Total Performance Safety

This management approach creates proactive teamwork to eliminate hazards from or processes, procedures, and people.

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 performance.

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 condition.

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 or reduced.

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.

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