Since the beginning of time there have been playgrounds. These may not have been well designed or constructed like we see today, but wherever there was a tree to climb or a creek to play in there was an impromptu playground. Playgrounds in American got their start in 1821 and were influenced by the German fitness culture. Educators basically moved gymnastic equipment outdoors and made a playground. In 1816 educators in Boston followed a "sandgarten" movement and placed piles of sand in open areas.
Every workplace presents a set of hazards, unsafe conditions and behaviors, which given the right circumstances can produce an undesired event resulting in worker injury. The challenge for management is to eliminate or control access to those hazards so that the event and injury does not occur. Management systems, which incorporate ongoing, thorough workplace assessments to identify hazards, are desirable as a first step in the quest to attain a safe workplace. Identification and reduction of machine related hazards must be part of this process. It is the writer's experience that detailed machine assessments are often initiated as a result of a severe, machine related, workplace injury (or death), or a history of such injuries Described below are three real cases where old equipment and exposed machine hazards resulted in serious accidents.
By now, local government employees working in public works, water, wastewater, power and related community service activities should know that ICS has something to do with the Incident Command System. In fact, the vast majority of employees providing these critical community services have already been trained and certified at some level in both the Incident Command System (ICS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS). The ICS and NIMS are not static, but are dynamic and evolving. Attending ICS training and getting a certificate to hang on the wall is nice, but the real test is how ICS concepts and principles are being applied in day-to-day operations If your organization waits until that normal/routine emergency becomes a crisis situation to start thinking about ICS, it may be too late. One ICS principle that all safety professionals certainly embrace is that "the safety of responders is the top priority."
Building owners, occupants and the fire service all play an important role in the outcome of any fire emergency. In this case one of the most tragic single event outcomes in history for firefighters was attributed to actions, inactions and conditions prior to and during the event itself. This article will review the existing investigative reports and highlight those items that were identified as critical to the overall outcome of this incident. Most of the available information was assembled into what are known as the Phase 1 and Phase 2 Reports by an independent team of respected fire service professionals from across the United States that was appointed by the City of Charleston, SC. Their mission was to conduct an exhaustive review of the incident and develop strategies for the City of Charleston to implement in improving their department, but also to benefit all fire departments across the county.
There’s been lots of talk lately about safety culture, right along with “behavior.” How setting your sights on cultural change may be the A-1 approach for engaging the clutch of safer and more productive performance, especially during these beleaguered times.
I’ve witnessed how elevating culture can step up safety. But when it comes time to move beyond mere concepts towards actual execution, have you seen leaders leaping towards solutions before they look? Assuming they already know what they evidently don’t? Adhesive taping on another company’s answers that are unlikely to solve their own different problems? Only focusing on what’s wrong, ignoring the need to solidify internal strengths?
In one of his last articles (perhaps summarizing the body of his work), Management expert Peter Drucker wrote that would-be leaders spend too much of their time trying to come up with the right solutions when they should instead endeavor to pinpoint the right questions. Drucker’s consulting was notably based on his practicing what he wrote--asking executives a series of discerning questions toward helping craft most-effective strategies for their unique culture. Many clients reported they were at first frustrated (they wanted the expert to tell them what to do) but ultimately satisfied they arrived at best methods for their specific needs.
I see this all too frequently: some senior managers and professionals blithely assume they know what’s needed to turn things around (usually revolve around others but not themselves embracing significant changes). Ready to do something they’ve heard or read about. But proof of the pudding, if they really knew what was needed, why do many organizations seem stuck in the first place, trying many interventions but not able to surmount stubborn problems?
In this article, I’ll discuss 4 levels of Safety Culture, as well as two critical questions for activating higher performance Safety Culture.
The 4 Safety Cultures
Senior managers have become increasingly aware of Safety potential returns, well beyond loss reduction. And Safety culture is an especially hot topic among leaders who sense something is missing, that performance could be better.
Their instincts are probably right.
Culture is like the air we breathe, invisible, but very real. It’s what people really believe but don’t necessarily talk about - what you can get away with vs. what sparks the attention of Executives. What you have to do to get promoted, and much more.
There are likely thousands of cultures. In fact, many pocket cultures can exist within one company. And a plant’s graveyard shift typically has very different “air” than its day shift.
So why bother focusing on Safety culture? If you, like me, are dedicated to significant, ongoing improvements, it’s important to first map where you want to go. Identifying your level of Safety culture can also help communicate urgency for change up and down your organization.
Practically, I’ve found there are four overall stages of Safety culture. Many companies “graduate” up these cultural levels; others become mired at one level.
When applied to the workplace, Kaizen activities continually improve all functions of a business, from manufacturing to management and from the CEO to the front line workers. By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen aims to eliminate waste. The following paper explains how Kaizen principles are used in concert with accountability, Continuous Improvement Teams and organizational tools (such as Pareto charts), to achieve milestones and overcome the obstacles of culture change and achieve sustainable safety excellence. The process for changing a safety culture and changing an overall company culture are remarkably similar. Each culture improvement initiative requires committed and involved management, clear rules of engagement, and the creation of well defined accountabilities up and down the organization.
There are numerous tangible and intangible "organizational barriers" that can have a significant impact on safety and heath performance. These barriers in some instances cannot be eliminated; however, ways of addressing them at the very least need to be employed if an organization desires to attain and sustain safety and health performance excellence. These "organizational barriers" and the successful ways of dealing with them will be discussed in this paper. Before we begin discussing the "organizational barriers" to safety excellence, some grounding with respect to fundamental safety management truths is necessary. The first truth is that Safety Management isn't about preventing accidents; it is really about management learning how to better manage.