Yep, it’s true. Right about now some of you are saying, “That’s nice, good for him,” while others are screaming, “Don’t do it!” And for those of you who know me: I still don’t think pigs have the ability to fly, or that H-E-double-hockey-sticks has frozen over. I will be embarking on a journey that will take a lifetime of effort and commitment. My dad, who’s conducting the ceremony, will pronounce me a husband, and as much as I’ll pretend like I know what that means, I have no clue of how to be a husband. I’m committing to my then-wife Kelly that I will do everything it takes to learn how to live up to that pronouncement. I’m sure it will be easy. Wish me luck!
Speaking of commitment, many companies claim to be committed to safety. We’ve all seen them. They have “Safety First” on the cover of their job proposals or on the homepage of the company Web site. Maybe you’ve walked in the front door of an office building to see a floor mat that reads, “Safety Starts Here” (hopefully, that mat doesn’t create a tripping hazard). I get a warm and tingly feeling as a safety professional when I see these things, but what do they actually mean? What steps are we taking to actually achieve this idea of a commitment to the safety of ourselves and our coworkers?
I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say it starts with the complete and unequivocal support and commitment of upper management. I realize for most organizations, safety is not a “money maker,” which may be true, but the safety of employees is definitely a “money saver.” If owners and the company pyramid toppers aren’t actively involved with the safety program, it makes it tough to pass the safety culture message down the line.
You also need to have a knowledgeable and hands-on safety team. I’ve learned that a safety manager, director, supervisor, etc. trying to execute safety policies and procedures from behind a desk or through an email or memo doesn’t carry the same weight as one who is actually committed to being on the jobsite with his or her fellow workers.
Speaking of field or jobsite workers, get them involved with the safety program. Make working safely a condition of employment, and give each employee and contract worker the right to stop any job they believe to be unsafe. Ask job-related questions and correlate them to safety. Find out what worries employees or makes them uncomfortable on the jobsite. Ask for their suggestions to correct those safety hazards or concerns. Finally, have your employees lead safety meetings. This forces them to put some time into learning the OSHA standards or company safety policies. Plus, it may have more of an impact on workers because it’s coming from a peer instead of the safety professional.
Of course, we cannot forget the commitment to educate and train each employee, including subcontractor employees, on the safest way to work. Make training interesting and different from your same-old video or PowerPoint that was made back when bellbottoms were in style. Nobody wants to see that.
Just like my journey through this whole marriage adventure, safety in the workplace takes a lot of time and effort by all parties involved. It’s not something that comes easily or without confrontation. Commit to safety and live happily ever after.
Guest blogger Aaron J. Morrow, CHST, works as a project HSE manager and is a safety consultant, an OSHA 500 trainer, a Cal/OSHA 5109 trainer and a construction risk insurance specialist.