Reaching world-class safety is difficult and requires a deep evaluation of safety culture. To start, we cannot assume that to achieve world-class safety we only have to manage compliance expectations. Some organizations understand that it is more than bookkeeping and injury rates below a specific level.
The process of attaining best-in-class safety starts with a strong commitment to zero injuries/harm, but it is important to also ensure enough resources and support systems are in place to accomplish the best safety standards in the world.
What Is World-Class Safety?
We could define World-Class Safety as the degree to which an organization prioritizes safety in its business activities, and how many resources are allocated to satisfy best-in-class safety requirements for its staff. Ultimately, if we are to protect employees, we need to have a true partnership-based approach to safety. That starts with safety professionals having a deep engagement in all aspects of how the organization functions – recruiting, onboarding, training, supervision, hazard awareness, production planning, maintenance scheduling and more.
Organizations that only comply with the bare minimum safety requirements can have a negative impact on their business and employees. Traditionally, the management of safety complied with the company safety program; where the bulk of the program pretty much regurgitated the safety standards as promulgated by the relevant State or Federal jurisdiction. Some organizations may add additional requirements to this program based on specific risks, past experiences, or other relevant considerations. However, there’s always been a need to understand why workers get injured on the job, but the bare minimum, may not allow us to reach a good conclusion and truly understand the root cause.
The Importance of a Safe Culture
At Milliken, pride comes from many different initiatives, but one that makes us feel as a family is to know that our safety culture is the way we do things and the reason why we do them. The main job of our facilities around the world may be most likely to build management and compliance systems, education and training processes that keep our people and their work environment safe. Even though, the saying – “we want you to go home the same way you came to work, or better” is overused at times, it continues to exemplify our organization’s safety mission.
Organizations and businesses that enjoy a safe culture or show improvements as they work towards achieving it can see the advantages in a variety of ways.
Key Elements in a Safe Culture Workplace
Establishing and emphasizing that a solid safety culture can only exist when it is integrated throughout the organization may not be always easy to achieve. All levels of the organization within the company need to have an initial objective. The leadership needs to ask these questions:
Cultural Development Starts with Responsibility
Cultural development is centered around moral obligations, social norms, truth, beliefs, values, and practices. In other words, people matter. Workers are looking for a relationship and partnership with the organization and it is the company’s responsibility to develop a safety culture where the worker’s safety is evident. The employees want to feel safe and understand that their supervisors and senior leaders care for them. The results along the journey when establishing a safety culture may not always be positive and that’s why the organization’s duty to provide a safe environment shouldn’t be disturbed.
There is a reason why a positive safety culture is hard to achieve and even harder to sustain, but it is the missing link that influences good safety performance. Effective communication is key as positive relationships are developed. For leaders, it is important to ensure workers have a voice in safety. In a world where things may seem complicated, make it easy for employees to approach leadership with safety concerns and be ready to respond with an action that positively shows their concerns are valued.
Not everyone will have a good idea, however you should value their words enough to listen and respond with action or comment. Acknowledging others’ ideas and accomplishments sometimes translates to celebrating their wins and communicating them effectively. Recognize people one-on-one and as a group and don’t be afraid of sharing how difficult it was to reach a goal or the hurdles along the journey. This is partnership in action.
Leadership is Critical
Moving vision to action is paramount in cultural development. The vision should be challenging and easy to remember, however the mission should provide more understanding on how the organization plans to get there. Safety should be seen as a value and should be integrated into every business activity.
Organizations should assess themselves against robust management systems and work towards closing gaps that affect the culture and value for safety. Some safety principles to be guided by may prompt us to not overlook unsafe behaviors and conditions, to teach our people to own their safety, and to not be afraid to shut down an operation when unsafe. These and other principles should encourage genuine employee engagement as we create a world-class safety process.
Leadership Skills are Provided by Performance Solutions by Milliken
Having a well-coordinated leadership team that fosters high safety and health standards is paramount for Milliken & Company. We can help leaders in their commitment to safety and we do so through our Critical Skills for Successful Supervisors class, which includes how to be a better leader in your organization and how to be a resource in the safety structure.
Employee Participation and Engagement
Workers are the essence to building a safety program and if you have employees who do not believe in the organization's safety culture, it's difficult to become a world-class safety entity. It's critical to educate employees and to encourage them to participate in workplace safety and injury prevention measurements. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Prevent Hazards by Identifying and Reporting
Every single employee should be encouraged to report any safety concerns to their superiors. Enhanced education on hazard awareness and risk communications is especially beneficial for employees in that critical first year of work. They are eager to impress, and they are less likely to communicate safety concerns than more established workers. Moreover, on-site supervision should verify the information from employees’ submissions and take action to avoid any potential hazards.
At Milliken & Company, plant managers audit their workplaces to not only identify and minimize hazards and risks but also to lead the way and pave the road to safe behaviors and conditions. During our safety journey, employees have partnered with leadership, and they use their available tools and resources to put preventative maintenance initiatives in motion. They have learned the more they can do on their own to keep track of problems and the steps required to solve them in a logbook to prevent recurrence, the better their individual, equipment and quality performances are.
Establish World-Class Safety Employee Performance Metrics
Engaging by empowering at all levels of an organization for safety has been pivotal for Milliken. Empowerment equals “taking personal responsibility” for our own actions. The safety aspect of our culture is intertwined with everything else. To encourage actual worker empowerment, everyone in the company from the executives down must embrace the parts they play that contribute to the level of safety performance. Empowerment must include words and actions consistently. In that way, workers acquire the skills needed to be more in control of their tasks and risk reduction. This will provide them with more confidence and greater control over their safety in hopes incidents are prevented.
Implement Employee Training Programs and Exercises
I’ve noticed that time constraint is a concern and at the same time, an excuse, when having to provide education to workers. Employees are needed at their areas of work and their safety, suddenly, is not as important as we’ve told them. It is the duty of an organization to furnish training programs to all individuals tailored to their job responsibilities that include the safety aspects. This training must be consistent to the workers’ needs and timely. At times, the training doesn’t fulfill all job requirements and/or comes late. World-Class training programs should include:
Training programs may also be developed and deployed in different languages to cater to all existing needs.
Establishing Safety as a Value
To confirm the notion that safety is an important aspect of the workplace, the training programs should make the important things highly touchable. In fact, this is one of the 9 Principles Milliken & Company stands by as a key performance indicator of having Safety as a Value. Over the years we have learned that people acquire knowledge in different ways; but most importantly, we learned that to highlight a training element, we need to bring it in a way that will stimulate the senses. We must engage individuals through hands-on training that requires them to move to different areas from the ones they normally work to interact with co-workers (i.e., auditing, Gemba walks), updating safety boards (i.e., safety metrics, body parts injured, safety recognition), involvement in awareness activities through learning by watching, learning by asking questions, learning by doing. There are many ways to train others and the main two ways to be successful are:
Milliken can Help Improve your Facility’s Safety Standards
If we knew what we know now, we wouldn’t have delayed the changes that needed to happen in the 1980’s in Milliken & Company. Our way of looking at our safety and the safety of our associates is drastically different from the past. We feel proud to be able to connect with many industries over the years and to assist them with a great level of knowledge in their journey to world-class safety. Their success is our success.
For many years, we have assisted organizations by tailoring their on-site safety structure and education. Our mission has been to provide employees with a healthy and safe place to work as well as providing resources and knowledge to other organizations who need guidance.
Performance Solutions by Milliken can customize our clients’ needs and form a partnership that brings those elements that engage the workforce at all levels. It is our goal to have a healthy and safe population that feels cared for in our facilities and yours. Performance Solutions can join your efforts in making sure your organization creates the footprint that will define the safety metrics structure for today and beyond.