Security Management Series: Top Ten Mistakes We Can Make When Managing SSO
The challenge of managing the many aspects of occupational health and safety (OHS) in our workplaces can sometimes be daunting. There are many legal, moral and financial reasons for us to pay attention to our SSO obligations. With all of these challenges, we need to make sure we don’t waste our time, money, and efforts doing things that just don’t work. Here is a list of the ten most common mistakes we can make in managing occupational health and safety problems that we can all hopefully avoid. It’s okay if you start humming the theme song to one of those popular late night talk shows while reading this list.
(1) Celebrate the absence of injury and not the existence of safety.
It is a big mistake to focus on the lack of injuries as a measure of how safe we have been. Every person I have met can tell me about a situation where they have taken a terrible risk with their well-being and gotten away with it. Of course, we should be happy when we’ve gone a period of time without anyone getting hurt, but that doesn’t mean we’re “safe.” Safety cannot be defined as the absence of injury. Safety is created by what we do, not by what we avoid.
Too many companies reward the “lucky ones” who were not injured for being unsafe and the “liars” who do not report injuries to avoid being the employee who breaks the safety record. We need to focus more on making our workplaces safe by performing the safety activities necessary to create safety. Safety celebrations should be shared with those who have helped make our workplaces safe and not with those who have just been lucky.
(2) Provide security to our employees and not to them.
Rules imposed by others often do not gain the acceptance necessary to actually change behavior. Involving employees in the process of establishing the safe behaviors and rules that apply to their workplaces makes those rules of behavior much more likely to be followed. Challenging employee groups to establish and review performance standards engages them in the essentials of safety.
(3) Make security for the government.
Companies that are in the early stages of developing their safety cultures often make the mistake of being “reluctant compliant.” They are doing security because the government is forcing them to do so. The value of managing security is truly beneficial to a company’s productivity and performance. The sooner a company begins to work in security for the added value of its performance, the sooner it will begin to perform! Safety is about getting everyone home every night. Of course, the way we do it must be in compliance with applicable laws related to occupational health and safety. Don’t make security for the government, make your job safe and legalize it … your business will prosper financially because of it.
(4) Ignore the importance of proper tools, equipment, materials, and workspace.
The historical myth that unsafe behavior causes 88% of the incidents we experience is simply NOT true. Unsafe behaviors are involved in EVERY incident we experience. The other part of the formula that is often ignored when believing this myth is that unsafe conditions are always present as well. We need to focus our efforts on both safe behaviors and safe conditions (tools, equipment, materials, and work environment). If we only provide broken tools to humans, it shouldn’t surprise us when they get hurt. If we don’t provide an easily accessible lifting machine for employees to use, it should come as no surprise that they are injured from overloading. Good tools and equipment increase the chances of workers getting their jobs done by not taking unnecessary risks.
(5) Ignore the culture of unsafe behavior.
Not making safe behavior personal and not holding each other accountable for making it safe at work is a big mistake. Allowing our co-workers to continue unsafe behaviors is often disastrous. We are guardians of our brothers and sisters. Just like when we play team sports games, we must take the opportunity to train our co-workers who are losing the safe behaviors they need to go home safely every night.
(6) Miscalculate the power of groups that actively care for each other.
Inviting coworkers for input and advice when they see us doing something unsafe is a wonderful way to increase the team’s focus on safety. Unless invited, our co-workers may feel reluctant to bring our mistakes to our attention for fear of a bad reaction. We are in this together, so why not open up the discussion and invite each other to help us overcome the challenges of behaving safely?
(7) Deliver safety programs to passive employees.
I’m not sure what happened historically to make us believe that we could provide employee security like pizza. The sooner we hold everyone accountable for safe production and not just added safety production, the better off we all are. Challenging employees to find ways to make their work safe is well documented as a sure way to increase their safety performance.
(8) Measure the results and not the activities that create safety.
Companies that define security activities for all of their staff in their organizations (including the CEO) are more secure than those that do not. Demanding that the measure of doing great work includes performing safety tasks such as: investigations, hazard assessments, inspections, and attending meetings, you get what needs to be done, actually DONE. Failure to do this ensures that security activities will take a backseat to production at all times.
(9) We manage OHS differently from how we manage the other parts of our business.
Why would a profitable and successful company with a clear track record of managing success implement a “safety program” that does not EXACTLY replicate why they are successful in the first place? Manage security exactly how you run your business, and you’ll get similar results. Too many companies manage security differently than their business, at the risk of their security results.
If you know how motivated your employees and management team are to bring you production, why would you settle for doing something different for safety results?
Too often, companies take a very positive and proactive approach to motivating productivity activities, but they do the exact opposite when it comes to safety by providing only negative reinforcement for safety. Safety is a condition of employment and is a commonly used threat. Of course it is, and so is being on time and getting your job done. Too many companies in their orientation focus on making negative consequences the key messages during orientation rather than telling employees that we need their help to make it safe here and we are counting on you to help us with safe production. Of course, you can’t ignore unsafe behaviors any more than you would ignore behaviors that don’t meet your productivity systems. Stop making security feel like a negative. There is nothing wrong with doing our job with a focus on safe production.
(10) Hold safety meetings that everyone wants to avoid.
I have spoken to tens of thousands of employees in my career about the functionality of the “safety meetings” they attend. The vast majority of people tell me that they don’t like what happens at these meetings very much. The natural question is “Why do we go to a meeting and we don’t like what is happening?” Just fix it! At your next meeting, get up and tell people that you would like to discuss how to improve these meetings. Let’s all set ourselves the goal of not sitting quietly in a meeting that doesn’t address our needs. Just say NO to failed safety meetings!
Well, there you have it. I hope you have some ideas to think about to improve your safety culture. Own the security process, participate in its creation, stand up and be counted. We need to do this together and stop doing things that we know are failing. Let’s be successful together … it’s very important to you and the people you work with!
Why now do I feel like I should be throwing a 3X5 cue card through a fake window while listening to the sound of glass breaking like David Letterman would? I’m certainly not the only one who misses Dave! It’s me