As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but verify.” When it comes to safety management systems, how often do safety professionals truly verify that the expectations they’ve set are being met? Oftentimes, frontline and middle managers are woefully unprepared to deal with even the simplest of safety issues. As safety professionals, teams, and departments, it is imperative that we arm our manager peers with the tools they need to effectively oversee the day-to-day management of various safety systems, techniques, and processes. Here are a few simple but effective tips to ensure you’re positioning your organisation for safety success.
- Clearly lay out all expectations. Whether annual goals, weekly system checks, or anything in between, all managers should know exactly what is expected of them in an EH&S framework. The earlier this happens the better, especially if you’re able to align your process with your organisation’s performance-management benchmarks. In short, the more you can integrate safety goals with other goals that matter to company managers, the more chance you have for your programs to succeed. Remember- what gets measured, gets done.
- Follow up constantly. We all know what happens when we assume; you must consistently follow-up with the managers tasked with executing your safety agenda. Some will forget what you’ve told them, others might be confused as to what to do, while another small subset may ignore your directives altogether. In any event, sometimes it pays to get in the weeds and really figure out how your programs are faring. Use the Napoleon’s Corporal principle- ask the worker who is lowest on the totem pole if he/she understands a certain safety process or procedure. If they do not, the managers supervising them need more intervention from you.
- Prepare for the worst. Test the managers with “what if” scenarios. If an employee had injury XYZ, what would you do immediately? Who would you call? How would we go about finding the root cause and engineering out the risk? These mental drills take no more than ten minutes but can help prepare frontline supervisors for when an injury occurs, especially a catastrophic one.
We sometimes focus entirely too much on employee training, employee safety, employee risk control, and so on.
By ignoring managers and supervisors, especially those close to the action, we do the entire organisation a disservice by leaving them unprepared to ensure daily safety processes are being followed and leaving them less-than-ready to deal with unfortunate situations when they occur. Remember- your safety success hinges on the success of the managers in your organisation.