Imagine you get a call from your operations manager the Saturday evening of Labor Day weekend. Sue is calling to tell you that Joe, a hardworking employee with 15 years of experience, fell 21 feet and is in the hospital. Joe’s lucky — he’s going to make it.
There was an issue with the fall protection gear, and Sue is investigating. This is
the third time this year employees have encountered fall protection issues. Usually
that means there wasn’t any protection. No one has been seriously injured, though,
“Why can’t they just follow procedures? Why can’t they get it right? Enough is enough,”
you think. “I’ve got to get tough!”
You intend to build a strong safety culture and ask Sue to meet you Tuesday morning in
your of;ce. In the meantime, you issue an edict that anyone caught not following proce-
dures will be sent home and disciplined.
You know you must improve your safety culture, but is that the best way? Building a
safety culture has as much to do with leadership as it does with managing safety. It has to do
with creating an environment in which employees are “buying” safety and not being “sold”
safety. In this environment, following procedures is second nature.
You can start by taking the 30-second Safety Culture Stress Test, to borrow a common
vernacular from the ;nance industry. The test will not give us the full picture, but it’s a start.
We can tell a lot about a safety culture by asking three questions:
1. Do you have a safety metric? And is at least one metric an upstream or activity-based
2. Do you reward safe behaviors and results based on your metrics?
3. Do you react to incidents, including near-miss incidents, with urgency?
SO YOU WANT TO BUILD
By Patrick J. Karol