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May 20th, 2016

8 Ridiculous Things Safety Managers Hear

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Empowering employees to adopt new safety practices can be a safety manager’s greatest challenge. What one person considers unsafe or dangerous, another person may view as acceptable. In construction, shortcuts can become common practice. When you’re talking to other safety managers, they just get it and understand managing health and safety is more than writing rules and training employees how to follow them. There are always a few workers though who don’t quite understand the need for undertaking work in a safe manner. If you’re a safety manager, these are the eight things you’re probably sick of hearing.

1. “That’s not how I learned to do it”

OSHA changes their policies with new updates and recommendations each year. It’s important to stay abreast of industry knowledge and best practices. We’re frequently learning new ways to perform tasks better and in a safer manner. If employees aren’t adapting to those new processes, we lose potential iterative improvements. Just because you’ve been in the industry for decades, it doesn’t mean you know everything about it. The world is changing rapidly and we must be willing to learn something new sometimes, if not every day. You, and your employees, can stay up to date by reading articles in a health and safety publication. By creating a culture that encourages innovation and learning, safety managers and employees themselves can all progress toward the common and simple goal of maintaining a safe workplace.

2. “I was on a deadline so I didn’t use (insert safety equipment here)”

We often hear of stories about workers who think “it’ll be alright” before performing a high risk activity. An extra two minutes to prepare your harness (or whatever equipment you’re using) can mean all the difference. When people are rushing, corners are cut. When you’re working with heights for example, the outcome of cutting corners can be fatal. OSHA reports that the leading cause of deaths on construction sites result from falls, that’s 39% of 4,251 worker fatalities in 2014.

3. “That’s not my job”

Rather than cultivating an individualistic attitude within an organization, strive to have employees watch out for one another. Aviation experts draw on ‘team intelligence’ where they understand every individual contribute to outcomes. The last thing we want for an airline copilot to say is “that’s not my job”, things could do disastrously wrong. Your company is no doubt constantly growing and expanding, so sometimes employees will be asked to take on tasks that aren’t noted within the job description. You might even pick up a new skill or find you might enjoy the challenge. Safety management is every employee’s responsibility.

4. “I didn’t have time to conduct that audit”

With the introduction of auditing technology like SafetyCulture iAuditor, it takes only a few minutes to perform a comprehensive inspection, complete with an instant report of your findings. Audits simply need to be a priority, both at management levels and amongst frontline workers. Evidence and research has shown that checklists work. Read more about creating a cultural shift in your organization through the humble checklist.

5. “Gotcha.”

Contrary to popular belief, safety isn’t about catching or punishing workers for doing the wrong thing. Keeping safety in the forefront of each person’s mind is a continuing, never-ending job throughout any project. A behavioral-based approach to safety is a movement evident that focuses on trust-building and care over fear-based approaches. Trust has been consistently demonstrated to be a leading predictor of improved safety performance. A study focusing on the mining industry, Gunningham and Sinclair (2012) found that “…unless the mistrust of the workforce can be overcome then even the most well-intentioned and sophisticated management initiatives will be treated with cynicism and undermined.” Read more about increasing employee engagement.

6. “I don’t need a checklist for that”

Atul Gawande describes in his best-selling novel, Checklist Manifesto that most critical mistakes occur due to ineptitude and ignorance. The aviation industry recognises that human error is inevitable and has embedded the use of checklists into their workers DNA. As a result, fewer aircraft accidents occur because pilots turn to the checklist in moments of catastrophe. Time and time again checklists have proven their worth, even proving more superior than pilots’ own sense of judgement.

7. “I didn’t read the new safety procedures. Can you give me the highlights?”

While safety managers want to be available to educate at any time, they put a lot of time and effort into rolling out new procedures so it’s important to give them the time they deserve. In saying that, safety managers should be making it as easy as possible for new workers to understand updates and changes to the way they work. Too often safety procedures are made by the desk bound worker who don’t have a sense of its practical application. Work with your workers to improve workplace health and safety, and they will start working with you. Read about 10 steps to create an effective induction here.

8. “I didn’t feel I could speak up”

There is a lot of risky behavior that gets overlooked at workplaces these days. We’ve mentioned aviation a lot, but they really are the world leaders in safety. Pilots viewed error as a weakness and often looked to blame before the industry’s’ rapid cultural transformation. Now in the cockpit, errors are dealt with immediately. The role of the copilot and team members are not to blindly obey orders as it was in the past, but to have a voice in the decision making.

If you’re a safety manager, we hope you’ve found some solace in this article and feel a little better about the ridiculous things you hear each day. Understanding the reasons behind your worker’s attitudes, and taking a psychological approach to safety and risk can help you be a better manager, and empower your workers to think safety first. What other ridiculous things have you heard? Share with us in the comments below or tweet at us @SafetyCultureHQ

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