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Industry Insider Survey Finds Top 3 Safety Challenges of 2017

By Christine Torres

Signs can encourage workers to participate in safety programs.

“EHS on Tap” is an environmental, health, and safety podcast by Business and Legal Resource's EHS Daily Advisor. For its 25th episode the show focused on the SafeStart progress report that was released earlier this year, which surveyed environmental safety and health professionals to find 2017’s top three safety challenges and to discuss issues that challenge safety executives in today’s ever-changing business arena. The common theme found overall in the study were the issues of operational attitudes toward safety and safety culture. EHS professionals can address these challenges easily by integrating safety into the quality of production and through safety training materials, compliance assistance, and evolving safety communication using signs, labels, and more.

Challenge: Supervisor Apathy

  • 39% of survey respondents said supervisor participation in safety programs does not happen.

Supervisors should be the front line of safety. Management visibility is vital to a solid safety program. Supervisors should walk that talk to help employees feel like they are getting the support they need. Company missions need everyone on the same page, from security staff, maintenance workers, office staff, and CEOs.

Supervisors play a key role in workplace safety. According to Oregon OSHA, supervisors have five main safety responsibilities:

  • Provide safety training that includes job hazards to avoid.
  • Provide resources and support, such as signs and labels, and training materials or safety tips on posters where employees will see them.
  • Enforce safety by staying consistent in managing and enforcing safety program policies.
  • Oversee work and offer best practice tips to workers who might be looking to take short cuts.
  • Demonstrate safety leadership.

Take these steps even further with proactive planning and evaluating safety program successes. Hire safety focused individuals and continue that conversation of safety after hiring. Establish safety as a priority from the beginning with all employees. Evaluate for any management missteps in safety and get back on track. Perform a job hazard analysis while engaging with employees. Improve communication between frontline workforce and management. Emphasize the importance of any procedure to the success of the production/service goals.

Challenge: Haste

  • 48% cited employees taking shortcuts or ignoring rules.

Safety programs need a constant state of vigilance. Shortcuts might seem convenient and more productive, but generally, they waste more time or pass along more work to another worker. If someone is rushing, remind them to slow down. Ensure emotions are in check to calmly perform a task. A safety manager can discipline without hurting morale. Apply great workplace discipline consistently for diligent, willful acts. Take a more positive, coaching approach to mistakes and errors, while being mindful of timing, tone, and words. 

Take near misses seriously. Thoroughly evaluate near misses to learn from them. Little problems can sometimes have the biggest consequences. Make staff feel like they can ask questions. An employee might notice something is wrong but is unsure of how to address it. Pay attention to people and conditions around them and to changes in activities or conditions that could create new or different hazards.

Challenge: Employee Investment

EHS managers at work on a job site

  • 53% of survey participants cite employee engagement as lacking.

A safety manager should define employee participation needs. Engage in the training process through a safety game or handing out treats during class, according to Tim Page-Bottorff, senior safety consultant for SafeStart and vice president of ASSE Region 2. Start there and spread out on the shop floor. Perform an employee review process and ask, “What have you done for safety this year?” “What safety improvements have been made?” Discover any generational gaps in communication and any other communication patterns that are not productive. Treat people as individuals and monitor their individual contribution to safety and communication.

The top three concerns found through SafeStart’s survey show an overall common theme in operational attitudes toward safety and safety culture issues. Work on them now and work on them together. A strong and self-sustaining culture of safety throughout the organization that is employee-driven. Focus on being OSHA compliant and fix gaps. Go beyond minimum compliance by addressing human factors and workplace practices to achieve world-class safety performance on and off-the-job. Make a commitment to safety and utilize valuable resources for any industry.

Superior Workplace Safety

Graphic Products is an industry leader in visual communication and educational materials. Get workplace safety programs on track with the available industry-specific safety resources. Effective communication in any workplace can become stronger with floor marking products, signs, and labels. Communicate hazards and remind workers to play an active part in safety programs by using DuraLabel printers and labeling supplies. Print custom labels and signs on the spot to ensure that safety messages are seen and understood when they are needed the most. With more than 50 specialty supplies from which to choose, safety professionals have the tools needed to create a safer worksite.

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