Ask most safety professionals what they need more of and the answer probably isn’t conferences or webinars. It’s time. Time to better understand their employees’ safety challenges. Time to train. Time to create focused, innovative risk-reduction programs that get results.
Time is as elusive as it is essential for OSH pros. And of all the time-robbers out there, the biggest by far is incidents themselves. Think about it. If Wally in warehousing experiences a forklift accident, you can pretty much shove aside your to-do list. That’s because your time and energy for the next several days, or longer, will be devoted to Wally and his incident. From conducting interviews with his supervisor and any witnesses to completing forms and other elements of an incident investigation, coordinating with HR, and possibly visiting Wally in the hospital, injury-related duties are numerous and demanding. Wally’s “lost-time incident” isn’t just about his days off the job. It’s about your lost time, too.
Unfortunately, you’re not off the hook once you’re past the immediate tasks related to Wally’s case. You’ll need to coordinate with counterparts at other sites to make sure the conditions that contributed to Wally’s injury are eliminated throughout the company. You’ll have to complete due diligence with state and federal regulators. And communicate the circumstances of the incident, and your plans to prevent it from happening again, to the C-suite and the rank and file. Depending on the severity of the incident, somebody will need to interview, hire and train Wally’s replacement, as well.
When OSHA and other experts talk about the business case for occupational safety and health, they refer to the billions of dollars sucked out of the economy each year as a result of workplace injuries and illnesses. It’s a strong case indeed, with the price of disabling incidents at about $60 billion annually!
What gets far less attention is the impact of all this on safety professionals, the time-strapped folks on the front line of employee protection.
At IMPROV Learning®, we believe in the power of prevention, not only to eliminate suffering and reduce cost, but also to save time for you. Here are four things you can do, starting today, to prevent incidents and, as a result, free up your time for productive, value-added activity, like safety planning, updating job safety analyses and training.
1. Inspect more often. A study by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) found a 9% drop in injury claims and a 26% average savings on workers’ compensation costs in the years following a Cal/OSHA inspection. Conduct your own audits or bring in OSHA inspectors, without the threat of enforcement, through the agency’s onsite consultation program for smaller businesses.
2. Seek and find hazards. Hazard identification should be a constant at your site—quietly running in the background of every process. Motivate employees to report conditions that could lead to an incident. Involve not only those on the front lines, but those in the back office as well.
3. Empower your people. When it comes to employee engagement in safety and health, awareness is a great place to start, but it will only take you so far. To definitively impact safety performance, you need to empower your employees to take bold steps, like stopping a process or task if they believe it’s unsafe.
4. Create a culture of caring. Is your workplace one where employees fear they’ll be disciplined if they’re involved in a safety incident? If so, you need to build a culture where everyone reports incidents and near-misses because they understand the value of doing so. Where workers look out for one another because they truly care. Where a line employee feels comfortable reminding an executive to wear safety goggles on the shop floor.
You say you need more time? Keep your workforce safe and you’ll have time to do what you were hired to do—build a robust, employee-driven safety process where incident numbers are low and trust is high.
Training is essential to that vision. Talk to the experts at IMPROV Learning® about how you can use microlearning and interval reinforcement to keep your workers safe by learning more and forgetting less.