Safety as an Operational Discipline
April 1, 2009
While safety is top-of-mind for every contracting firm, achieving consistent and accretive safety improvements requires an evolution in workplace behavior and operating culture, as well as cues and prompts in the field and office. Proudfoot Consulting’s examination of operational safety programs around the world finds that such initiatives often neglect to address important elements of behavior and consequences.
When we enter a construction site, warehouse or shop to identify opportunities for safety improvement, we often begin with studies of operator skills – those of equipment operators. Despite the existence of safety “standards” in most organizations, we commonly find that safety, operational and attitudinal assessments haven’t been performed in years. Moreover, supervisor evaluations tend to be spotty, and their format either outdated or insufficient. Our analysis of valuation scoring finds that grades often are biased toward good, and scores frequently are similar or identical, indicating that supervisors may be going through the motions rather than measuring their staff’s skills with a critical eye. In short, the evaluation process underlying safety initiatives often lacks rigor and teeth.
Reporting and Root CausesOur cross-company analysis of risks and hazard root causes reveals that more than half of all risks are behavioral or skill-related, contributing to a preponderance of all accidents. Exacerbating this issue is the lack of timely reporting. Generally, there is no mechanism or process for real-time tracking and monitoring of the safety “pinch points” throughout operations (leading indicators and daily controls are not available at the point of execution).
In the accident reports themselves, incident descriptions oftentimes do not help to elucidate the root cause of the accidents (hour, shift, tools, equipment, supervisor, skills, behavior, system or process). Therefore, the reporting rarely leads to revelation of the best actions to minimize the problem. Indeed, safety systems tend to produce statistics rather than drive actions that improve safety.
Procedures and DocumentationIn many cases, safety procedures are outdated, while documentation tends to be text-heavy and not user-friendly. Most safety considerations are buried in manuals and lacking in quality visual support, specificity and relevance.
To build an organization with a sustainable safety-driven culture, one that is action-oriented and practices operational discipline as a way of life, companies must:
- Establish operational discipline and compliance to a
safety management operating system, which provides the tools for objective
measurement of safety at the point of execution.
- Put the appropriate safety and execution organizational structure in
- Engage supervisors and operators by using discovery/learning
techniques at the point of execution.
- Ensure safety processes align with changing operational requirements.
Operator SafetyWhen evaluating operator skills, individuals should be measured and ranked on:
- Knowledge of security procedures.
- Fulfillment of security norms.
- Use of all appropriate elements of personal protective
- Appropriate adjustments to changing physical conditions or
- Recognition of risks in surroundings.
- Preparation for an emergency.
When evaluating operator attitude, individuals should be measured and ranked on:
- Planning the
- Showing initiative.
- Learning from errors.
- Cooperating with supervisors.
- Completing reports correctly.