As a safety consultant, I have the pleasure and privilege to look inside a company’s culture to see what is “really” going on. Often times, management has a good idea of what is taking place in their company, however, they may not get the full picture from their people. There is no malice involved, simply the information needed to truly make cultural changes gets watered down, or dressed up enough to skew real picture.
Benefits of a 3rd Party View on Safety
A safety consultant can work on their own or be a great addition to your safety management team. A third party audit has no hidden agenda. The purpose is to determine if the company is doing what they say they are doing and accomplishing what they want to accomplish within their policies and procedures. Audits range from a few hours to several weeks.
When it comes to safety management, asking open ended questions will take you on a journey through the culture of a company. For example, I conducted an audit of prestart safety meetings that were overseen by each shifts’ front line supervisor. I attended several of these meetings over several shifts and I found that the meetings seemed productive, informative and appeared to be meeting the objectives as set forth in the company’s policies. I could have stopped there, but I didn’t.
After the meetings, I would talk with and ask questions of a few employees as to how they viewed the meetings. It was not uncommon to hear that the meetings were different when visitors or managers were in attendance. I was not surprised. I am a former supervisor and I realized that employees can feel that prestart safety meetings are “just another task” they need to complete. If employees don’t fully buy into the process, they are not going to be fully involved and supportive.
I then talked with some of the supervisors about how they viewed their preparation and participation in these meetings. After some discussion, they would share that they don’t always take the time to prepare for the meetings. Some saw little value in the meetings. Some said they had little to no resources to help make the meetings more productive. Supervisors have to juggle production, quality, safety and typically several other duties and tasks. Usually something has to give, and whatever task is not emphasized by motivation and accountability will suffer. EVERYTHING that EVERYONE can do to keep safe, should NEVER suffer.
When reviewing the findings with management, there were several key items that were set forth to improve the quality and highlight the purpose of the prestart safety meetings. The first was management buy in and presence. Prestart safety meetings are designed to allow employees time, energy and ideas to focus and perform their jobs safely. Management needed to set clear objectives and expectations as to what these meetings were designed to convey. We came up with a short agenda for the meetings in which we provided safety topics that the supervisors could use to help with meeting preparation. These were safety related items with regards to company processes, safe working at home, and relevant news events. This will help the supervisors manage the meetings and their time. Managers were encouraged to randomly attend the toolbox meetings.
As an outside consultant, I am able to take a look at part or all of company’s system(s). I get to ask a lot of questions, since I am not familiar with their processes. In doing so, I am able to see what could be improved or what’s missing. In this example, while management was making a substantial time commitment to safety, it was not utilized as effectively as it could have and should have been.
Whether you take the initiative in-house or utilize an outside safety consultant, make sure you have the right culture and attitude toward safety in your environment before it’s too late.
As always, I welcome questions or comments below or email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org