By Phil La Duke
I know it’s kind of a cheese-ball move but I thought I would devote this week’s blog to New Year’s resolutions for safety professionals.
Resolution #1: Less Focus On Preaching More On Teaching
Awareness campaigns are important for the unaware. But most workers who ultimately get hurt do so knowing something they know is dangerous, or at very least that they suspected COULD be dangerous. Too many awareness campaigns make safety professionals feel good about themselves but come off as smug and condescending to workers. So in 2013, safety professionals should resolve to spend more time and effort teaching workers core skills and competencies and less time telling them trite stories about workplace bogeymen.
Resolution #2: Open A Dialog.
Recently I posted about the dangers of complacency only to have many well-meaning safety professionals commented on how battling complacency underscored the need for daily safety talks. This set me to wondering about the entire notion of lectures on a given safety topic each morning. In the minds of so many workers, safety talks are just so much blah blah blah; yet another lecture from a guy who doesn’t have a clue what they do or how they do it. But most safety professionals I know don’t mean for the safety talk to be a one-sided conversation. Few safety professionals that I know actually think that they know the job better than the workers themselves, so why not enter 2013 resolving to engage the workers in a dialog about safety. Instead of a Safety Talk, led by the safety guy or supervisor, safety professionals should be facilitators of conversations between the workers themselves on where the risks of the jobs lie.
Resolution #3: Expand the Scope of Safety
Safety professionals tend to be fairly limited in scope: protect workers from being injured. Many safety professionals focus so intently on the specifics of the job that they lose sight of opportunities afforded to them by partnering with other functions. The Continuous Improvement group can help safety to streamline the jobs such that the jobs become more efficient and safer. The Quality group can provide important tools for quantifying the value of safety and help safety to better communicate in terms that business leaders understand, and the Human Resources department can help the Safety professional to craft safety policies and work rules that make sense and are better able to meet the dynamic needs of the modern workplace. 2013 will be the year that Safety collaborates with as many other functions as possible.
Resolution #4: Get in the Game
Safety professionals have been on the sidelines for too long. Too few safety professionals see themselves as being essential contributors to the company’s bottom line. Safety professionals should resolve to contribute more value to the company’s bottom line. Safety professionals should look for ways to negotiate better rates for safety expendables (like gloves, or safety glasses), anticipate the need for training like hazard mat or other training that workers might need to enable them to go places and do things that competition can’t. Safety should resolve to make itself an invaluable contributor to the core business and reduce the overhead costs of the company.
Resolution #5: Get Competitive
Safety professionals should be as hungry for competitive advantage as the sales force. The best in safety aren’t looking to do what the other guys are doing, rather, they look to one-up the competition. Safety needs to be about more than injury statistics and numbers, safety should be a differentiator—a means of being better than the competition. Safety should resolve to not only make the workplace safer, but in so doing make it a more competitive company.
Resolution #6: Embrace the “Healthy” Side of Health and Safety
Almost every safety professional I know has the word Health (or at least the initial H) in their titles. But even though it is ostensibly the responsibility of the Safety professional scare little is done to improve the physical condition of the workers. Even if there isn’t budget for improving worker health there is certainly a financial incentive for improving worker health. Sometimes workers resent campaigns aimed at getting them healthier. Safety professionals should resolve to reduce the stress in the workplace and to make worker’s lives better by keeping them healthier and feeling better.
Resolution #7: Turn Safety On Its Ear
Safety needs a shake up. Too many organizations have created bloated safety infrastructures that are slow to move and unable to react to the nimble business world. As companies start to shake of the economic malaise that has beset business worldwide many leaders are more open to ideas that they previously wouldn’t have considered. Safety professionals should resolve to try new things in safety this year.
Resolution #8: Question Everything
Part of turning safety on its ear involves rethinking many of the cherished truisms of worker safety. Safety professionals should resolve to question everything it does and be able to defend all the things it has taken for granted.
Resolution 9: Take Chances
It’s no secret that Safety as a profession tends to attract more than its fair share of risk adverse people. But taking calculated chances leads to innovation and discovery. Safety professionals should resolve to take more chances, try new things and explore different ways to make the workplace a better and safer place to work.
Resolution 10: Enjoy Life More
Sometimes working in safety feels like working under the Sword of Damocles when injury rates are high, safety professionals feel the crushing pressure to get things under control and when injury levels are down, safety professionals feel the chronic unease that comes with waiting for the other shoe to drop. Safety is important, no question. But working in safety can be rewarding, intellectually stimulating, and well…dare I say it? Fun. Safety professionals should make 2013 the year that they cut themselves a little slack and learn to enjoy their accomplishments.