If you’re in safety, you no doubt are working hard to improve safety and health at your workplace. That may mean increasing your company’s capacity to complete work successfully by doing things like using prevention through design or increasing your organizational resilience. It may mean reducing occupational workplace injuries and illnesses. In fact, it may mean many things.
However you define “improving safety,” and no matter what efforts your currently taking as part of your safety management efforts, we figured the article below might spark some additional ideas for you.
The best place to start is to have a safety management program or system in place–or to begin developing one.
To help, you might want to model your program after the ISO 45001 standard or the U.S. equivalent, ANSI/ASSP Z10. OSHA has also created a helpful document on occupational safety management.
For more, read our article on OSHA’s safety management tips, download our free infographic of 10 Steps to Getting Started with Safety Management (based on OSHA), listen to our interview with one of the creators of ISO 45001, and/or read our article series on safety management.
Focus Beyond Compliance
Compliance is important and we all have to comply, in one way or another. For some compliance assistance, feel free to download our free Guide to OSHA General Industry Compliance (stay tuned for one on Construction as well).
But it’s important to look beyond compliance-based safety management. Everyone knows that compliance is just the “floor” for safety and that an organization can comply and still have lots of safety problems unaddressed.
One way to do this is to adopt a risk-management based approach to safety management. Risk management gives safety professionals a better way to reflect on hazards, opportunities, uncertainty, and controls.
For more information on incorporating risk management techniques into your safety program, check out the following resources:
- Compliance and Risk Approaches to Occupational Safety and Health
- What Is Risk in Risk Management?
- Risk and Safety
- An Introduction to Safety Management and Risk Management
- 5 Easy Steps to Implement Risk-Based Safety Management
- Using Risk-Based Safety Management to Reduce Serious Injuries & Fatalities
- FREE Guide to Risk-Based Safety Management
Reflecting on the Meaning and Methods of “Safety”
It’s a good idea for any person and for anyone working in a given profession to occasionally reflect on what they believe and what they’re doing.
That reflection has been happening in the occupational safety and health field in the form of the various threads of “new safety,” including human and organizational performance, also known as HOP; Safety II; Safety Differently; and Human Performance Improvement, or HPI.
Re-evaluating some of your current safety beliefs and methods may be a good way to bring improvements to your current safety program. If you haven’t given new safety a thought yet, it might be worth a little time. And remember, even if you DO wind up adopting some aspects of new safety, that doesn’t mean everything you’ve done up till now has been wasted or that you must quit doing all of that.
For more on new safety, check out:
- 5 Principles of HOP interview with Dr. Todd Conklin
- 9 Things to Know about HOP
- How to Use a Learning Team
- What Is Safety Differently? and Is Safety Differently Really Different? with Ron Gantt
- 10 Safety Myths with Carsten Busch
- Safety Classics Reconsidered with Ron Gantt
Involving Employees in Safety Efforts
All the safety management standards and guidances we’ve mentioned above, and all the alternative methods of safety mentioned above as well, all agree that it’s critical to get employees involved in your occupational safety efforts.
This may mean reconsidering some of your management techniques, encouraging employees to participate, ensuring them their participation is welcome, and generally helping people at work develop good teamwork and collaboration skills.
For more on this, check out our article on Psychological Safety at Work.
Focusing on Higher-Level Controls & Prevention
When considering how to mitigate or control a hazard, it’s best to try to use higher-level controls, such as elimination and substitution, instead of lower-level controls, such as having workers wear personal protective equipment.
For a refresher on this, check out our Hierarchy of Controls article.
Be a “Systems Thinker”
We tend to limit our focus at work too narrowly, focusing on a single person or work process instead of the entire context (this is often because of our cognitive biases).
As a result, our efforts to identify causes of problems at work or to find way to make improvements often miss the mark.
One way to be more aware of the context that we all work in is to adopt systems thinking and a systems-thinking mind frame. Systems thinkers are less interested in analysis than in synthesis; they’re less interested in small parts than they are in the whole (and in interactions and relationships within the whole); they’ve less interested in being siloed and more interested in broadening their scope.
For more on this, check out our introduction to Systems Thinking. Also, our How to Conduct a Learning Team article will give you tips for applying more systems lessons to a traditional incident investigation.
Selecting Safety Goals, Indicators, and Metrics
If you’re goal is to be better, to be safer, or to otherwise improve, you’re going to have to (1) figure out what that means and (2) consider if you can somehow measure progress toward those goals–and if so, (3) how.
The issue of safety metrics is a hot one in occupational safety at the moment. And rightly so. There’s a growing recognition that we’ve relied on lagging indicators, and in particular incident rates, for too long.
To begin reconsidering your own safety metrics and KPIs, check out our Safety Metrics Reconsidered article.
Performing “Safety Basics”
Of course, a lot of the old tried-and-true safety tools you’ve been using are still helpful. To that end, we’ve got some materials below we think you might get some benefit from:
- Safety Training Guide
- Online Safety Training Buyer’s Guide Checklist
- JHA Guide
- Incident Investigation Guide
- OSHA Inspection Guide
- OSHA General Industry Compliance Guide
We hope you found this helpful and we encourage you to keep up the good work in maintaining safe and health work conditions at your organization.
Before you go, please download our free Guide to Risk-Based Safety Management, below.
Free Download–Guide to Risk-Based Safety Management
Download this free guide to using risk management for your occupational safety and health management program.