Total Performance Safety
This management approach creates proactive teamwork to eliminate hazards from or processes, procedures, and people.
- By Randy DeVaul
- Sep 15, 2008
Managers are looking for simplified ways
to promote safe work practices while
maintaining production levels. Too
often, current safety programs that
begin with great intentions turn into a paper-tracking
nightmare or the documentation becomes the ends to
the means rather than having a positive impact on employee
In an effort to address the front-line supervisors’
requirements to ensure a product or service is delivered
on time and ensuring his or her employees do
their assigned tasks in a safe and productive manner,
there is a simplified way to integrate safety into production
that will keep your production numbers up
and your injury numbers and costs down.
Performance Safety: What Is It?
Performance Safety re-focuses attention back to the
basic fundamentals. It is defined as an ongoing review
of processes, procedures, and individual/team practices
through three basic methods: workplace examinations,
observation, and task analysis. It provides a
proactive, continuous improvement environment to
encourage safe production at all levels.
Performance Safety recognizes individual and team
performance in proactive (not reactive) injury prevention
techniques that will totally prevent, or at least
reduce, exposures to hazards. It allows employees at
every level to achieve optimum performance by:
• Recognizing and correcting any unsafe condition
or practice—individually and as a team
• Identifying/implementing more efficient, safer
ways to perform a task
• Improving/streamlining processes to adjust for
newly identified hazards
•Modifying/enhancing Safe Operating Procedures
to ensure consistent and repeated safe instruction and
performance of the task(s)
Performance Safety involves all aspects of a person
and company’s performance, so defining an unsafe
condition and unsafe act are based on performance issues
rather than through the traditional means of
something being unsafe vs. someone being unsafe. As
a result, the following definitions are used to re-evaluate
root causes of exposures to hazards.
Unsafe Condition: exists if an individual does not have
either knowledge or control over existing circumstances
that may be unsafe, which would otherwise suggest he
would not perform the action.
Unsafe Act: an action taken by an individual who has
both knowledge and control of an existing unsafe condition
or action but chooses to perform the action or ignore
The above definitions account for behaviors, corporate
culture, and expectations, or, as stated in Performance
Safety terms, address employee practices,
written procedures, and the overall processes currently
in place at your site.
An employee who has not been trained properly
may not know how to do the task properly, resulting
in an unsafe condition.He is not choosing to do it with
risk, so it is not an unsafe action being performed. An
employee who knows how to perform the task but is
working in circumstances that take the control away
would also result in an unsafe condition. For example,
while welding, an employee must bend at the waist to
reach the work area. There is no mechanism available
to allow him to reach it from a different angle.As a result,
the employee experiences back pain while performing
his duties. He had no control over the location
of the work and was unable to modify the duty to
protect his back. This is an unsafe condition.
On the other hand, an employee who knows how
to properly perform a task and has been trained specifically
in this task yet insists on modifying the procedure
to “save time” is clearly committing an unsafe act.
He has full control in the decision to perform the task
and has all the appropriate tools and equipment to
complete the task safely.An example is choosing not to
wear leathers to weld and, as a result, the employee
catches his clothing on fire. The process is clear, the
procedure is clear, the practice (behavior) is at-risk.
Performance Safety, then, takes into account the
practices (employee choices), the procedures (identified
way the task should be performed, if identified
correctly), and the overall process (employee training, employee expectations established through corporate culture and
management, etc.). Safety becomes part of an integrated recipe for
success based on “value” rather than being a piece of the pie that
can be removed at will when it is only a “priority.”
How Does a Person/Team Perform Safely?
1) Workplace Examinations: Take 3-5 minutes when first arriving
on-shift to examine the work area for hazards that may have been
created while you were gone. Damaged handrails, guards off/missing,
hydraulic leaks, oil/grease spills on floor or stairways, hoses on
floor/crossing stairs, etc. Correct the problem before starting work
so your personal and group exposure to those hazards can be eliminated
2) Observations: Throughout the shift, each team member
should be observant to what is going on around him/her. When
working on a group task, take a couple minutes before you begin to
ensure you have the correct tools, that each person understands
his/her role to complete the task, and that each person has been
properly trained to perform the task. If necessary, review the Safe
Operating Instruction sheet prior to beginning to remind everyone
of the proper technique. Then, each person observes and helps each
other to do the task correctly, out of the way of any hazards or harm.
3) Task Analysis: Always review/revise the Safe Operating Instruction
sheet. A complete “hazard review” of the task must be
done to ensure hazards are identified. Then, steps are taken to eliminate
or reduce the exposure to the identified hazard(s). It may involve
changing a procedure, including other types of PPE, or eliminating
the task entirely to prevent exposures. This is where
individual and team involvement is important, as the entire task is
analyzed to ensure it is performed the best way possible. Be creative
and think “out of the box” to see how to perform the task in a different,
better, or streamlined way that ensures safe performance.
Performance Safety causes us to look at what we do and how we do
it. It creates proactive teamwork to eliminate hazards from equipment
or processes, procedures, and people.We all have varying perceptions
and views. It is taking all of those together to come up with
a better performance that is safe, effective, productive, and profitable.
Stick to the basics and we all benefit!
This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.