SAFETY PROGRAM DESIGNS and implementations vary widely in industrial operations because they tend to reflect each organization’s operating environment and variety of exposures to losses that must be managed.
Adding to the variability in safety programs is the confusion surrounding which standards or guidelines to follow. In the last decade, the issue of best practices in safety program design has been addressed by standards-setting organizations around the world. And each one of their best practices programs outlines a different set of guidelines.
However, how well a program follows a format is not as important as whether the program components are effective in reducing risk. This article focuses upon the common themes in the many safety program best practice guidelines for evaluating program design and effectiveness. Safety program evaluations can take many forms, but all must carefully scrutinize each of the following eight common themes to ensure they are effectively integrated within the organization.
Any safety program designed for employee and visitor safety and property protection starts with active and committed senior management that support the programs necessary to protect their workers and facilities. Management support is demonstrated by providing an appropriate operating budget, requesting reports on the program’s progress, following up when any issues might develop and following the rules themselves.
Here are some questions to help evaluate management leadership.
• What safety metrics are communicated to top management?
• How is top management involved with continuous improvement of the written safety program?
• How is management “visible” with respect to reinforcing safety in the eyes of employees?
• How is safety reflected in management job descriptions and factored into appraisals?
• How are safety goals developed and how are they made to permeate the organization?
• How is safety budgeted in the framework of improving existing processes and implementing new processes?
• How are safety programs and procedures periodically audited for both activities and outcomes?
Help secure employee participation by soliciting their input, practicing the emergency plan, putting the plan in writing and assigning responsibilities to specific individuals.
For example, work with supervisors to assign someone on each shift the responsibility of returning your facility’s fire protection, detection and alarm signaling systems to operation when they go down.
Here are some questions to help evaluate employee participation.
• How are employees actively involved with safety for their respective areas/processes?
• How are employees involved in the planning process for operational changes with respect to safety?
• How is employee time managed with respect to safety program involvement?
• What incentives do employees have for participating in the safety program activities?
• How do management expectations of participation differ between new employees and experienced ones?
“Leading indicators” identify a negative change from expectations. Identifying the leading indicators for your particular operation and determining the underlying cause of why accidents happen allow management to take action in the form of policies, means, or methods. For example, does a sudden increase in problems identified in monthly inspections indicate a greater likelihood of cuts, rashes or burns from equipment placement problems, inappropriate use of safety equipment or the condoning of horseplay?
• What components of your safety program are regularly measured?
• How is the quality of program components factored into the measurement system?
• How is the degree of risk reduction related to safety projects captured?
• What metrics are regularly captured, tracked, and communicated, e.g., days away or transferred case incident rate, workers compensation losses, open claims and finally, injury frequency?
• How are employees involved in developing the metrics by which they might be measured, e.g., behavioral safety data?