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From Reactive to Proactive Safety: How to Make it Happen (Part 2)

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

This article is a series in two parts. Read Part 1 here.

Part 2

One common issue in reactive cultures is a lack of employee engagement where management works in a silo.   A process with the absence of “buy in” from the workforce is meaningless. The crux of safety is the human resource.  How are employees involved? How are employees helping get in front of hazards? Effective proactivity comes from engaged, employee safety teams involved in hazard recognition programs.  Empowering employees to get involved cultivates long term, solid results in safety. Finding creative ways to involve people also changes the responsibility to the workforce instead of one person, such as a safety manager, which fosters sustainable results.  

A plan exists, the team is established and now comes the data review or the gathering of intelligence.  What types of injuries are occurring? What’s the data showing? Hazard Recognition programs where employees have an opportunity to submit observations are a good start.  An open door policy with management, where trust is built on transparency, is crucial for employees to step forward and submit observations. Once hazards are escalated, management must be committed to review and resolve observations without retaliating against the workforce.

Another simple way to be proactive is to conduct regular inspections of the work environment.  Worksite inspections on safety sensitive equipment are essential to incident prevention. As with Hazard Recognition, inspection data can be trended and then a plan of attack developed to fix the problem.  Inspection findings will either be systemic in nature or a one-time occurrence, depending on the sample size. If 100 fire extinguishers are inspected with 1 finding, I don’t have a huge risk. If I find 15-20 deficiencies, then I have a systemic problem, which may require additional training, development of a procedure or other actions depending upon the findings.

Being proactive is being intentional.  It requires cohesive action across organizational lines that involves the very employees in the line of fire.  It creates ways in which trust is built that should encourage hazard reporting in which data trends can be established.  Proactivity cannot exist without management support. Being proactive looks into the deep, blue water of the systematic problem, not just the ripple on the surface.  The lack of a proactive strategic plan results in reactive, nuclear failure. Whatever the solution, management support, employee engagement and data trending are essential to success.

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