The safety culture is established by leadership. If the CEO and COO take safety seriously, it shows up as education, safe processes, and personal protection.
Who manages the safety program? Line managers? Executives?
Safety programs should be a collaborative effort to create a safe workplace. Safety management, to be most effective, must reflect this ethic. Line or labor workers should be represented, supervisors, supply chain people, maintenance workers, loaders and drivers, office workers, management and the executive suite in a limited capacity (okay the budget or explain the constraints).
Establish responsibility for safety, which in turn, establishes authority. Everyone should be vigilant. Everyone aware. Committee members should be responsible to report safety issues inherent in their specialty, and bring up issues reported by coworkers. Equally important, bring to the committee any suggestion which improves operations or safety or both.
Improved operations and the collaborative safety culture are symbiotic, not exclusive. Doing tasks better and more efficiently is part of doing them safely. Build that collaborative trust by encouraging participation in a fully vertically integrated manner. Safety and process improvement are open topics of discussion from any organizational level to anyone in the organization.
One case study involved an awning company which manufactured units in the chronological order of acceptance. This process required changing the fabric spool more often to match the color to the order properly. Changing fabric roles was risky and dangerous, not to mention inefficient.
The line workers had wondered about this requirement for years. Why not run reds on Monday, blues on Tuesday, and so on as orders were batched? The managers followed orders because they were told traditionally “it’s the way dad did it”. The founders legacy from a time when the changing fabric was less of a headache because the awnings were dyed after assembly. So, completing the orders in sequence made sense.
The newly established safety committee brought about the change to batched orders, justified by decrease in risk to the employees changing out almost full rolls of fabric often. The side-effect was an increase in manufacturing efficiency of over fifty percent.
This case study demonstrates the importance of the CEO leading the safety program; in fact, prior to the change, they led a poorly designed safety program.
The case study also demonstrates the importance of vertical open communications. Respecting everyone’s point of view.
Lastly, it demonstrates the requirement that good business reasons be the burden of proof rather than tradition.