Talk is Expensive, Action is Cheap
By Susen Trail | 05/17/2022
Recently I was on the American Society of Safety Professionals discussion board. It's a great place for new Safety Professionals to connect with their more experienced colleagues. One frustrated member posted a request for assistance. He stated:
"I have found in each safety role some concerns with regard to how safety is perceived. I have found that Safety receives a lot of push back and a lack of respect from Operations. I have seen and heard the mindset that safety is secondary to profit and operations metrics and safety professionals are a pain or a bother."
"It has been discouraging as each role has had these challenges with other departments that don't seem to value safety, and see it as a site need and not as a support function to Operations. I have been told this is common with Operations, however it is discouraging to me and my development as a Safety Professional. I am considering leaving safety instead of finding another role in safety that may be have same concerns."
Not only is this not unusual, it is a chief source of burnout in our profession. It is also a clue to when a Safety Professional has been boxed into a reactive, rather than proactive, roll. Until you start changing how you work and communicate it is not possible to get out of that corner.
The reality is that safety is key to profit but only a few Safety Professionals turn this negative into a positive. How much would that accident have cost in missed deliveries, reputation, damaged products or parts? Also, it's really hard to get a good employee and you want to keep them. Who wants to work at a place where they are so disrespected, they may be seriously injured?
While I KNOW I've helped to create a software product that will help reduce or eliminate this problem on many fronts, no one is going to listen to a flat out commercial. So, my response was about why and how we created a software product that would manage this problem for him. It's a common problem so I thought I'd share my response with you.
"I've been in enforcement for most of my Industrial Hygiene career which resulted in both more automatic 'respect' due to coming in from the outside, and the backing to enforce change. I took that information and experience and applied it to our safety management software. No, it's not a sales pitch. While working on the content and trying to make sure it simplifies the Safety Manager's job, I accounted for the 'glass wall' between the Safety Manager and everyone else.
I'm not going to go into too much detail, but I wanted to share with you a technique in the software that you can use to gradually improve your working relationships with supervisors and management.
"First, try to move to preventative actions. This can be difficult at first because there are often a lot of fires to put out keeping you cornered in reaction response mode. Also, the amount of paperwork can be eating into your proactive time. But preventive actions provide a positive metric, it saves money for management, it keeps production on time for supervisors, and it reduces injuries and illness for employees.
"It is also a way to get employees involved with a one and done task related to things they are concerned about, which means they have been thinking about the problem, which gives you a leg up on the best solution. A solution they won't bypass because it doesn't get in the way of their job, which provides reliable quality, and keeps production up….
"Assigning a dollar sign for prevention, or even reactive projects, will be a positive metric to demonstrate just what safety provides. We added this to our Safety Observation app with automatic tracking of money saved by preventing an accident. Looking back on what accidents cost to put right in the past, including production slowdowns and reduced quality due to substituting inexperienced workers while the injured party recovers, can help you set a realistic money saved Key Performance Metric to your work, and to the participating employee's work.
"It also sounds like you have a transparency issue. They only see you when they are training or when you are coming to tell them to stop doing something they want to do, such as use their tool to press both buttons at once with one hand while feeding the part into the pinch point with the other, to improve quality and/or speed.
"The main thing you need to do is find ways to make your arrival a relief, an expectation of improvement, rather than bad news. You can't do that with bribes, only evidence of your value.
"After all, what do you want to say when layoff time comes, I know where to get great donuts, or I saved the company more money than my salary three years running?"
Do you want see how Simple Safety Coach can help you do a better job, delegate work to improve results, and speak the same language as management? We'd love to show you! Click on the links to go to our website and look at our information on Safety Observations capabilities and the Mobile App for quickly initiating an investigation!
Or, sign up for a demo and let us give you a tour!