Adding Value to Workers: The Key to Excellent Safety Efforts
Updated: Jul 18
In the pursuit of safety excellence, organizations must move beyond a focus on controlling workers and instead prioritize adding value to them. Through my conversations with organizational leaders, I have observed distinct differences between world-class safety organizations and those struggling to improve. This article will explore six universal differentiators that set excellent safety performers apart. Organizations can enhance safety efforts and achieve continuous improvement by shifting the mindset to view workers as customers and striving to meet their needs.
Shift Focus: From Failure to Success
World-class safety organizations have a clear vision of success they are working toward, rather than merely striving to fail less than in previous years. Setting numeric goals based on improved safety numbers is an inadequate approach. Success should be defined positively, focusing on proactive measures and 100% safe goals. Organizations create a culture that prioritizes continuous improvement by driving the numbers as low as possible.
Proactive Thinking: Prevention over Reaction
The majority of improvement efforts in excellent organizations occur before accidents happen. Safety is seen as positive actions to be taken rather than outcomes to avoid. On the other hand, lesser performers tend to make improvements post-accident, relying on accident investigation and analysis. Proactive efforts put organizations ahead of the accident curve, preventing incidents before they occur. This approach fosters a culture of anticipation and continuous improvement.
Balanced Metrics: Leading Indicators for Improvement
Many organizations with less-than-excellent safety performance rely solely on lagging indicators, such as accidents and near misses, to drive improvement. However, world-class safety organizations understand the value of leading indicators. They develop a balanced scorecard for safety, encompassing three levels of leading indicators that impact each other before influencing lagging indicators. This comprehensive approach enables organizations to measure the impact of improvement efforts and make adjustments for continuous progress.
Worker Mindset: From Control to Value
An important distinction exists between excellent safety performers and others in their mindset towards workers. Instead of viewing workers as problems to be controlled, excellent organizations see them as customers of safety efforts. Their needs are heard and met or exceeded. The goal is to add value to workers' lives through safety initiatives. Organizations foster engagement and enhance safety outcomes by understanding the factors influencing workers' decisions and addressing their needs.
Logical Rules and Procedures: Adding True Value
Excellent organizations ensure that safety rules and procedures are logical and add genuine value. Knee-jerk reactions and overly restrictive rules can undermine safety efforts and create skepticism among workers. It is crucial to involve workers in the development of rules and procedures, ensuring their rationale is clear and understandable. When rules make sense and align with workers' experiences, they are more likely to be followed and respected.
Focused Improvement: One Step at a Time
Effective organizations, including those striving for safety excellence, understand the importance of prioritizing improvements and implementing them in paced steps. Trying to tackle everything at once can lead to overwhelm and hinder progress. By breaking down improvement initiatives into manageable steps, organizations reduce stress, enhance worker buy-in, and create a perception of achievable change. This approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement and sustainable progress.
Organizations must shift their mindset from controlling workers to adding value to their lives to achieve safety excellence. Organizations foster a culture of continuous improvement by defining success positively, focusing on proactive measures, and engaging workers as valued customers. This requires a shift towards proactive thinking, balanced metrics, logical rules and procedures, and focused improvement efforts. Organizations can enhance safety outcomes, drive engagement, and achieve sustainable progress through these strategies. Remember, safety is not just about compliance; it is about valuing and protecting the well-being of workers.