Providing for the safety of the public and employees is the most important mission of any company, ahead of profitability, philanthropy, or anything else positive that it does. To that end, there are government agencies at every level that establish safety standards and laws. In addition, the companies themselves promulgate regulations to protect their workers. It is rare that an incident takes place when all of these things are being followed.
That is why compliance, not regulation, is the challenge. We know what should be done, but we might not be 100% vigilant in doing it. We all know that it only takes a single mistake to create an expensive, messy, and potentially deadly event, so there can’t be any deviation from safety procedures.
When there is, the breakdown can come in several ways, so it is important for everyone in the organization to buy into compliance. It is only in this way that we can maintain the appropriate level of attention to safety.
Safety equipment is not all created equal. When someone’s life depends on it, the equipment should be verified. Remember that most such gear, from goggles to boots, has a pertinent OSHA standard, ANSI metric, or similar regulation, but counterfeits do exist. Equipment should be bought from reputable manufacturers to ensure that it is truly in compliance.
Other equipment is the same. It does no good to label things if the labels can’t be read, so you need to have a durable labeling system for every compressed gas cylinder, pipeline, electrical box, and every other hazard source in the facility.
While management and employees all value worker safety, it is an easy target for complacency. The great thing about accidents is that they are rare. The bad thing is that they are so rare that we can become lackadaisical now and again. It takes steady attention to safety to make sure that on a day-by-day basis, everyone is following safety procedures.
Sometimes this begins with education. Personnel may understand fully what a procedure is and how it is supposed to be executed, but if they don’t understand the reasoning for it they may begin to think it’s just there because somebody had to justify their existence at the company.
Be sure that training is done in an explanatory way, giving the appropriate context for the regulations by sharing some history on what precipitated the creation of certain procedures. With that understanding, workers will better internalize the purpose of procedures and will be more invested in following them.
Have you checked on your office chimney today? Is there enough hay for the horses? Those are ridiculous questions in most workplaces today, but they are no more out of date than the safety procedures in some places.
When personnel are distracted and burdened with needless procedures, their time and attention are lost. They don’t have time to do more valuable things, and their focus fades because of their frustration with the unnecessary steps.
Of course, government regulations must be followed until they are updated, even if they are decades out of date. But internal procedures can be more easily updated, so it is important that supervisors have an open-door policy that permits workers to discuss obsolete safety regulations and to effect change. Not only will this improve safety, it will also improve morale and build employee loyalty.
Safety is everyone’s job. We are all equally burdened with the responsibility to look out for ourselves, our co-workers, the public, and the environment. With so many people, places, materials, tools, equipment, vehicles, and everything else involved, safety is a massive obligation. Keeping ourselves up to date on what should be done and making sure that we are all doing it is a great deal of work but can be managed with an effective strategy