Taking Actions to Prevent Accidents
May 16, 2011 by admin
By – Rob Bartlett, Senior Safety Consultant
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In my last post, I suggested seven ways to identify where your organization’s NEXT accident might occur. Knowing what to do will, of course, only get you part of the way to accident prevention. To decrease the number of injuries in your workplace, these problems need to be resolved. No one was ever saved from injury by a safety concern being placed on a list. Theoretically, all safety concerns should be addressed quickly to minimize the risk of injury to employees and the resulting associated costs (for more information on this, see my first blog).
In the real world, however, safety concerns are put on a list of things that need to be fixed as soon as possible. Then, in the busy day-to-day, these tasks become forgotten as attention is placed on addressing the urgent issues that always seem to appear. Before we know it, months have gone by – perhaps years – and the hazards are still not addressed.
To combat this tendency, an organization needs a structured approach for preventing these important issues from falling between the cracks.
Try the following tactics in your organization to be sure that safety concerns are not forgotten:
1) Record all safety-related tasks in one place.
If you use multiple lists – or no list at all – then the chances of something falling through the cracks goes up exponentially. Develop a standard list for all safety-related tasks. Assign a responsible person and a due date. Make sure that the list is accessible by all of the people who have responsibility for tasks.
2) Conduct routine meetings to review the status of safety-related tasks.
In my experience, there is a tendency for safety tasks to be forever placed on the back burner. To counteract this tendency, a manager needs to create a sense of urgency for completing safety tasks. One way to do this is to schedule a routine meeting (maybe monthly) to review the status of these action items. By having to report in front of a group – and to explain why actions are late or behind schedule – the team members are motivated to complete as many items beforehand as possible. This method works especially well if the manager creates a bit of discomfort for those who are not meeting their commitments for competing these important tasks.
3) Consider using a system that automatically sends email reminders.
Because email is the primary means of communication in business life, using the Inbox is a perfect way to be sure that safety tasks do not stay “out of sight, out of mind.” A system that sends email reminders when due dates are approaching and also escalates notices to management when actions are overdue will help to be sure that these issues are not forgotten. Lotus Notes can be used in this way. Another option is the online tool Basecamp (www.basecamphq.com) which can be used for a similar work flow at a very reasonable price.
4) Assemble a cross-functional team specifically for addressing small safety issues.
As I’ve written in past posts, nothing beats a cross-functional team for creatively addressing problems in an organization. To deal with relatively small safety issues, like replacing faded safety signage or buying a flammable storage cabinet for spray paint cans, a small cross-functional team can be used to close minor tasks and free up management and technical resources for more complex and challenging issues.
5) Measure your progress.
As with any area of management, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. By tracking your organizations progress for closing safety tasks each month, you can help to drive continuous improvement in this area. This is particularly effective when this is reviewed with employees during the review meetings discussed in (2) above.
6) Hire a Safety Program Mentor.
As I’ve suggested before, sometimes there is value in partnering with an outside consultant. To ensure that your organization keeps moving forward to address safe issues, you should consider hiring someone who can be objective about holding people accountable for making progress. You can think of these types of consultants as mentors or coaches who periodically arrive on-site to ensure that safety action items are being addressed. They are able to see the reality in your organization better than the people who are in the line-of-fire everyday – and that can lead to better focus by all. This approach also forces the same induced-urgency as was discussed in (2) as employees rush to complete action items before the Safety Program Mentor arrives.
It is ironic that even though we often cannot find the time to correct safety problems during our busy work days, as soon as someone gets injured, we are forced to spend even more time in investigations, writing reports, and dealing with workman’s compensation claims. By designing management systems that keep safety concerns front-and-center, more of them can be corrected, less people will get injured, and the overall time spent dealing with injuries will be reduced.
In this blog post, I’ve focused on systems for managing safety-related action items to closure. Next time, I will suggest other systems that can improve your organizations safety performance.
Rob Bartlett is a Senior Safety Consultant with Career Management Associates – an HR consulting firm that specializes in Professional and Executive Search, HR Consulting and Services, Outplacement and Career Transition, Executive Coaching, and Contract Employment. To discuss how Rob can help your organization reduce injuries, contact him at email@example.com or 207.780.1125. You can also follow him as @SaferWorkplace on Twitter.