly in the safety department to keep people safe.
The safety department cannot own the safety program; rather it is the facilitator of the safety process that is owned by all employees. The top officer along with every level of management should know whether people are being safe, what is being done daily throughout the organization and what they personally need to be doing to ensure safety excellence. No ownership will equal no success! Without this understanding, safety will always be a program and the example given earlier will continue to occur.
Having management lead the process and take total ownership is a requirement for safety success. Without total ownership for all affected employees, the change may never occur uniformly throughout the organization. Management must be able to successfully gain buy-in from employees for the change to occur and safety excellence to prevail. Management and employees are responsible for owning the new procedure.
Do you think the new safety procedure would have a different outcome if all employees owned the actions and results, as described? When everyone throughout the organization is actively pursuing the same safety goals and working together in a synchronized manner to achieve the goals, safety success will occur.
Leaders and Management must be empowered to understand their safety role in the organization and to take total ownership for the safety of their team. All leaders must be actively involved and participate in safety decisions daily as they do with all other decisions made in their job. All leaders must support each other and understand each others’ roles. A frontline crew leader cannot be successful if he has no upper level support or he has not received effective training and coaching to support safety.
It’s not just the safety department’s responsibility. It’s not just management’s responsibility. It’s not just the frontline leaders’ responsibility. It’s not just the employees’ responsibility. Safety is everyone’s responsibility!