Before you moan about how much your safety programmes are not working, maybe you should ask yourself what you’re doing right instead of what you’re doing WRONG! (Part 1)
First word: Time and time again chief executives and business owners moan buckets about how their safety programmes don’t seem to be working for no reason (or a lot of reasons!). They’ve tried every trick in the book but their people just won’t cotton on for reasons of laziness, hard headedness, indiscipline, lack of interest and so on. And after all the pile of money they’ve invested in safety for the workers' sake, including very attractive SAFETY INCENTIVE SCHEMES no dice. Incentives! Hmmm..
Do you reckon your people are that oblivious of the fact of what’s good for their health, safety and security at work? Or it’s a case of you going at them with a baseball bat each time, in the name of protecting them from their ‘death wish selves’? You really believe those guys look forward to being stretchered out to some hospital ER ward instead of returning home hale and hearty at the end of any work day? Think again boss. Things are not always what they seem. You see, your ways and means may be the problem given that no one in their right minds opts for harm in place of no harm, especially if given a choice. So why don’t you go back to the beginning and see what it is you’re doing right, never mind what you’re doing WRONG!
Talking about attractive SAFETY INCENTIVE schemes, what’s attractive in a workplace where safety is not working, by your own admission, incentives and all? We can safely forget that notion, and let’s move on.
Check out the following and see if any rings a bell, then think again.
#Your OWN safety programme
Do you really have your OWN customized safety programme which is tailored to your peculiar operational needs, based on your human and material resources? Or you’ve simply taken the easy way out, adopted and adapted some other organization’s safety vision and philosophy hoping it will yield same famous performance results even though your operations, people and other resources are as dissimilar as the North and South Poles? This is often the case across businesses, especially the Small and Medium Scale cadre, and it doesn’t work too nicely in the end for all the good reasons.
Workplace safety programmes are not exactly interchangeable. They’re not a case of one size fits all. They’ve to be purpose built to fit the hazards of what it is you are planning do and how, when, why, where, and with what and who you intend to do it. Your rules of the game must fit the play or be ready to deal with repeated, costly infringements and downtimes. There’s no way your workers are going to willingly buy into rules and regulations that do not fit or ring a bell or are alien to what’s on ground. It’s wishful thinking. You can wield that baseball bat of yours all day and all night long if you like; all you’re likely to get are blank stares and meaningless ‘yessir’, ‘no sir’ boss responses at any given time of day. They may be ‘scared’ of your executive powers but they’re not persuaded, and that is as far as it goes. Compliance with safety rules and regulations cannot be beaten out of people: you’ve to earn it through honest, open salesmanship and good communication that rings home with what is in it for all concerned to close that deal, otherwise nothing is going to change very fast no matter how much you may wish for that change.
So Rule #1: go get yourself a tailor made safety programme that reflects your own operational philosophy and vision. And be sure the organization has the resources to see it through, including necessary future plans for continuous improvements and watch a hitherto unforeseen change take root.
#Open up and down-the-line communication: What open communication? I tell them what to do around here…
Now listen: there’s only one boss around here, right? And that’s me. I don’t need any of these people having any big ideas because as far as it goes the buck stops firmly at my desk. I take responsibility for all of them. I mean, I pay them for doing next to nothing sitting around all day clockwatching, and you want them to dictate to me and tell me what to do? Never! Not in this place. I tell all of them when and how, period.
If that’s your attitude, why wonder why your safety programmes find no place with your employees? There’s no argument who’s the boss but that certainly is not going to win you any allies in your quest for a performing safety system. You can shut your door and lounge behind that huge mahogany desk of yours all day till the cows come home, every day, dishing out your brand of safety decrees in the name of inter-office memos to all, the best you’re going to get is long faces and furtive, knowing glances in the corridors. Schedule those all-important safety meetings of yours and you’ll be out front alone with your audience clustered at the back end of the room far from your mean, cold glares, even as the first two front rows of seats are empty! You can bully them all as much as you may find necessary within your ‘executive’ powers, but it’s doubtful if you’ll find a handful of willing and honest takers at the end of the day because like they say; you can force a horse to the brook but you can’t force it to drink. Force-feeding may work perfectly in some applications but not in safety management. If you want it to work, elicit the people’s interest to fire their imagination from the onset or no dice.
You want your people to travel the same safety road with you? Get them involved; make them feel part of the scheme, appeal to their self esteem, self worth. Share your vision of a SAFE workplace, show how you’re prepared to back up this vision with all the necessary resources to make the dream come TRUE. Show them how this benefits everyone in the outfit in the end, what roles and responsibilities are in the offing for each and everyone, including you, the big boss. Show them you can listen, hear and respond positively to useful suggestions from all levels below, instead of the usual dismissive wave of the hand they are used to. Demonstrate commitment to the safety cause as a leader without flagging no matter the challenges and you won’t have to look behind you to see if anyone is following. Remember, safety is team work and a team united ultimately hits the safety pay dirt to the envy of competitors and all sooner than later.
So Rule #2: no solo yachtmanship across the hazardous oceans of safety management. Get the best of your crew for the business, lead from the front, walk the talk. Look, learn and listen to workplace safety feedback to give continuous improvement a true meaning for the good performance of your dream.
#Your staff safety training is not up to scratch …
Ahem! We have trainers in and out of here every week like there is no tomorrow, so what more do you want? Now if these people were serious and keen we’ll in the top quartile of all industry safety training rankings but it’s just my luck that I seem to be saddled with a bunch who are not only too slow to learn but also too slow to recall or apply. It’s really a big, big issue around here and can't figure out what to do about it, really.
Staff safety training can be a big issue quite alright but not from the angle you’re looking at it. It is a big issue because there is training and there’s training, as there are trainers and trainers. For starters, it’s not everyone who walks through your gates claiming to be safety trainers that are qualified or certified to do just that. It’s your responsibility to find out if they are so qualified before hiring them to train your staff and lead them further down the path of poor learning development and confusion. At the same time, not all training suits everyone’s needs. As managers, it is your responsibility to determine what safety training schemes best fit your needs in terms of closing the identified competency and learning gaps by your team prior. Diving into the market and reaching for the nearest opportunity cost trainer is asking for trouble because you may just end up shooting everybody in your outfit in the foot, plus wasting the money expended. That kind of training is not likely to yield any positive dividends to you, your staff or the business.
So Rule #3: Staff training is not an all comer’s game, don’t just dive in hoping for the best. There are certified safety trainers, seek them out to help work on closing your identified learning and competence gaps if you’re to turnaround your crew. Remember, like in all trades, quacks abound in safety as well.