2020, Volume 4, Issue 4 - Spring 2020

Safety: it’s a team effort

If safety doesn’t permeate every level and every position in your company, are you really that committed?

By Steven Hnatishin

Every company is either leading or lagging in terms of safety and health. They’re either proactive or reactive. (Hint: you want to be proactive when it comes to safety!)

Regardless of your starting position, the pathway from reactive to proactive is a team effort. Transforming your company and its workforce into a more efficient, effective, and cohesive unit must include the involvement of safety and health for your teams.

The current state might include responsibilities misguidedly landing on the shoulders of a single designated health and safety person. This individual is performing inspections, investigations, creating safe work procedures, creating policies, and maybe even doing a ‘regular job’ on top of all that.

This is not only non-compliant with safety legislation, it’s not supportive of a strong safety culture in your company. If we design our safety systems so that only one person owns and is responsible for them, we can end up isolating the safety program from some of the operations greatest resources: supervisors. And we may actually be underutilizing the potential skills of those supervisors.

What should safety look like?

The ideal state needs to be a strategic team effort involving all stakeholders: owners, managers, supervisors, workers, committee members, and everyone in-between. In organizations where the full team takes on safety, we see the workload being balanced with each stakeholder contributing to the safety management system. The safety person or team is then able to function as intended – as a resource to assist everyone in the business in fulfilling the legislated responsibilities. 

This ideal state is effectively supported by our minimum legislated requirements. Spend some time analyzing the legislation and you’ll see a pattern begin to form: “Responsibilities of supervisors” …” responsibilities of managers” …” responsibilities of workers.”

This is the common thread. Each of the stakeholders group have their own responsibilities that line up with their level of authority. These stakeholders need to be aware of the responsibilities they have under legislation.

By properly training supervisors, you can help ensure that they and their teams are meeting these responsibilities. Training supervisors on what their responsibilities are – and how to fulfill those responsibilities – is a critical element of due diligence.

Standardize your safety

Standardization of process is a familiar theme in manufacturing. A stable process is the goal of nearly every production and quality management system. Address safety in the same manner. Make it another standardized process to include with production.

When safety is included in the larger planning and execution work, all functions of the production process will move forward together. Trying to sprinkle in safety as an afterthought is not setting ourselves up for success, let alone a safe working environment.

Clear responsibilities and accountabilities are paramount to the success of the safety management system. Supervisors play a key role in ensuring day-to-day operations are effective, and they can also prioritize the delivery of the tools for success with safety. Not including a plan for providing training on safety and health responsibilities for supervisors is basically planning failure into the system. 

Investing in safety pays

Training your supervisory team is a commitment, no doubt. Even with access to specific training programs from organizations, like Made Safe, there will be a cost for your team to attend. However, the value proposition for this training is how you’re able to capitalize on the improvement in safety performance and the increased stability of your manufacturing process.

The decrease in frequency of incidents, severity of incidents, property damage, down time due to investigations, and non-conformities with legislation is your return on the investment in training. A decrease in your WCB premium rates can add up to significant savings that will positively impact your bottom line. Fewer resources spent on reactive measures means more resources available for achieving proactive company goals, including and beyond a safer workplace.

You have to make safety happen

When I talk to manufacturing leaders, it becomes very clear that supervisors are craving the knowledge they need to ensure the safety and health of their teams. They never want any member of their team to be injured or killed because they were simply doing their job.

There are countless safety training programs available in the market today, so it can be overwhelming to try to find the programs that are right for your company and your needs. But don’t let that scare you off. There are organizations and people out there who can help you find the best and most effective training for your team.

I encourage you to reach out to your industry association, your local workers compensation provider, a local education institution, or even other companies in your area for information and recommendations. There is a program for you, and it’s always possible to make it work for you and your team. You just need to make the call.

As Max Depree, author of Leadership is an Art, put it: “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be, by remaining what we are.” There is no better time to start the transformation than now. 

Steven Hnatishin is Program Manager with Made Safe. He leads a team
that provides Manitoba manufacturers with a comprehensive suite of training and services to accelerate workplace safety progress. Steven’s safety philosophy is “When you have a great team everything is possible!” Visit http://www.madesafe.ca for more information.