Safety professionals have some of the most complex job responsibilities. The fluid nature of EHS and compliance only adds to the complexities that they must address on a daily basis. Maintaining the safe standard of a workplace is the duty of every individual involved in an organization, but the onus ultimately rests on the shoulders of those appointed specifically to spearhead the safety program. In order to do so correctly, professionals such as safety supervisors must cultivate the right mindset that allows them to strive for and achieve sustained safety and compliance all across the board.
Workplace safety begins with a mindset. The correct mindset in this context is one that allows for long term growth, quick and decisive thinking, and a safety-first approach to everything they do. In the big world of safety, it’s easy to let some aspects of your job slip through the cracks, ultimately leading you to feel lost. In this article, we’ll outline and discuss a three-step process guided by best practices for you to continue to excel as a safety professional.
Target Zero's Out:
For the longest time, organizations and safety professionals alike have been obsessive over the concept of target zero. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, target zero is a concept in which you strive to get your incident rate as close as possible to zero. While sounding positive in theory, this does very little to address the realities of risks in the workplace, and fails to provide organizations with a strategic plan to actually mitigate and manage such risks. Any worthwhile worker in safety can tell you that target zero is unrealistic and unattainable. No matter how strong and comprehensive your safety program is, no worker will have a flawless record. Instead of fixating on a metric that you’ll never fulfill, shift your focus to building out proper mitigation strategies that aim to limit, rather than eliminate all workplace incidents. This way, you can pay attention to the small details that make up a hazard and understand which aspects of it you can address in safety management. Furthermore, ensure that you also factor in incident management in a manner that accounts for every worker. Programs that prioritize a target zero approach are often too fixated on that single aspect that they fail to address what to do when risks arise and how to manage them as they happen.
Engage With Your Workforce:
Oftentimes, safety teams exist as a separate entity with little to no communication with the workers that they’re expected to manage. Even if you and your team have crafted the most promising safety management program, it is ineffective if you do not receive equal participation from your workforce. Part of developing an effective approach to safety is being open to receive external feedback and share your thoughts with others. With that in mind, the workers you manage can be one of the strongest assets in your toolset. Ensure that you’re always following up with both contractors and employees to encourage healthy communication regarding the topic of safety, provide them with the necessary means to voice their concerns and provide feedback, and include them in any and all compliance initiatives that you implement.
This is especially important when it comes to dealing with new hires. Ensure that you provide new hires all the tools necessary for their success, and familiarize them with you and your team to secure equal safety buy-in. This also extends to your contractor management efforts, learning how to manage external risk in this context is vital to the success of your overall safety program.
Refresh Your Knowledge:
As the saying goes, “If you think you know everything, you know nothing”. In this context, we’re all students of safety. Encouraging this mindset from the beginning of your career will be one of the many factors to your understanding of safety, as well as your ability to excel in your efforts toward it. The first step in achieving this is by being open to receive feedback on your operations, as well as being open to the fact that you can always learn something new to help you improve your program. In today’s fast-paced climate, you must also acknowledge that your safety program won’t look the same forever. There’ll always be an emerging tool that you could adopt to benefit you and your organization. Similarly, best practices in the industry are subject to change. It is your duty to follow up with the constantly changing environments, whether they are social, environmental, or regulatory. Make it a goal to never remain stagnant in your growth as a safety professional, and position yourself to embrace change in how you define and approach compliance.
Safety is a never-ending process. This statement holds true for both your safety program, and your journey as a safety professional. As the climate around EHS and compliance continues to transform, it is your duty to adapt to changes and continue to grow in how you think about safety. The industry has largely moved away from a target-zero approach. Instead, focus your efforts on learning how to effectively mitigate and manage workplace risks. Ensure that you’re engaging with your workforce as it is the most optimum way to encourage complete safety buy-in and make your program more cohesive. Position yourself as a lifelong learner and embrace the advancements that may benefit the progression of your work. Following these best practices will allow you to think about safety in a sustainable and productive manner, ultimately leading you to become a better safety professional for yourself and those that you work with.
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