4 Safety Habits You Need to Abandon (And What to Do Instead)

If you’ve ever felt like your safety program isn’t quite where you want it to be, it might come down to tangible and intangible aspects of your company culture. Here are a few habits that may be holding you back from creating a healthier environment, including the “how to” on breaking those habits, too:

1. Relying on paper to manage safety

Relying on paper to manage safety is not only time consuming, but it can result in more errors and compliance headaches. Plus, so many safety managers can agree that it can be a bit of a nightmare when one safety manager leaves a company with physical records and compliance paperwork completely unorganized…or they have a filing system that no one else seems to know about… The fix: you can actually digitize your culture by choosing an all-in-one, digital EHS system to manage safety and health. One of the greatest things about having your information and safety support materials all in one place—accessible at any time—is how as the organization grows, you stay organized. That means you have the tools to be more agile, flexible, and ready to really empower employees with relevant, real-time safety information. Not only that, but the information continues to be utilized by all workers when you digitize safety. No longer will you have work sites that could have out-of-date materials, since every site, and every worker, can have all the updated forms and SDS sheets, right at their fingertips.

2. A “safety cop” mentality

If you’ve been called the “safety police” or a “safety cop”, someone may be suggesting you’re a “by the book” safety manager or that you tend to focus on blame when it comes to any safety incident or hazard. The fix: To be the best leader possible, you’ll want to look beyond “just” the rule book. Safety is a collaborative, team effort, and this implies that safety (or that your leadership style) is at odds with that. You can move from a focus on blame to a focus on accountability by adopting a safety coach mentality. That’s one where you are proactive (instead of reactive), and where you want to come alongside someone to help them learn, grow, and develop skills. The idea is you’re a coach that’s helping to develop other coaches within the organization.   Instead of honing in on when someone made a mistake, you seek ways to learn from any mistakes. Surely you work to minimize complacency—all while seeking ways to prevent accidents and injuries based on other employees’ input and feedback.

3. A “rear-view mirror” approach to safety

Do you sometimes feel like you’re solely looking at the past when it comes to safety metrics…or even safety in general? Out-dated data puts you in the undesirable position of always looking at the past. That data can be useful, in part, but it may not help you take steps to proactively prevent issues or incidents in the future. If your data (or dashboard) isn’t informing you of ways to make changes to your safety program, you have a major opportunity for improvement. The fix: rather than use stale data or “just” lagging indicators, take advantage of a system that tells you where you were at in the past, where you are at today, and what you can do in the future to optimize safety, too. Said another way, look for a scorecard that tells a story of what’s happened, what’s currently happening, and what needs to be done next. Part of that picture is also about improving accountability to make sure what needs to happen does happen. For example, you’ll want to see accountability documents created, proactive reports, critical actions needed, the number of days without incidents, the number of incidents, the type of incidents, etc. Based on what’s most meaningful to your company, you want the ability to capture behavior-based steps/actions that have occurred so you can know exactly what’s going on and where.

4. A “one size fits all” outlook

Safety is personal, and a “one size fits all” mentality that’s used across job sites and across different teams is never going to be optimal. The fix: One key part of making your safety program more customized is the training you provide workers. Considering measuring or capturing where workers are at today (throughout their lives), and customize training and education based on their current skills, and where there are gaps in those skills or experiences. Also, consider all the skills needed for the future safety manager. After all, you want to develop and attract the best talent; with that in mind, what do you need to do now so that you can develop the best people and recruit the best people a year from now? What about in two years? And what about in 5 years? That approach can also impact the technology you invest in to empower and equip your workers.   All of those strategies will go a long way in making sure training is personalized, relevant, and fresh.   Next, use the data your company is collecting to see what areas you need to focus on in terms of training and continuous learning. It’s great to get feedback from employees on what they want to focus on, but you can use data from the company, too, to guide training. Using both approaches can help to make training both pertinent and personal. Remember: every company should have the ability to create a customized approach to safety…one that is flexible and can change as needed. Does one project or job site require certain skills be learned? Your program should be able to adapt and use needs-based training to do just that.

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