Monday, March 4
Pitfalls in Safety Culture
Last week we delivered some helpful tools in creating an employee driven safety culture. An important thing to consider whenever implementing cultural tools is to make sure they’re fair, inclusive, consistent, and sustained. This week we’ll talk about some of the weaknesses that can diminish the effectiveness of a workplace safety culture.
There are many reasons why minor incidents such as property damage, near misses, spills, and injuries go unreported. One reason can be the individual’s pride as most people do not want to admit their mistakes. This is especially true in the workplace. There may be some irrational fear of what can come out of reporting an incident to a supervisor or the time it takes to go through the reporting process may seem like too much of an inconvenience.
There are many reasons why people should be encouraged to report all incidents, no matter the severity. The most important reason is to make sure the situation or hazard is corrected and the workplace is safe. In a learning organization, the event can provide lessons learned to prevent it from occurring in the future.
With injuries, even just minor ones, it is important to get them looked at by a supervisor or safety representative. While many injuries may not seem like a big deal when they happen, they can turn into one. If a small injury worsens and requires care beyond first aid, it can become an OSHA recordable. If it was not reported, difficulties with regards to Workers Comp insurance can arise and complicate financial responsibility for the medical care.
All injuries need to be reported, no matter how small. Not only does it protect you, but it also protects the company as a whole by possibly preventing a first aid injury developing into an OSHA recordable. There are always lessons that can be learned from the incident that can help prevent others from occurring in the future.
Tuesday, March 5
It’s Good Enough
Most employees know the right way to do things and the ways that are good enough. When it comes to workplace safety, “good enough” is not acceptable. The ‘good enough’ attitude can lend itself to taking short cuts and increased probability for risks that can eventually result in accidents. It is important to take the time to not only identify hazards, but respect the controls that are in place consistently.
There are many reasons why individuals may be tolerant to unnecessary risk during work tasks. A few of these reasons could include:
- Complacency. For very experienced workers, complacency can be one of the leading factors to a “good enough” mindset.
- Lack of training or understanding. Some newer workers may not understand the reasoning behind taking certain steps to protect themselves.
- Not modeling the way. If supervisors or coworkers do not follow safety rules or procedures then others around them will not recognize the importance of them
- Fatigue. When fatigue or lack of energy becomes an issue our concentration and patience can be compromised.
Always aim to do the right thing. Often times, we know what the expectation is but settle for less out of convenience or just poor attitude towards safety. Not only will doing the right thing help to ensure less chance of injury, it also helps build your personal reputation as a safe employee.
The sooner you can push the “good enough” attitude out of your mind, the better. If you find yourself leaning towards making the easy choice instead of the right choice, then it’s time to re-evaluate what it means to act in a safe manner.
Wednesday, March 6
Relying on Memory
The human memory can be an amazing thing. While there are people that can remember small details about an event that happened decades ago, some cannot remember where they set their wallet down. Because of the dynamics of human memory, it should never be relied on as the only safeguard against a hazard. Remembering the hazard’s presence is not a safety control.
While many things we learn make it into our long term memory, many details we face on a day to day basis may only hit our short term memory. Relying on short term memory as a safeguard is extremely dangerous because of how limited it can be. SimplyPsychology.com states that short term memory has 2 key characteristics which limits it’s use:
- Limited capacity: Only about seven items can be kept in short term memory at one time.
- Limited duration: Storage is very fragile and information can be lost with distraction or passage of time.
This is why short term memory is not a reliable way to protect ourselves from the hazards of our work. Remembering to avoid a hazard is not the way to approach your work. The best way is to eliminate the need to remember.
Some examples of what employees may try to remember to avoid might be:
- Pinch points or moving parts of machinery – relying on memory to keep your body parts away from moving equipment is a recipe for disaster.
- Fixed objects, such as duct work or some other low hanging obstruction, which you have to duck under while walking.
- Slip, trip, and fall hazards, like damaged flooring or an object that protrudes into a walkway.
- Trying to remember complex work instructions – some steps may include safety checks which may get skipped for productivity.
While the human memory is amazing it is not fail proof. It is important to look at the different work tasks you complete throughout the day and try to eliminate hazards whenever possible. While learning about hazards, procedures, and aspects of your work environment are important, memory is not a safeguard and should not be used as one.
Thursday, March 7
It won’t happen to me
While there are many excuses someone will give for not working safely, one of the worst is “it won’t happen to me”. This excuse communicates a mindset that is set on not completing a task safely or shows a person is relying on luck to keep safe while on the job. This person is discounting or ignoring the facts that created the need for safe controls or procedures.
Some will say there is no substitute for experience. Experience allows us to work more efficiently and safely; however, this is not always the case. Experience can also lead to complacency or a higher level of tolerance for risk. When an employee has done the same task or has been in the same position for many years, they can develop the “it won’t happen to me” mindset. This mindset develops because of the reinforcement we receive when we ignore a safety control and still complete the task incident free. Each time we break a rule and nothing happens, we reaffirm the idea that this rule or control isn’t necessary.
Circumventing controls and still making it through the day does not indicate immunity against injuries. We have all heard stories of experienced workers or supervisors getting seriously injured from becoming complacent towards known hazards. This is why we encourage respect and the proper attitudes when it comes to safeguards.
Complacency is not easy to avoid. Having the mindset that an incident will not happen can put you at a great risk of sustaining an injury. No one is able to avoid injury from the majority of hazards through experience alone. It takes action on top of that experience to ensure safeguards are in place and safe work practices are being followed. Experienced employees are in a position of influence and others may look to them for examples of what to do and what not to do. It’s for this reason that ‘modeling the way’ is essential for a veteran employee to set the right example.
Friday, March 8
There are some people who like to reflect back on the days when it was all about production goals and bonuses. A few decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon to protest the ever increasing emphasis on workplace safety. However, many changes have come into play regarding workplace safety. Whether it is through new technologies, laws, and rules, or just more focus given to safety, many fields have experienced a major shift towards a greater emphasis on safety than before. One of the reasons for the increased emphasis is the staggering costs associated with workplace injuries.
Often times the same work tasks are completed every single day. Because of this, the safety issues and focuses are often the same. The discussions on safety will often focus on a handful of hazards for the work going on that day. The reason for this is because the same hazards often are the ones that cause the majority of incidents and injuries. While discussing and focusing on the same hazards can get redundant, it is important to never become complacent. For example, despite efforts to educate, reduce and eliminate hazards around lacerations and strains, they still remain the most commonly reported injuries at EnPro Industries. No work place can ever be made 100% hazard free, but we can be 100% injury free with the right attitude and approach.
As time goes on, individuals become more confident in their abilities and knowledge at work and in turn, take more risks. It is understood that safety can be repetitive at times, but we all need to be reminded to stay focused on working safely. The hazards that get people injured are often the same hazards that have been reviewed time and time again.
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