In my last article I introduced the idea of creating safety-leadership activity menus to guide employees in leading safety culture at their level. One of the first things you can and should do to reinforce safety as a culture we lead rather than a policy we follow is to get your front-line actively doing it. There are many activities around leading safety that can be offloaded to the front line to help build a sense of ownership for the culture, and these can be documented in a safety-leadership menu. Here are some of those activities.
Lead Safety Talks
If you are currently holding these in one or more of its various forms (pre-shift meetings, pass-down meetings, safety contacts, toolbox meetings, tailgate meetings, etc.) then begin handing that responsibility over to your front-line employees. Leading a safety talk forces the employee to learn more about the topic he’s presenting, and then compels that employee to persuade his peers to embrace it. That in turn builds leadership that finds expression in other activities.
It’s extremely important to remember that this activity will be viewed by most employees as particularly scary. Public speaking has long ranked as the #1 fear of all people surveyed, so don’t be surprised if most of your employees just don’t want to do it. That’s okay. Work with the few that don’t mind trying it, and give them some basic tools on how to do it well.
Coach Unsafe Behaviors
If front-line employees are unwilling to take each other aside to share observations about potential unsafe behaviors, then the culture isn’t yet what it should be. If an employee notices a peer engaged in an unsafe behavior or working in an unsafe condition, how does s/he respond? Does s/he initiate a conversation or just walk away?
Initiating that kind of conversation with a peer can be just as scary as leading a safety meeting. Their main concern is likely that the conversation will escalate into a confrontation! It’s just easier to hope the employee doesn’t get hurt than to risk conflict. To counter that, be sure they have the right coaching tools that can guide them into having that type of conversation in a non-confrontational way.
Report Near Misses and Good Catches
Most organizations already do near-miss reporting, and there’s value in doing that to help mitigate repeat occurrences. Many of those same organizations either don’t track good catches, or they include them in the near-miss category. Technically there’s a difference between the two. A near-miss is an incident that didn’t result in personal injury or property damage. It’s something that happened in the past, so in many respects it’s a lagging indicator.
A good catch is when someone notices a potential hazard and mitigates it before it becomes one: “That gate over there is loose and it’s kind of windy today. Why don’t we tie that off so it doesn’t swing open and hit someone?” A good catch is predictive of a safety culture. It’s a leading indicator because it shows people are actively looking for hazards on the job and mitigating them for a safer work environment.
You may already be doing some sort of safety-observation activity as a leader, but there is real value in getting your front-line employees involved in this as well. Carving out time for them to walk the floor making general safety observations, or observing a specific work activity, is a great way to get another set of eyes on potential hazards and behaviors around the job and get them owning the safety culture all at once.
Be sure you are taking extra precautions to prevent this from coming across as a “safety cop” program! Any unsafe activities observed during these observations should be strictly off limits for disciplinary action. Being the object of a safety observation (the one whose activity is being observed) should be the equivalent of a “Get out of Jail Free” card!
There are two more activities that are key additions to this activities menu, but we’ll save those for next time. That’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.