A workplace safety and health system includes many programs that describe what people, business owners, managers and employees do to prevent injuries and illnesses at their workplace. A workplace safety and health program may be just a concept, but it is an important one. Effective management of worker safety and health protection is a decisive factor in reducing the extent and severity of work-related injuries and illnesses and related costs.
An effective safety management system includes provisions for the systematic identification, evaluation, prevention and control of workplace hazards, and continuous improvement of its programs.
An effective occupational safety and health program will include the following main elements:
Effective programs have clear principles that focus on priorities and guide program design. Developing an effective safety management system begins with conducting an initial baseline survey to asses and evaluate existing programs and policies within the company. The information gained from the baseline survey can be used to improve weak policies, programs, processes and procedures.
Top Management Commitment (TMC) is defined by how much time, money, and concern the employer gives to safety. The degree to which managers demonstrate TMC indicates their understanding of the benefits derived from an effective safety management system.
It is essential to the success of your company's safety and health program that top management demonstrates not only an interest, but a long term serious commitment to protect every employee from injury and illness on the job. But, if you think you don't have that level of commitment, how do you get it? Real commitment doesn't just appear out of thin air. What is the secret?
Here's the secret - management commitment to safety will occur to the extent each manager clearly understands the positive benefits derived from their effort.
Understanding the benefits will create a strong desire on the part of management to improve the company's safety culture. Managers will invest serious time and money into effective safety management by developing what I call the "6-Ps" within each element in the SMS:
Every day, employees, supervisors and managers have many opportunities to communicate and act in ways that demonstrate safety leadership. Unfortunately, these opportunities go unanswered because they are not seen as opportunities. Employers and managers do not understand that the simple expression of tough-caring safety leadership can result in enormous benefits. The inability to perceive leadership opportunities as they arise limits the company's potential to succeed.
It's important that the employer fulfill legal obligations to the law and every employee. Effective workplace safety accountability exists if: appropriate behaviors are objectively evaluated and result in effective consequences.
An effective accountability system will include all of the following elements:
The best safety programs occur when everyone shares responsibility for their personal safety. For that to happen, all employees must know they are helping to develop a program. Employees at all levels should be actively involved in finding and correcting safety and health problems. In other words, effective safety and health programs involve the employee who has a stake in its success.
One of the best ways to involve employees is through active participation as a member of a safety committee. A safety committee is a group of employees, representing labor and management, who are responsible for promoting workplace safety and health. Employees can volunteer to be part of the committee or they can be nominated by their co-workers.
Below is a list of examples of employee involvement in a safety and health program.
Employee participation means they are encouraged to participate fully in the safety and health program. That includes the review and investigation of injuries and illnesses, periodic workplace inspections, regular safety and health meetings, and recommendations to the employer with respect to the administration of the program elements. Effective employee involvement includes the right of employees to ask for outside opinions and information on safety and health questions that are related to the workplace.
Effective communication is essential for a successful program. Everyone with a stake in worker health should have knowledge of what is being done and why it's important to them and their co-workers. Management should also provide periodic updates to employees and needs to keep the program visible through data-driven reports.
An important concept in communications is the Two-Level Theory which states that in any communications process messages are sent and received on two levels.
It's important to know that a person will be more affected by how you say something (relationship level communication), for instance the tone of your voice, than by what you say (content level communication).
If you are a safety committee representative, think about the relationship set up between you and your co-workers. What happens when you receive their concerns and suggestions, report them to the safety committee, but fail to provide feedback in a timely manner? Aren't you ignoring them? That's the worst of all possible responses. Make sure you get back with your co-workers as soon as possible to let them know the status of their concerns or suggestions. This is probably your most important job as a safety committee representative.
A workplace hazard is any unsafe condition or practice that could cause an injury or illness to an employee. Most accidents are ultimately caused by weaknesses in the safety management system because those weaknesses affect the effectiveness of the safety program which, in turn, affect behaviors and conditions in the workplace.
There are four primary sources of hazards in the workplace:
There are four important methods to identify and control hazards in the workplace:
To control hazards in the workplace, the "Hierarchy of Controls" strategy is used. The first three strategies eliminate or reduce the hazard, while the last two eliminate or reduce exposure. The highest priority is to fix the hazard because if you don't have the hazard, you are much less likely to have an accident. Hazard controls are implemented according to the following hierarchy:
Accident analysis and investigation is a critical process. The purpose of the process is different, depending on who conducts it: The employer analyses accidents to fix their safety management systems, while OSHA investigates accidents to determine if the employer violated OSHA regulations. Do you see the difference?
An effective employer accident analysis process will include the following steps:
There are three levels of analysis that must be completed to make sure the accident analysis is effective:
Safety education "tells why." Education builds the philosophical foundation that establishes why safety is important. Education transfers general knowledge and more specifically explains natural and system consequences. The goals of safety education are to primarily increase knowledge and improve attitudes. Here are some important things to remember about safety education:
Safety training "shows how." Training is one form of education that helps build specific knowledge and skills to perform safe procedures and practices. The goals of safety training are to primarily increase knowledge and improves skills. On the job training (OJT) is a very effective training strategy. Important points to remember about safety training include:
Experience can improve skills. Experience is a natural form of education. Experience within a supportive safety culture will help to further increase knowledge, skills and attitudes about safety in the workplace. It's important to understand how important the safety culture is to safe performance.
Consequences can sustain behavior. Consequences motivate employees to learn. When employees understand the natural consequences (hurt or health) of their actions, they're more likely to use safe procedures and practices. Employees are also more likely to comply when they understand that system consequences (discipline, recognition) will be administered.
It's important to think of safety as an important aspect of both product and process quality in the workplace. In this course, we'll address those concepts and principles that apply safety specifically to process safety. Let's take a brief look at how product and process safety differ.
Product quality is elusive. The only way you know you have it is by asking those who define it: The customer. All the company can do is to try hard to produce a product that fits the customer's definition of quality. When the product is designed to prevent injury or illness, the customer will define the product as safe. As we all know, customer perceptions about product safety are very important these days. Unfortunately, some companies do not take safety into consideration when designing their products. Consequently they may unintentionally design unsafe or unhealthful features into their products.
Process quality and safety are very closely related. Process quality may be considered error-free work, and safety, as one element of process, can be thought of as injury-free work. When an injury occurs, the "event" increases the number of unnecessary and wasted steps in the production process. How does safety fit into the continuous quality improvement philosophy?
After analyzing your safety management system, you may discover that one or more improvements to your is necessary, it's important to carefully develop and implement the change using a planned method.
One simple change management technique is to use the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle. It was first developed by Dr. Walter Shewhart, and later applied by W. Edwards Deming, the father of total quality management, to transform the industry of Japan after World War II. He promoted the PDSA Cycle that was partly responsible for Japan's meteoric rise in manufacturing. He believed that statistics hold the key to improving processes, and that management must take responsibility for quality in the workplace because management controls the processes.
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