Own Your Safety
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Awhile back, I put on a training session at the Carpenter’s Apprenticeship in Tacoma, WA. The training was mostly about how to work safe and take ownership of your safety.
I explained that every single individual needs to own safety and make it work for them. We discussed the reasons why we, as individuals, want to work safe, and about why companies want to work safe.
Next, we talked about the things that get in the way of us being safe and the solutions to those problems. Check out the sections below and have a good discussion with your crews to see if they have anything to add. As silly as it seems, increasing communication increases safety.
Why do Employees Want to Work Safe?
Why employees would want to work safe seems inherently obvious. The first reason being, they, themselves, won't get hurt. Secondly, their coworkers won't get hurt. This ensures that they can continue working, they can continue getting paid, and that they will have a long, successful career, that isn't shortened by an injury causing them to leave the workforce early. That seems simple enough to comprehend.
Why do Companies Want to Work Safe?
Another big topic of discussion is why would a company want to work safe. Again, this seems obvious. A big one, if you're working for the right kind of company, is that they care about their employees and they want to protect their employees' well-being.
Coming in second would be the issue of liability. Companies don't want the cost of liability, and the legality of liability. Proper documentation can decrease the fines paid to OSHA as well as making an audit performed by them much simpler. According to injuryfacts.nsc.org, $171 billion was spent in total costs of workplace injury in 2019.
The total cost of work injuries in 2019 was $171.0 billion. This figure includes wage and productivity losses of $53.9 billion, medical expenses of $35.5 billion, and administrative expenses of $59.7 billion. This total also includes employers’ uninsured costs of $13.3 billion, including the value of time lost by workers other than those with disabling injuries who are directly or indirectly involved in injuries, and the cost of time required to investigate injuries, write up injury reports, and so forth.
This showcases the impact that workplace injury has on the employee, as well as the company.
Outside of the financial mess, it is important for companies to keep their producers producing. Companies have entered into legal contracts and they are legally obligated to fulfill them.
In addition, a safe work environment keeps morale high. Nobody wants to work in an environment that isn't meant to be inherently risky, but is, due to poor management and lack of training.
In order for a company to get more work and to continue bidding, they must have a low incident rate. Clients do not want to hire companies that are reckless and put their employees in unsafe situations.
Lastly, poor safety records will affect a companies reputation. Think about someone who has wronged you, or has given you their word and backed out. How does that effect how you think about that person? The same thought process applies in business.
What Gets in the Way of Safe Work?
As elementary as this may seem, these main issues get in the way of proper safety at work:
Lack of engagement
Lack of training
Lack of attention
It doesn't seem "cool"
This is where proper training protocols and safety documentation come into play. If you don't have proper procedures for your employees to follow before they start work, you can expect an unsafe jobsite. Things to think about:
Do you conduct Toolbox talks?
Do you have a specific form to identify potential safety issues? A JHA?
Do your crews actively engage when these trainings and forms are being filled out?
What metrics are you using to track them?
How do We Fix This?
First and foremost, you should have a company wide safety standard that everybody is aware of and trained on. Your employees should then be trained correctly according their skill and job that they are performing.
In addition, you should encourage employees to go beyond the minimum and bring these key areas to the jobsite:
Create engagement, speak up and listen
Get to know and actively care about each other
Make safety personal
Taking charge of their own safety
The safest crew out there is the crew that is properly trained, and actively aware. It's really as simple as that.