The current shift toward a global economic community requires effective and efficient management in order for a company to stay competitive. One of the most significant areas that needs to be controlled is risk. An organization that is serious about controlling the potential costs associated with risk must develop a business-focused approach to its safety management process.
A company can take the following five steps to create a business-focused safety program:
- Take an enterprise-wide approach to safety management. Most organizations are organized vertically, meaning the company is subdivided into functional departments. These departments operate independently of one another, oftentimes each with its own goals. Similarly, most company’s safety departments have been vertically organized and managed, making that department independent from other departments within the organization. However, if the safety management process is to be effective, it cannot be compartmentalized. A company must weave safety into the organization’s framework by making safety a consideration in every aspect of every department’s daily operations.
- Measure how safety affects the bottom line. Stop looking at the adverse cost of injury in terms of exposures and incidents, and instead measure its impact on all aspects of the organization’s operations.
- Raise safety’s presence in the organization. The successful implementation of an enterprise-wide safety program necessitates having it headed by a senior executive who has the CEO’s and board members’ ears, and the power to implement change.
- Think continuity. Safety should be an ongoing activity and behavior, and not a focused activity, or priority program, only when the number of worker injury incidents rises.
- Think lean. A truly safe work environment is one that espouses the principles of lean management. It transcends departmental borders to create cross-functional integration, and it eliminates waste through a holistic view of operations. A business-focused approach to safety addresses risk within organizational systems, procedures and processes, and minimizes risk across the board through collaboration among different departments.
The key to the success of any well-formed safety management program is that it develops a mechanism for improving overall business performance. Strive to make your safety program the catalyst that gets management and workers involved in something that is universally valued and operationally important. Consider how this works in practice:
- Employees want a safe environment that protects their health.
- First-line supervisors want a workforce that is productive and consistently meets daily production goals.
- Middle mangers want to stay on schedule and on budget, and they depend on the workforce to be productive.
- Senior management wants a project to be profitable, and they rely on middle management to keep a project focused as to time and budget.
All of these goals can be met only if safety becomes the guiding principle in every aspect of every project. Whenever safety is sacrificed for the sake of cutting time or costs, it usually ends up backfiring because worker incidents increase, slowing down production and adding to the cost of getting things done — which works against any company’s business interests.