Tag Archives: safety program

Safety As A Culture – Your Recipe For Success

You may have heard the saying “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Then consider this one: “Show me your safety culture and I’ll show you your company’s future.” Here is an outline of what we will cover in this article:

  1. Go Big — Safety as a Culture not as a Program
  2. Getting Started
  3. Measuring Your Progress
  4. Refining Your Process

Go Big — Safety As A Culture Not As A Program
The safety umbrella is broadly defined. For some, safety is a specific program. For others, it is a way of life. Let me submit to you that safety is a mindset, a culture, an attitude. Safety is all encompassing. Its presence or absence will have a profound impact on your organization. Safety should not be merely an isolated component of your company’s overall strategy but more of a culture of process-mindedness.

As mentioned, some companies approach safety as an isolated program (e.g. like marketing, research and development, etc.). Companies that adopt this “silo” approach to safety — as is typical of other business processes — may find the mark being missed. I have found that the most successful organizations have adopted a culture of safety. In these companies, safety is not a silo but rather the bedrock and foundation for all the other business processes.

Getting Started
Whether your company is a recent start-up or well underway, here are some things to consider. Do not consider this list as a recipe but more as ideas for key ingredients that will help define your safety culture. This list is not all inclusive and you don’t need to limit yourself to the items shown:

  1. A culture of safety must be adopted by you, your leadership team, and your entire organization.
  2. Adopt safety as your most important core value.
  3. Decide your desired metric for safety. Is your goal to only have 5 accidents per year? 3 accidents per year? Of course not, we can all identify the ridiculousness of such a metric. Shouldn’t the ultimate goal be to have ZERO accidents and injuries? Let’s be idealistic rather than realistic!
  4. Implement your company’s safety process:
    1. Indoctrinate new hires into your safety culture.
    2. For construction or “active” companies, consider identifying requisite safety gear (e.g. eye protection, gloves, ear plugs, etc.). Make sure everyone has the items and audit employees on the job for proper use.
    3. Establish new hire drug screens, DMV, and background checks.
    4. Incentivize executives and employees based upon safety performance.
    5. “Catch” employees doing the right things and working safely and reward them.
    6. Create guidelines for a safe work area or work site, etc.
  5. If you do have an accident/incident, immediately debrief the matter and consider adopting a mitigating correction to prevent the incident from recurring.
  6. Have regular (should we say, weekly?) safety meetings.
  7. Put everyone on the “Safety Committee” such that hazards are identified and corrected by employees performing their normal duties before things happen. A culture of safety not only allows — but encourages and empowers — employees to genesis ideas for improving safety policies and/or eliminating unsafe or risky practices.
  8. Create safety “billboards” that indicate your company’s safety track record.

Again, the above are ideas, and the list can be augmented and improved upon.

Measuring Your Progress
As you embark upon your journey and define your safety culture, it is very important to establish metrics to measure your success. I recommend tracking your progress and emphasizing positive developments; however, actual accidents/incidents should not be overlooked or hidden but analyzed.

Following are some positive metrics: create a checklist to ensure each new employee is given a new hire safety orientation, track “safe days” (e.g. no accidents/injuries since …), publish new ideas submitted and implemented by employees, have safety drawings for a safe month, etc., compare your safety record for the current quarter to the prior quarter and the prior year’s quarter, reward employees when you “catch” them working safely, etc.

An important side note is that your annual insurance renewals are a litmus test for how your culture of safety is working for you. Is your worker’s comp experience mod going down, are your claims less in frequency and in size, is your liability policy premium lower? Think of your insurance renewal process as a report card of how you are doing.

Refining Your Process
Can you think of a great company that wasn’t safe? We can all recount some past incidents that may have happened to some great companies. The great ones don’t run from their challenges — they face them, live up to them, and get better from them. I believe we should strive for perfection — as elusive as that is; however, if and when something unforeseen happens, it is important to debrief the situation and identify how to prevent that item from happening in the future.

I want to encourage you to create a culture of safety within your organization. I believe that by doing this, you will help establish a process-mindedness that can spill over into the other business disciplines: lead generation, sales, shipping, etc. Everything you do is borne out of your safety culture.

Over my career, I have audited, worked for, and consulted with a multitude of companies. Those that do well seem to have had the safety issue figured out — and as a result — had the rest of their ducks in a row.

As flour is to cake so is safety to your company. Safety is the basis (and core building block) for the success of your company. The key is to go “all in” on your safety culture and to keep an attitude of continuous improvement in all you do. Keep up the great work!

Are You Aware Of The Independent Employee Act Defense?

Are you aware of the Independent Employee Act Defense? If you are, then you do not need to read on. However, I am willing to bet that most of you are not so that is why I am offering this for your reading enjoyment.

The question is “What do you do if you are fined by OSHA for a serious penalty?” Among the various defenses available, there is the Independent Employee Act Defense (IEAD). It is all based on the 1980 Mercury Service, Inc., case which by the way is still cited in Cal/OSHA legal circles.

In this defense, the employer must plead that the act of the employee that caused the injury was an independent act of the employee, and the employer should not be held liable. The argument by the employer is that “I did everything the law required me to do, but the employee violated company policies and procedures and that is what caused the injury.”

Now this seems simple but it is not. In order to prevail with the affirmative defense, it must first be pled on the appeal following the citation and for the employer to prevail, he/she must prove all five of the following elements:

  1. The employee was experienced and trained on the job. Using the case noted as our base, the employee was a diagnostic specialist on automobiles. The employer presented over 70 training certificates from the manufacturer out of which over 30 were on engine diagnostic and performance checks. Also, training certification from a nationally recognized body was provided by the employer. OSHA accepted the employer’s claim on this issue. However, OSHA reviewed all of the safety training that had been completed by the tech.
  2. The employer has a well-defined safety program in place. This one is so obvious. You must prove that you have a well-defined and active safety program in place. Here, the employer provided its Injury & Illness Prevention Program Manual along with copies of the various training sessions that had been given. These were taken directly from the manufacturer’s service manual that were relevant to the tasks being performed at the time of the injury. OSHA again accepted this part of the defense as well.
  3. You must have a policy of sanctions against employees who violate your safety program. Employers must have a policy of sanctions which is enforced equally against any employee who violates your safety rules or is involved in unsafe acts. Here the employer reported that he did not have such a policy as injuries were virtually non-existent and therefore not needed. The employer lost on this one at OSHA as no policy was in place and as any earlier violations that may have occurred had not been documented.
  4. You must also have an effective enforcement program in place. The written policy noted above must be enforced equally and be well documented. Here, OSHA held that the enforcement part of the employer’s overall safety program had “no teeth” and that the program which was well written was never followed nor enforced. Here, as you can see, the employer lost.
  5. The employee caused the safety infraction which he/she knew was contrary to the employer’s safety requirements. Here, the employer must prove that the employee had the requisite knowledge of the safety requirement which he knowingly violated, whether on purpose or by his/her own negligence. The employer provided a copy of the safety rules in place at the time of the injury which had been signed and acknowledged by the injured employee. They also provided a copy of the shop manual (specific directions on the servicing of vehicles) which all technicians refer to repeatedly. This document also outlined the safety procedures for each task as well as the relevant safety issues.

So what does this say to you? It says that if you have an effective Injury & Illness Prevention Program and training program in place which is well documented and enforced you may be able to effectively defend against an OSHA serious violation. However, the important thing to remember is that proper documentation wins the day. Without it, don’t even try to defend as you will most likely lose. The watch word by most agencies is that lack of documentation means that there was no documentation and you lose.