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Resolution #1: View Safety as Equal to Production, Not as a Government Compliance Item

- March 1, 2017 by Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

In January, I wrote a blog about 2017 safety resolutions. Today, I’d like to expand on resolution #1, view safety as equal to production, not as a government compliance item. Production is what makes your company money, whether you make a product or provide a service; you have to “produce” a commodity to make money. But when safety takes a back seat to production, trouble can arise.

Importance of Tracking Safety

What message are you sending your employees when it comes to your company’s profitability? How do you measure success? Some companies track inventory, raw materials and waste. Other companies track the number of clients, hours billed and customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, safety is rarely tracked. This can cause your employees to work unsafely. They are trying to make their supervisors happy and help meet those tracked goals. When you raise your safety performance to the same level as production, there is much less motivation to work unsafely.

Case in Point

Let’s look at an example; Don runs a pallet manufacturing company where the primary piece of machinery is always jamming. To unjam the equipment properly, the machine must be shut down using lockout/tagout procedures. Don’s staff has been trained on lockout/tagout because it is a government compliance item. Don also understands that OSHA fines can be costly so he was sure to put the procedures in place. Unfortunately, that’s where Don’s commitment to safety stopped. On the morning of the accident, Don spent most of the daily production meeting focused on lost production on that machine. He reviewed downtime reports and focused on how unacceptable the downtime rate on that machine was. Hearing this, his employee, only wanting to help the company make more money, decided to skip the lockout/tagout shut down procedure the next time the machine jammed. As a result, the employee’s arm was caught in the machine when the other operator started it up.

What was the cause of this accident? Was it the employee’s inability to following procedures? I think the cause of this accident was Don’s insistence at the production meeting that the company reduce downtime on machinery.

Finding a Better Solution 

No one can argue that reducing downtime isn’t a great idea, but the fact that the message was given without any mention of safety is the problem. Had Don’s message at the daily meeting included safety, his employee would have made a different decision that day.

Since downtime is an issue, Don should put together a team to investigate why the machine is always jamming up. Perhaps a scheduled preventative maintenance program would be a better solution. In this case, I’m sure Don will have plenty of time think about solutions when he’s reviewing the amputation injury with his local OSHA Compliance officer.

If I still haven’t convinced you that safety and production go hand in hand, please check out my blog, A Culture of Safety Comes From the Heart, Not From OSHA Standards.

Coming up, I’ll be digging into resolution #2, Discipline safety violators even for near misses (when they don’t get injured). Stay tuned!