Put a Stronger Safety Culture Right in Their Back Pocket

Put a Stronger Safety Culture Right in Their Back PocketThe goal of every healthy safety culture is (or at least should be) to drive ownership for safety to the grass-roots level. That means all employees at every level are safety leaders in their own right.

In fact, it’s probably fair to say that most organizations have already adopted that way of thinking and communicated that message to their front lines. So if you were to ask any employee, “Who owns safety in the organization?” chances are they’ll respond with, “Everyone.” But the real test of who owns safety can be seen in their behaviors on the floor, where carrying out the company’s official safety goal might be more of a challenge. 10-things-safety-culture-change-plan

One of the most difficult hurdles to overcome when building a stronger safety culture is getting front-line employees to understand and embrace the full weight of their role as safety leaders, especially when it comes to stop-work authority or coaching a fellow employee who may be engaged in an unsafe act.  No matter how many times you communicate to them that they have full authority to stop a job if they feel it is unsafe to proceed, or to stop an unsafe behavior whenever and wherever they see it, many front-line employees are simply too reluctant to do that when they’re faced with a real-life safety-critical situation.

One way you can bolster their confidence in these situations is to give them a stop-work authority wallet card.  These wallet cards can be used to reinforce the notion that every employee or contractor has both the authority and the responsibility to stop a job, an activity, or a behavior if they sense it is unsafe. Here’s an example of a wallet card that you can use as a template for creating your own.

Sample wallet card — use this as a template for creating your own!

At least five considerations must be in place for a stop-work authority card to be effective First, stopping a job must be retribution free, and that needs to be communicated on the card.

Second, facility leadership must visibly support stop-work authority in message, attitude, and practice. Third, the card must bear the signature of top leadership to be effective.

Forth, the card must state that the bearer of the card has the full authority of top leadership. And fifth, every employee must be trained on the use of the card, and on their role in using it.

Another New e-Book by safetyBUILT-IN!Before distributing these cards, have them laminated to ensure they last a long time. By the way, it doesn’t have to be a wallet card. A clip-on badge works just as well. When distributing the cards, be sure the top leader of the facility is there to communicate a two-fold expectation: (1) that employees who observe an unsafe behavior are expected and obligated to stop the activity, and (even more importantly) (2) that the person whose activity is stopped fully cooperate with that intervention. In short, they need to be clear that stopping a job or a potentially unsafe act will be completely retribution free—including retribution that might otherwise have come from the person whose job was stopped! I’d recommend creating a zero-tolerance policy stating that any and all acts of retribution will be subject to a disciplinary process. FCTC Online

The card itself is a powerful tool in the hands of an employee who might otherwise hesitate to stop an unsafe behavior. All they need to do is pull the card out and show it to the employee in question, and that employee will automatically know what is coming next.

Well, that’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.

~ES

Eric Svendsen

Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.

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