Super Bowl lessons for occupational health & safety programs

With Super Bowl Sunday behind us, what better time to tackle my favorite topics. Sports? Occupational Health and Safety? Game on.

Just like the Patriots and the Giants in the Super Bowl, your occupational health and safety program performance depends on the entire team, not just the safety department. The entire organization. Read it again. THE ENTIRE COMPANY. Teamwork. Teamwork Teamwork.

Let’s explore how the organizational components that drive great football teams parallel key areas separating OHS champions from the rest of the pack.

The Coaches

The coaching staff has the central responsibility for everything from overall strategy to training. The same is true of OHS coaches. While each component of the OHS team is critical to achieving excellence, the coaches are unique in having a direct connection with every area.

In sports and OHS, a head coach’s (think OHS director) big picture duties may leave little time for ground-level tasks and interactions. The day-to-day support and specialized expertise of assistant coaches are the essential bridge from strategy to execution.

The Team

It’s not just the coaches but the entire organization that invests resources to help players realize their potential. Many companies do this in terms of developing job skills and production processes – but shortchange employee safety and health, which can have just as big an impact on productivity.

An aging and increasingly transient workforce presents similar challenges – but in safety and health, no one can afford a rebuilding year. So we must emulate the great sports franchises that consistently win even as stars and veterans come and go.

The best sports stars reach out to help the rookies. Sharing knowledge, whether through mentoring, training materials or other media, is essential to avoid a knowledge drain when the stars leave your organization.

Owner and Front Office

Coaches and players are the focus on game day, but efforts of many others in the organization impact whether they succeed. Similarly, the OHS department cannot be the alpha and omega of work force safety and health initiatives; you must have senior management participation. That includes financial investment because shrinking budgets and staffs are real challenges.

Wondering how to win greater front office involvement? Start by making the business case for safety. Don’t allow OHS departments to be cast as idealistic, compliance-mandated cost centers. Show your executives measurable ROI, including reduced costs related to incidents and injuries, better productivity, higher brand value and improved ability to attract top employees, and they’ll have a broader incentive to support your work.

Facilities and Resources

The quality of a sports franchise’s facilities and resources can give its players and coaches a competitive edge. For corporations, the obvious parallels include medical facilities, as well as the tools, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other resources a job requires.

The workplace is your stadium and the quality of these resources – including the maintenance of machinery, available software and technology and condition of the work environment – impacts safety, health and productivity.

The Playbook and Analysis

In football, each team has a playbook detailing formations and plays. An OHS playbook should spell out a common strategy, goals and procedures.

Equally important in shaping the playbook is analysis. Top OHS programs use analysis to determine the cause behind incidents or near misses. Technology makes it easier to analyze and communicate greater quantity and quality of data.

Champion organizations go beyond traditional lagging indicators (injury rates, workers’ comp costs, etc.) to also track leading indicators, such as number of inspections/audits, percent of compliant/safe conditions and percent of employees trained. This guides allocation of resources toward the areas that most impact safety, health and profits.

Winning Is a Habit

Legendary coach Vince Lombardi once explained that, “Winning is not a sometime thing. Winning is a habit.”

What he’s talking about is an organization-wide commitment, a culture of winning. That’s not just about having a great coach or exceptional players. It’s about all organizational components focusing on one purpose: winning.

UL’s software and information solutions empower your team to improve workforce health, safety and overall business performance.