Strategic safety professionals observe, control and predict

Everything is easy when you’re not the one actually doing it, right? If fantasy could become reality, we would all have that easy button on our desks.

Problem? BAM! Button pushed, problems solved.

As safety professionals, we have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. We not only keep a workplace or jobsite safe, we keep employees safe. The easy part is controlling physical hazards. The hard part is controlling human-beings. The harder part is controlling human-beings operating within those physical hazards. And the hardest part is controlling human-being operating in/around those physical hazards with machinery/equipment and production goals.

Bad things can happen, and happen very fast. But not without warning. A good safety professional with the right tools at their disposal can recognize these warning signs.

No Magic Bullet

So what makes a difference? Is it the right employee for the job? Is it an effective preventive maintenance program? Is it strong leadership? Is it a safety training program? Is it a strong leading indicators program?

The answer to all this? Yes! And, the list could go on. It’s never one thing. There is no magic bullet. It is a perfect balance of a lot of things.

There is a saying in the football world: “Defense Wins Championships”. But, if you think about it, can teams really be champions without a good balance of offense, defense, special teams and coaching?

You can have the most aware employee because of your impeccable training efforts, but if you don’t have a strong preventive maintenance program on your production machines, your employee could be the most safety conscious fatality ever killed by a malfunctioning machine.

On the flip side, you can have the best maintained production machines in your respective industry, but if someone operates it that lacks the training or knowledge, it will be the best looking, well maintained pile of junk in the scrap yard.

The False Comfort

I like to ask safety professionals how their efforts are working. I’ll often hear, “Great. We’ve experienced no injuries or losses.”

Knowing that is the answer I’ll get, my next question is: “Observations and near misses: what’s your system for reporting and how does this incorporate with your safety efforts?”

Cue the crickets chirping.

As salty safety professionals, I’m confident that if we were in-tune with observations and near-misses, we would use that information to prevent injuries or other types of losses. That’s the problem though: the good have tools to be in-tune. We could have many more in the good category if they, too, had the tools.

Quite simply, if you void employees the opportunity to report observations and don’t treat a near-miss, from a safety program management standpoint, as an incident with loss, you don’t (and won’t) have a proactive and predictive safety and health program.

So, now, let me ask you one of my favorite questions. How does your organization report observations and how does this factor into your safety efforts?

An ongoing leader in solutions for safety and health professionals, UL’s expanded safety management capabilities support a proactive approach to managing incidents and injuries, as well as taking preventive action and learning from observations.