Safety is a Team Effort
An effective safety program is one that involves all levels of an organization to make it work. Management needs to be involved to set the direction and ensure compliance. Employees need to follow the policies and should be allowed to give their feedback on what is working, what needs to be fixed and what has to be replaced. It is my opinion that safety is a team effort.
I was reviewing one of the online safety newsletters I subscribe to and I read an interesting, if tragic, article about an electrical company here in Nova Scotia who lost an employee who was designing their safety program for them. At the time of his death, he hadn’t shown his employers any of the work that he had done. The company had nothing in place when the Department of Labour came to investigate. To make matters worse, the accident (he was electrocuted) could have been prevented if he had shut the power off to the breaker panel he had been working on, which is what his employers were charged with. This man was asked to design the safety program and provided with the training because he was the “most safety conscious” employee they had, and yet he made a fatal safety mistake.
There are many issues and questions that came to my mind when I read the article. However, the one I wish to talk about is how letting only one person be responsible for safety is a mistake. Safety involves every employee, from the CEO to the summer student, working together to ensure that a program is followed. In the case mentioned above, management dumped everything onto this one employee and had him do all the safety work, as well as his regular work as an electrician. There was no follow up by management to see what was being done, and if they did ask, they were told that he wanted to wait until everything was done. None of his co-workers knew what he had done either
Designing a safety program needs to involve all workers who are affected by it. This helps improve their commitment through buy-in. Management needs to be aware of what an employee or employees are doing for safety. No one should just sit back and assume that because someone has been assigned the role of coordinator or safety representative that everything for safety is taken care of. Everyone has a role to play, from management maintaining purchasing and discipline policies, to field staff reporting near misses and following safe work procedures. By remembering that safety is a team effort, a safety culture can be built and “safety is our number one priority” will actually be a policy, not just words.