Performance Safety Pays Off

It is focused on three areas: your people, your procedures, and your overall processes.

HAS your organization hit a plateau in safety? Are you looking for ways to improve the safe performance of your people? Performance Safety provides effective solutions with optimal participation from your employees. It offers simple, practical approaches that can eliminate or reduce exposures to hazards in the workplace while offering conscious, proactive injury prevention techniques that can be performed at every level within your organization.

Everybody out there seems to offer a program that you can try to implement at your site. With various steps, procedures, tracking charts, and processes for you to try, your safety program can quickly become a massive, complicated, labor-intensive giant that confuses rather than complements. It's great to have options, but those options need to fit your needs rather than your having to change your culture to fit "their" program.

So in an effort to follow the "KISS" principle, there are three prevention measures that can be used in any facility of any size at any level that will provide preventive and proactive workplace practices for your people to perform. These practices also can be measured to determine your success. These three measures allow you to cover each of the three areas of focus in Performance Safety: your people, your procedures, and your overall processes.

1. Workplace Examinations
When an employee or employee crew comes back to the work environment after being off or gone for any length of time, it is critical for that employee to conduct a workplace examination. This exam only needs to take three to five minutes and includes looking for any created hazard within the work environment itself.

Such hazards may include loose or damaged handrails, hoses or lines across steps or walkways, blocked fire extinguishers or electrical switch boxes, fluids spilled on the floor, fire hazards such as hydraulic leaks, etc.

Looking for hazards will accomplish a couple of important action items. You will identify and correct any identified hazard prior to a work exposure, and you are instilling a proactive, conscious awareness of the work surroundings after being gone from them for a period of time.

A simple checklist can be created for employees to use to remind them of the types of hazards they should look for. The key is to keep it simple. A 42-item, detailed checklist will not only take too long to check, but it will be overwhelming if the employee has to check everything on it before starting work.

2. Task Review/Analysis
Task review/analysis provides an overview of duties to be performed by employees or teams. It reviews processes and procedures while reviewing with team members the individual tasks or components of performing the job.

This three-minute analysis allows each team member to review the overall process of the task and refresh himself or herself about the safe procedures to perform it. The analysis also is a great training aid for new members of the team to learn the task and know the expectations of each member who is working on that task.

Another benefit is that the equipment and tools needed to perform the task are reviewed so the correct tool and correct equipment are available when needed for that task. This eliminates the need to use another tool improperly, feeling pressured to take a shortcut for lack of the right tool(s), or having someone take extra time to leave the task in process so he can go get the correct tool that the team forgot to get before starting.

3. Observations
Observations review the individual and team practices of your people. They allow everyone at every level to be actively involved in the safety process while building team relationships.

This activity is not intended to be "disciplinary" in nature or to find fault with what is being done. On the contrary: It provides positive recognition for what each person is doing right while helping each person increase his or her own safety awareness level.

Observations can be tracked and recorded for measurement purposes as long as the "KISS" principle is maintained. This may only take one to three minutes throughout the shift. It is making a conscious effort for someone to observe others performing their task(s) with the intent of finding work practices that are correct. It also will provide reminders when someone gets distracted or forgets a step in the procedure or a piece of personal protective equipment.

In the same way a team conducts internal quality checks on products, team members will guide one another through safe performance while doing their tasks. And one more benefit to observations is that any person, at any level, can participate. From the CEO to the hourly employee, managers, and supervisors--everyone can participate.

When it comes to safety, there should be no "food chain." Everyone helps everyone do it right!

An Ingredient, Not a Removable Slice
Yes, there are many other types of activities that can be performed. If these three activities are being done, everyone will have a proactive part in preventing injuries from occurring in the workplace. A review of processes, procedures, and people's practices make up the total performance at your facility.

Making safety an ingredient in the pie rather than a piece of a pie that can be removed; making safety a value and responsibility rather than a priority that can change with the circumstances; however you wish to say it, safety is part of the total performance that can be proactively measurable and proactively participatory. No matter what his or her position or level within the company, each person can help each other "get better at what you do." Performance Safety measures will instill confidence, ownership, and pride within your people and help you reach your next step of success in your safety process.

This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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