4 Steps to World Class Safety and Compliance

Why do some organizations achieve safety excellence, while others struggle to successfully prevent incidents and accidents from happening? We were wondering the same thing, which is why we spoke with industry leaders and safety experts to understand how the safest companies in the world maintain safety and compliance while achieving safety excellence.

We’ve identified 4 critical steps that the most successful organizations follow to improve safety, environmental health, and risk management:

1. Gain Leadership Buy-In

Safety starts at the top. Best-in-class organizations recognize this, and their leaders place a premium on safety. When asked to explain why their organization consistently ranks among the safest in America, ACCO Brands EHS Director said that senior management prides themselves on their ability to “mentor” and “coach” their employees on cultural, performance, and safety standards within their organization.

This focus on safety as a “cornerstone” to corporate success is critical to achieving world-class safety and compliance.

If you’re struggling to achieve executive buy-in as it relates to your risk management and safety programs, emphasize the bottom-line impacts to the overall company. Here are a few shocking stats that are sure to get business leader’s attention.

“The safety behaviors and attitudes of individuals are influenced by their perceptions and expectations about safety in their work environment, and they pattern their safety behaviors to meet demonstrated priorities of organizational leaders, regardless of stated policies.” – Dov Zohar, as cited in NTSB accident report

2. Use Leading AND Lagging Indicators

Many organizations rely on lagging indicators of safety to understand the success of their overall program. These typically consist of metrics like:

  • Number of recordable incidents
  • Incident frequency
  • Incident severity
  • Total days missed due to injury
  • Total workers’ compensation claim amount

These data points help to understand what has happened vs. where the organization is headed.  They provide little to no understanding of what your organization is doing to influence your overall health and safety.

The safest companies in the world rely on leading indicators of safety to predict how their program will perform and to prevent problems from occurring. While lagging indicators of safety are pretty standard across many organizations, leading indicators of safety can vary depending on the company.

So how do you begin recording and reporting leading indicators of safety within your organization?

According to the Campbell Institute, leading indicators fall under 3 categories:

  1. Operations-based leading indicators: indicators that have to do with a company’s infrastructure (i.e. machinery and buildings).
  2. Systems-based leading indicators: indicators that deal with the management of a safety system and program (i.e. how the organization manages, communicates, measures, and improves its safety program).
  3. Behavior-based leading indicators: indicators that measure the behavior or actions of individuals or teams (i.e. leadership engagement, at-risk behaviors, and employee engagement with the safety program).

If you’re interested in a detailed overview of how you can implement leading and lagging indicators together, click here.

3. Form a Safety Committee

When safety leaders can influence the policies of an organization, safety success follows. For high-performing organizations, safety committees are a critical part of their safety program.

A recent NTSB presentation by Robert Sumwalt highlighted the importance of leadership “obsession with continuous improvement.” Just because you have a reduced rate of accidents, doesn’t mean you are “safe” – it actually means you’re at risk for developing complacency. Safety committees can help.

If you’re an organization with multiple site locations, consider forming a committee with field workers and site leaders from each location. Have them meet consistently to discuss what’s working, and what’s not. Over time, that group will begin to highlight areas of success and areas in need of improvement. Those recommendations will influence your overall safety and risk management program and will lead to continuous improvement overtime time, rather than complacent safety practices.

4. Leverage Technology

The importance of technology in a modern safety program cannot be overstated. Technology makes the safety process easier, increasing the likelihood that people will consistently follow your safety program. The safest companies in the world recognize this, and leverage best-in-class systems, apps, and devices to keep their people equipped for success.

Here are a few ways technology can help you and your team:

  • Reduce admin time by having everything in one place
  • Quickly report incidents and hazards through real-time field reporting
  • Increase collaboration – when all information is in one place and key employees have access to the same information, they can ensure that all key tasks are covered and potential issues and claims are addressed in a timely manner.
  • Improved employee morale – by making it easier to access information and process claims, employees will feel more valued.
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