According to Pamela Walaski, director of health and safety at GAI Consultants Inc., "The more employees are engaged, the more they recognize risk."
At the 2016 Safety Leadership Conference in Pittsburgh, Pamela Walaski, CSP, CHMM, director of health and safety for GAI Consultants Inc., and Paul Haney, vice president of environment, health and safety at USG Corp., took an introspective look at risk management and safety culture. Over the past few years, there has been a significant transformation away from injury-based/compliance-based programs to the development of safety management systems that provide for continuous improvement and focus on risk reduction.
According to Walaski, effectively implementing this proactive approach requires a deep engagement with employees; ensuring they are involved in developing a safety philosophy, as well as executing it throughout the organization. She says that corporate safety leaders can take strategic steps to ensure that proactive safety protocols ring true on the plant floor and have a powerful impact on safety culture.
“Safety professionals have to redefine what ‘safe’ means,” she said. “You got here safely, but did you behave safely?”
In other words, did attendees speed on their way from the airport? Did they shoot through a yellow light or glance at their phones? The outcome was that they arrived safely – had a zero incident rate – but were they behaving in a safe manner?
Walaski cited a 2007 Rand study that found:
- No relationship between OSHA injury rates and fatal and serious incidents (FSIs).
- That the absence of minor injuries is not predictive of the absence of future FSIs.
- That the presence of minor injuries is not predictive of the presence of future FSIs.
She also cited a 2014 Rand survey that compared the fatality rate in the UK with that in the United States. The fatality rate in the UK is one-third the rate of the United States overall and one-quarter the rate in construction. “Lower rates are associated with management attention to safety and a risk management approach,” said Walaski. “Put time and energy into risk management [rather than compliance].”
She showed a graphic that showed two circles with a small area of intersection in the middle. One circle represented reduced incidents and the other represented OSHA compliance. The intersection of the two – the “sweet spot,” according to Walaski – “is too small.”
Common causes of FSIs are struck by objects, operation of/interaction with mechanical equipment, falls from height or same level, electrical contact, contact with non-electrical hazardous energy and explosions or fires. And there are OSHA regulations that cover all of those hazards/causes. If compliance alone was enough to reduce FSIs, then they wouldn’t occur, said Walaski.
“Risk-based approaches provide the best way forward toward preventing FSIs,” she said, adding, “Hazard and risk analysis techniques must be embedded into an organization’s culture. Employees must have a risk analysis mindset. They must be skilled at it.”
USG’s Haney reinforced that message with his presentation, “Creating a Safety-First Culture.” While the company provided employees with a safety rule book as far back as 1914, “It’s still a constant struggle,” he admitted.
“We don’t want our employees working if they see a hazard and don’t feel safe,” Haney said. An employee engagement survey found “that 92 percent feel comfortable shutting down an operation for a safety concern. We wish it was 100 percent; we’re working toward that.”
He said the company has built its safety culture on seven pillars:
- Standardize procedures
- Define roles and responsibilities
- Engage and empower employees
- Provide resources and support
- Drive accountability and monitor compliance
- Performance measurement
- Deliver rewards and recognition
USG Corp. has developed a Safety Activity Rating that heightens safety awareness, increases employee participation, improves program compliance, reinforces safety as a line responsibility, facilitates an exchange of best practices and serves as a retention tool and talent review.
As a result of the SAR program, incidents have been reduced by 60 percent, said Haney. The company conducts audits, alternating years with internal audits with external auditors to help facilitate engagement of employees in the safety process and culture.
As Walaski pointed out at the end of the session: “The more employees are engaged, the more they recognize risk.”