Suppose you want to reduce the costs and risks associated with workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. In that case, you should place as much emphasis on safety and health as you do on other management issues such as production, sales, transportation, and quality control. The first big step in this effort is to develop an effective Safety Management System (SMS) and it must be integrated into the corporate management system.
How well the SMS functions depends on the company's safety culture, leadership, SMS structure, and performance. Click on the button to see the a full list of characteristics, elements, and components of an effective SMS.
An effective SMS will include the following characteristics:
OSHA has developed Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs that will help you analyze and evaluate your organization's SMS. We encourage you to use this valuable resource.
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It's 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. Click on the button to see indicators of top management commitment to the SMS.
Survey your company's safety management system to determine the status of each indicator. Managers indicate a commitment to safety when they:
Management commitment to safety will occur when each manager understands the positive benefits of their effort. Understanding the benefits creates a strong desire to improve the company's safety culture. Managers invest serious time and money into effective safety management by applying each of the elements in the SMS
The commonly seen phrase, "Safety First," may sound nice but it's not truly effective. Safety is most effective when it's considered a core value, not merely a priority. Priorities can easily change, especially when the going gets tough. Core values do not change, no matter what: change "Safety First" to "Safety Only."
"Safety Only" emphasizes the idea that it's fine to produce as hard and fast as you can, as long as you can do it safely. If a safety issue is discovered that might cause serious physical harm or death, correct it immediately, even if that means shutting down production. That's commitment to safety!
Managers make a commitment to safety to fulfill one or more corporate obligations. They invest time and money in safety to fulfill one or more of the following obligations: Social, Financial, and Legal. Click on the buttons to see why the employer is motivated to fulfill each of these obligations.
Commitment to fulfill this obligation is most effective in the long term. Managers realize that long-term corporate survival depends on more than maximizing short-term profits. They tend to value and tap into the creative potential of each employee. They perceive safety as a core corporate value that does not change when the going gets tough. When managers value safety at this level, they naturally do safety to fulfill the other obligations.
Commitment to safety to meet this obligation can be quite effective because it makes good financial sense. Managers are motivated to invest in safety because they understand the financial benefits of an effective safety culture. They feel obliged to operate the business in a financially prudent manner. They do whatever needs to be done to proactively and reactively reduce direct and indirect safety costs. Safety may be a high priority if it pays. However, because safety is not really considered an unchangeable value, it may be given a lower priority if "the going gets tough".
Commitment to safety is given only to fulfill minimum legal requirements. Consequently, this is the least compelling reason for doing safety. Managers want to stay out of trouble, so they do only what has to be done to meet OSHA requirements. Safety is not a priority or value, but thought of as just the cost of doing business. Safety strategies are typically reactive because safety is not a problem unless there is an accident. OSHA may be considered the "bad guy" because management doesn't understand how OSHA works. You can see how OSHA works by reading OSHA's Field Operations Manual.
Every day, employees, supervisors, and managers have many opportunities to communicate and act in ways that show safety leadership. Unfortunately, these opportunities go unanswered because they do not see them as opportunities. Everyone must understand that effective safety leadership can produce enormous benefits.
Most employees at all levels of the organization are good people trying to do the best they can with what they've got. The problem is, they don't always have the physical resources and psychosocial support required to achieve the best results. Ultimately, the workplace culture must support effective safety management and leadership.
Employees perceptions of "the way things are around here" can exert a great influence on leadership styles. We can associate three basic leadership styles managers use to meet the obligations discussed above. Let's look at these leadership styles.
Managers with a tough-coercive leadership style are tough on safety to protect themselves from litigation and OSHA citations. A need to fulfill their legal obligations motivates them, and that’s it.
Click on the button to see the characteristics tough-coercive leadership.
A tough-coercive leadership approach has the following characteristics:
Click on the button to see examples of tough-coercive leadership.
As you might guess, fear-driven cultures cannot achieve world-class safety because employees work only to avoid negative consequences. Bottom-line: a fear-driven safety culture will not work. It can’t be effective at any level of the organization. It may be successful in getting compliance, but no more.
Managers using a tough-controlling leadership approach are tough on safety primarily to secure compliance with safety policies and rules, and to control losses due to accidents. These leaders consider safety as a "loss control" function.
They may have high standards for behavior and performance, and feel the need for tight control of all aspects of work to ensure compliance.
Click on the button to see the characteristics of tough-controlling leadership.
A tough-controlling leadership approach has the following characteristics:
Click on the button to see examples of tough-controlling leadership.
Tough-caring leaders are tough on safety because they care about the success of their employees. This approach is like the more familiar "servant-leader" model in which leaders serve those they lead.
The tough-caring leadership model is a major shift in leadership and management thinking from the tough-controlling model. Instead of focusing on controlling employees to maintain compliance, tough-caring leaders focus on supporting employees to achieve excellence. Click on the button to see some characteristics of tough-caring leadership.
Supervisors and managers exhibit tough-caring leadership in many ways. Click on the button to some examples of what supervisors and managers might say and do if they have a tough-caring leadership style.
Leaders in top management may communicate their support for safety. However, the real test for commitment is the degree to which management acts on its support with serious investments in time and money. When management communicates their interest in safety, but does not follow through with action, they merely express support, not commitment.
Genuine commitment expresses tough-caring leadership by example. Integrity, character, and self-discipline are values that all managers seek in their employees.
Employees will show these important attributes when (and only when) they see management exhibiting these values first. Outstanding leaders truly care about those they lead. What better way to show leadership than by providing a safe and healthful place of work for all employees?
Here's some food for thought: If you're a manager or supervisor, ask yourself, "Do I really like my people?" If the answer isn't yes, start now to rethink your opinion because it's almost impossible to show caring leadership if you don't actually like your people.
"We choose to have zero injuries. We choose to have zero injuries not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, because we care for ourselves and others too." S. Farnham, Safety Manager, Contrack, International.
The vision statement lets the employee and customer know who you are by defining your company's role and basic values. The vision statement reflects the corporate culture. One way to understand a corporate culture is to think of it as its unique "personality," setting it apart from all others.
XYZ Widgets values its "relationship with customers" above all. To be successful we treat all employees as valued internal customers. We respect their ideas, value their work, and provide whatever is needed so that they may accomplish excellence in a safe-productive manner. Doing this empowers our employees so that they may manifest our values daily with our external customers.
The mission statement tells the world what you do -- why your company exists, by stating its intended purpose. The mission statement lets everyone know your company's product or service, who its customers are, and its service territory.
XYZ Widgets' mission is to safely manufacture and deliver the highest quality megalithic cyberwidgets to our valued customers worldwide.
If your company doesn't have a mission statement, try to develop one and convince management of the benefits that will result from a written mission statement. Now let's look at two basic approaches employers may adopt in safety and health program management.
It's sad but true. Some employers think they can rely on reactive "firefighting" strategies that deal with safety problems as they come up. This approach to safety management is considered "reactive" because it assumes:
Consequently, these employers place most of their effort into reacting to accidents after they occur. The goal is to minimize the costs of an injuries and illnesses on the company. Employers think they'll save money by using this approach.
A reactive approach to safety uses strategies always costs the company much more. Why? In addition to the costs of prevention, the employer must also pay the direct and indirect accident costs.
Click on the button to see examples of safety programs that are developed when employers have a reactive approach and use reactive strategies.
Many employers adopt a "proactive" approach to safety management that emphasizes preventive strategies. A proactive solution anticipates and corrects hazardous conditions and practices to prevent accidents.
Employers will do whatever it takes to make sure accidents never happen because they consider safety a core value "chiseled in stone" rather than a priority that can be easily lowered if the going gets tough.
This approach is considered "proactive" because it assumes:
A proactive approach to safety uses strategies are less expensive than reactive strategies in the long term because employers make investments that result in potentially huge returns.
Click on the button to see examples of safety programs that are developed when employers have a proactive approach and use proactive strategies.
So now you have a vision and mission statement developed. The next step is to proactively develop some goals and objectives to improve your company's safety and health program. The problem is, most people think goals and objectives are the same things: They're not.
Goals short statements and are easy to write. They're nothing more than wishes. For instance, a goal might be to:
Objectives are action-oriented statements that provide more detail. They should be structured to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Relevant, and Timely. Take a look at the video on this page for more information on how to write SMART objective.
Properly-written objectives should have the following elements present:
Click on the button to see examples of operational objectives.
Work with the safety committee to share the goals and objectives with everyone in the company. By the end of this course, you should be able to think of many more ways to increase management commitment.
When discussing the bottom-line benefits of safety with management, they must understand the relationship between indirect and direct accident costs.
According to the National Safety Council, when considering all industries nationally, the average direct and indirect claim costs for a lost-time injury is over $40,000, and a fatality can cost over $1 million.
Indirect costs average 2.7 times the direct costs. However, it's important to understand that indirect costs may be much higher. Here are three important points to remember when estimating indirect to direct accident cost ratios:
Take a look and download OSHA's Safety Pays software program to help determine direct and indirect costs.
Management may ask you what the Return on Investment (ROI) will be for investment in safety. Let's say you recommend a $4,000 investment in taking corrective action to eliminate a hazard that could cause an injury resulting in accident costs of $36,000. To determine the ROI:
To express the result as a percentage, multiply 9 by 100 to arrive at a %ROI of 900 percent. Now that is a great return!
(COST ÷ INVESTMENT) X 100 = % ROI
($36,000 ÷ $4,000) X 100 = 900% ROI
Management may also want to know how long it will take to pay back the $4,000 investment. To determine the payback period:
INVESTMENT ÷ (COST ÷ MONTHS) = # MONTHS
$4,000 ÷ ($36,000 ÷ 12 MONTHS) = 1.33 MONTHS
What does it mean? The investment is actually saving the company money in a little over five weeks! That's a "no-brainer."
Now you have some ammunition to help motivate and increase top management commitment to invest in safety. You'll receive many more tips and ideas about this throughout the course. An important step in making sure the above ideas are effectively applied is to develop an action plan to get top management commitment. An action plan is nothing more than a set of long-term strategies and short-term tactics ("how" statements).
Take a closer look at some of the key elements of an effective recommendation.
Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.
Mark is a consultant and leader within Oregon OSHA, and he manages Oregon's Safety and Health Achievement and Recognition Program (SHARP). If you have time, watch this presentation. It's worth it!