Learnings from Safety Professionals: Biggest Challenge in Building Safety Program

Learnings from Safety Professionals

February, 2017, our EHSQ Community had a Mastermind session with Jake Thiessen and Keith Voykin, hosted by Tamara Parris, to discuss the challenges EHS Professionals face building their safety programs in the workplace.

During our sessions we had just over 30 community members share their views, challenges and insights learned through their work experience on our workplace safety issue.

From our “Member’s Voice” discussion we learned 27 members have personally experienced challenges when trying to gain Organizational Buy-In to their safety program.

Which is a good indicator many EHSQ Professional are facing this challenge.

A suggestion Jake shared with us, to help with the challenge of gaining buy-in from all levels of the organization, it is important to develop the different strategies needed to generate the desired buy-in at the various levels.

With buy-in one of the questions that must be answered is where do you start?

Jake shared, what he has found helps, is to communicate the goals to be achieved to all levels of the organization, to ensure everyone is on the same page and eliminate any confusion.

Keith Voykin suggested to look at “Who” the target(s) are receiving your information, so you are properly packaging the information. Part of the process also includes considering what format will be the most effective to use when communicating. He shared that this really is a key starting place to motivate others to champion your safety program.

When we asked our members to share what Organization Level they found to be the hardest to gain buy-in; 4 members mentioned their experience was with the CEO level, 7 Senior Management, 9  Mid-level Management and 7 Employee level. Interestingly, the highest rated level was Managers and Supervisors with 10 member mentions.

Keith shared, when entering into the ‘workings’ of an established corporation or business Safety Management System, in his experience, there are four steps to consider:

  1. Look and Listen: Feel your way through the indoctrination session and orientations.
  2. Review: Examine the assigned portion or entire SMS manual to check for inconsistencies, level of current revisions and updates. This may be the reason for communication walls based on mistrust, historical lack of actions, or the foundation for support and enthusiasm for further improvement to the SMS.
  3. Develop: Take time to create clear transparency dialogue with all parties.
  4. Match and Meet: Match your level of Integrity and Ethics to your actions, and be aware of and record retaliatory actions that work to discredit or undermine others. The presence of “office politics” has historically proven the bane of any industry or workplace.

We moved into discussing what methods our members often use to measure successes and identify opportunities. 11 members stated they use Senior Team Review Audits, 9 an open discussion at their staff meetings, 8 use a formal workplace audit, and 1 lagging and leading Indicators.

During the open discussion, Jake identified change management is a critical piece to ensure we implement because it helps everyone understand why there is a need for change. Other members also shared it helps to address the fear of change, and embrace change, for those who are struggling.

To conclude our session, we discussed how Audits can be used for benchmarking and as a measurement tool that can be leveraged to showcase how the safety program contributes to achieving the business’ vision and objectives.

Jake shared how Audits are an important tool because to reach your destination one must know where they are now, to properly map the path to reaching their goals. An Audit will identify what is in place, what is missing, and what needs refining and improvement. A well-defined Audit is a must and should be structured with the emphasis as follows;

  1. Perception interviews,
  2. Perception surveys,
  3. Observation, and
  4. Documentation.

Keith highlighted it is important to use your Audit and Measuring Metrics as the basis for any Safety Professional to have a clear understanding of how to perform investigations and the tools to:

  1. Ensure they gather non-biased Information,
  2. Can analyze the data with the intention of problem solving and not blaming,
  3. Develop and package the information processed so it is presented to the persons who have the pivotal power to make changes, and
  4. Develop an action plan to initiate change showing the solutions to the problem(s) found. (Notice, Plans, Education/Training, Monitoring and Communications of Problem Alerts/Response),

Our member, Yahya shared with the group how within their organization he uses KPI’s, list of achievements and areas of improvement to evaluate their annual safety program.

Zubeni from Brazil shared he has found it of value to establish KPI’s that align safety with company’s strategy , especially on yearly or monthly deliverables for Directors and Managers. He added that the KPI’s should also help indicate any level of improvements, or disruptions that require interventions. He closed his thoughts sharing that the KPI’s should be based on potentials, as well as, the unexpected effects of implementing these changes to your safety program.

In closing, Jake and Keith shared their belief that in order to produce results that ensures the safety of workers, and the ability of an organization or business to remain economically viable and competitive; it requires a continuous effort and obligation of the Safety Professional to investigate all options, and resources. This includes the day to day inspections, reviews, and dialogues with all parties to investigate potential or actual gaps or deficiencies in activities, protocols and procedures along with reducing grey areas of interpretations of Policy.

We invite you to view the Live Open Discussion which inspired this month’s Learnings from Safety Professionals post; “Addressing Biggest Challenge in Building a Safety Program”.

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