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The Power of Safety Priorities

It is a plain fact of the safety profession: Run the program, or it will run you (often, into the ground). Safety is critical to the success of any organization, and keeping everything moving takes a lot of work and thought and a little luck.

I admit it, I'm a list person. At any given time when I have a few moments of peace (my favorite is the dead time before a scheduled meeting or training session), I sit in the quiet with my cellphone turned off and think, plan, and make lists, often on index cards. On long trips, I also tend to use a voice-activated mini-recorder for the same purpose. You will be amazed at the -quality of material you will gather, one bit at a time! Once or twice a month, I pull all of these bits and pieces together and add them to the following categories to help keep me on track:

• Short-term goals. "Today, this week" items that need to be done are filed here. If you have a way of knowing what needs to be taken care of, you have a better chance of tending to these items specifically. This is your local "project list."

• Long-range goals. This is the "big picture" of safety and how to pull all the parts and processes together into a useable fashion.

• Training needs. From formal to one-on-one items, topics of the day, and new emerging codes and trends, training has to be planned out far in advance in order to control costs of manpower and production time, as well as program preparation.

• Staff needs. In this stack is how to get help with all you have to do! Making the corporate structure understand that you just "make" it look easy is part of this; actually, you put a great deal of sweat equity into the safety efforts of your organization.

• Equipment needs. What you need today and what you may need at a moment's notice in a big crisis event go here. As do rotating items that are time-limited or that deteriorate from heat, humidity, etc. Add in where to purchase these items, and include local as well as mail-order sources. In some situations, your usual ordering methods will be disrupted completely (remember the Katrina catastrophe?).

• Networking needs. Inside and outside your organization, you may need to touch base on a specific topic with the boss or make sure the file clerk is up to date on records. Or another department may be rolling forward with some other safety issue or investigation. This category is just an update mechanism, a gentle reminder.

• Professional development needs. Include conferences and one-on-one sessions with a mentor or safety counterpart to keep you focused on the needs of your organization and to help prevent burnout.

Using these groups, you can begin the transformation into your lasting, positive safety plan. It takes time and effort, but everything in safety does. And our employees are worth every effort we can make!

One of the largest mistakes made in planning is the idea of doing everything at one time, such as a two-day retreat. I compare that to the "Visit 23 countries in three days!" vacation punishment. You may actually achieve the goal, but you will not accomplish much for your efforts.

Plan slowly and with a purpose -- what is best for your employees. Listen to others, but do what you personally (and professionally) know is right. Plan well ahead so the stress that is reduced is your own. As important, take time for yourself. . . . What we do is our career, not our life.

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