The safety imperative—transforming the workplace to protect people

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 97, No. 1082, 2004
G. Winkel
Abstract Safety conditions in industry have greatly improved over time. However, around the world, in Canada, and in each province or territory, people are still the victims of serious industrial accidents. The increasing safety of people at work then continues to be an imperative in industry today.
So how do we achieve a workplace where no one gets hurt? Well, in simple terms, folks need to be protected from unplanned exposures to equipment or energy sources that can do harm. If you think about it, all of our efforts in loss management and safety should then be directed toward avoiding these uncontrolled events. And it works! Our safety performance over the years has enjoyed tremendous improvement due to this support for loss management and safety. We now explore best practices toward achieving that next step in safety improvement.
As shown following, a large combination of loss management activities act together to support safety performance. Many of these activities are interrelated and some people have described them as the “inputs” into an approach or program for achieving safety. Using this description, it follows that the “outputs” of the program are some of the advertised measures of safety we see around us today, such as injury frequency rates.
It is asserted that a leadership focus to regularly measure safety and loss management activites (so-called “inputs”), as a basis for taking supportive actions to ensure their effectiveness, is the basis for safety results (so-called “outputs”) that consistently achieve high standards of excellence.
The concept of managing input activities, as enabled by effective measurements, can significantly act to transform our focus and priorities in the workplace. Supporting input activities like strategies, plans, or procedures with our best efforts will get us to our intended goals. Tracking outputs alone will not.
Safety and production have traditionally been cast as competing objectives. When both objectives are mutually supported and considered, however, people will invent ways of doing work that support both safety and production, and any other business parameter. When done right, innovation through meaningful involvement of affected people in the workplace will support safety excellence in a manner that in turn improves business efficiency overall.
For a workplace to be safe, it then requires everyone’s help and participation to make it happen, a collaborative effort by management, leaders, and frontline folks with the power and responsibility to take appropriate action at every level in the organization. In this way, everyone becomes a leader in safety.
The achievement of commitment to loss management input activities by folks in the workplace is the basis for attaining safety excellence. A workplace founded on commitment supports a safety culture with a vision for safe work performance at outstanding or world-class levels of achievement.
One may ask if injury incidents will be eliminated with this commitment and focus on workplace safety? Well, despite our best efforts in this area, there is never a guarantee that things can’t go wrong. We are simply not perfect. There remains in our workplace complexities and unanticipated risks that can have disastrous consequences if not managed at every moment. And when it goes wrong, we need to know we’ve truly tried our best, and now we have more to learn so we can get even better.
That’s the challenge represented by the safety imperative, a challenge to take safety performance that next step, a fulfillment of our commitment to the moral obligation we have to each other’s safety. It’s an effort that will continually raise the bar of world-class safety performance achievement for future generations. It’s a legacy we can be proud to be part of.
Keywords: The safety imperative, Loss management, Risk management,Workplace safety, Safety leadership
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