I’m sure you’ve heard the admonition, “If you see something, say something”. A couple of weeks ago, I was riding on a New York City subway and frequently heard that message. The intent is clear, if you see something that does not look right, let someone know. Whether it is a strange behavior, an abandoned bag, or any other cause, speaking up helps keep everyone safe.
The same principle applies in the workplace. If we see something that is not being done in a safe manner, we need to speak up. In doing so, we are proactively striving to prevent injuries and keep our colleagues safe.
This is one of the principles of the Safety Always process we use with companies and employees. We train safety committees to be aware of safe practices, observe their colleagues, and help remind them to work safely at all times. The reminders of colleagues are more effective at maintaining safety than posters, games, or the cajoling of managers.
Most workplace injuries fall into one of four causes:
Methods – Procedures may not be clear or are not followed, short cuts are taken, or the pace of work leads to unsafe practices.
Equipment – Equipment may not be well maintained and appropriate, workflow may not be conducive to safe practices, or personal protective equipment may be inadequate.
Leadership – Management and the union must be committed to safe practices, issues raised by workers need to be addresses, and staffing must be adequate to get the job done and avoid repeated overtime.
Workplace – Injuries can result from inadequate training, such as lifting techniques or the use of machinery, worker fatigue, job stress, lack of properly maintained safety equipment or plans, or a lack of understanding of the tasks and the risks involved.
If an injury occurs in your workplace, is the first reaction to find out who to blame or look for causes of the problem? If we waste time trying to affix blame, we do nothing to prevent future injuries. We need to find the root causes of the problem and make necessary changes to the work system to help avoid recurrences.
This sounds easy, but it is not. Making systemic change requires time, commitment, and sometimes a cultural change. It’s easier to jump to conclusions than study our systems. When organizations demonstrate the need to make this type of change, they demonstrate their commitment to safety to workers.
I want you to think about an incident in your workplace that resulted in an injury. It could have involved you or a colleague. Which of the four causes listed earlier describes the injury. Was the response to the injury blame finding, punitive, or a search for root causes? Did the incident result in systemic changes to try to prevent it from happening in the future?
Are there practices in your workplace that have or could result in an accident, injury, or even a near miss? They occur in almost every workplace. When they do occur, is the response appropriate and designed to fix the causes of the problem?
If this is not the response, your organization would benefit from a safety program based in employee involvement and listening to the worker voice, one like our Safety Always process. Contact us to learn more about this proven process.