John Rey and Robb Bury 2017-07-13 22:10:10
From seasoned staff members to recent hires, all facility managers want their employees and occupants to stay safe on the job and go home happy and healthy at the end of the day. Unfortunately, safety often plays a supporting role in business culture, with the bottom line leading as the top priority. But it is past time to alter that mentality. Keeping employees safe and reducing workplace and building hazards is not only important, it’s a business and workplace imperative. This change in mentality starts with the idea of a safety culture. By now, we are familiar with the term company culture — the mentality and behaviors within a company, including how employees and management interact and conduct business. Along the same lines, safety culture refers to the mentality and behaviors within a company pertaining to the safety and well-being of staff. So how exactly does a company introduce and maintain a safety culture? The insights here highlight some of the key best practices facility managers can implement to ensure the organization is on the right track toward a successful safety culture. PRIORITIZE SAFETY The first, and perhaps most important, step toward establishing a first-rate building safety culture is making safety a priority. No longer is it acceptable to maintain the mentality that an increase in safety correlates to a decrease in efficiency and profits. If safety takes a back seat to efficiency and profitability, the result is more injuries and increasingly dangerous hazards. In these situations, managers end up paying more in workers’ compensation, fines or settlements than they would have otherwise. Understanding safety and profitability go hand-in-hand. If facility mangers can prioritize safety and build routines around a safe environment, efficiency will follow. But that cannot happen unless safety becomes a true priority within the organization. This means taking the time to: • structure the building to maintain a safe environment; • communicate the importance of safety to employees; • maintain a constant open line of communication between employees and leadership; • build trust among staff to open the lines of communication and make employees more comfortable with pointing out safety issues; and • reinforce safety culture and celebrate “safety wins” in the organization. GO BEYOND OSHA REQUIREMENTS Another key to developing a strong safety culture is a thorough understanding of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. That doesn’t mean making a checklist out of the guidelines, implementing them one-by-one and calling your building safe. It means taking the time to read the guidelines, grasp why each guideline exists and then, most importantly, exceeding them. Maintaining OSHA regulations should be the bare minimum when it comes to building safety, and while most building managers and owners understand that, there’s always room for improvement. A good example of this is personal protective equipment. While OSHA requires employers to provide protective gear that is well-fitted and well-maintained, it is essential that supervisors go beyond that requirement and provide high-quality gear with an emphasis on comfort. Think about it — to stay safe, staff might have to wear the same goggles, boots and gloves for potentially eight hours in a day. Would anyone want to wear something uncomfortable for that long? By going beyond OSHA requirements and looking out for your employees, managers are better able to ensure staff members actually wear the protective equipment provided and are happy about it. UTILIZE TECHNOLOGY TO STREAMLINE SAFETY TRAINING AND ENFORCEMENT In today’s digital age, there are countless ways facility managers can leverage technology to drive a safety culture mentality. While some are easier to introduce and use than others, there are a few recommended ways to utilize technology to help maintain safety throughout your facility. Digital databases One easy and effective way to support safety-enhancing processes is to create and maintain a digital database specifically dedicated to identifying safety issues. Whether employees are able to directly input issues themselves, or use is limited to supervisors, it is vital that all companies have a cohesive list of all obvious and obscure hazards within a building. Leaders can then use the data to help proactively maintain and mitigate risks moving forward. Standardized training videos Another way to achieve a cohesive safety culture with technology is to generate streamlined training techniques. While in-person, supervisor-to-employee training sessions are an effective way to train new personnel, there are a few flaws to keep in mind. For one, individualized training allows for disjointed education among staff. For instance, one supervisor might emphasize the importance of safety equipment (e.g., gloves, goggles, etc.). Another supervisor might choose to focus on staff communication as a key safety element. While both are essential elements of safety, differences in training, however small, can keep staff from working seamlessly together. For that reason, webinars and supplemental training videos are valuable tools for successfully introducing or expanding safety culture in a facility. In addition to streamlining and relaying safety messages in a quick and digestible manner, these resources will help managers and their employees by: • allowing staff to utilize technology they already have, like cell phones, computers and tablets, to watch webinars or training videos; and • freeing up managers’ time so they can focus on more specific aspects of training, knowing the basics have been communicated thoroughly through a webinar or video. It is important to emphasize that such videos are not a substitution for in-person training, but instead, merely an excellent tool to help guide the training process and make sure that key points are emphasized evenly from training session to training session. In-the-field wireless audits Cellular technology offers a seamless approach for performing in-the-field audits whenever a hazard is identified. By quickly taking out a phone, logging in to the company’s audit system application and inputting the necessary information, supervisors and team auditors can easily find and address issues. While any one of these technological safety tools will help build and modernize an internal safety culture, the best way to truly leverage technology is to use it holistically throughout your facility. By leveraging all three methods, managers can help build efficiency and effectiveness in moving toward a safety culture. LEAD BY EXAMPLE At the highest level, safety culture is a trickle-down concept. For it to truly become ingrained in your company culture, prioritizing safety must start at the top. If managers and supervisors are genuinely committed to maintaining a safe environment, employees will positively emulate the mindset. One of the best ways to do this is by adding “safety moments” to staff meetings and newsletters. Take a moment to reemphasize safe practices, and point out hazards and dangerous situations to avoid. By doing so, leaders help bring safety back to the forefront of the conversation and ensure employees are just as committed to keeping their coworkers and themselves safe on the job. Leading by example also means supervisors are a key component in finding sources of hazards and investigating incidents. When leaders take time to quickly respond, examine and fix problems, they reiterate how important it is for all employees to stay safe at work, which teaches communication and trust through the ranks. Finally, reward is an essential part of leading by example. Rewards can be as small as pointing out an employee’s exemplary safety practices in an internal meeting or as large as hosting a companywide party to celebrate major safety accomplishments, like 1,000 days of incident-free operation. Large or small, employees appreciate acknowledgement from management for their hard work, safely accomplished. It makes coming to work more enjoyable, and it makes maintaining a safe environment that much more significant. IDENTIFY POTENTIAL HAZARDS AND MAINTAIN ACCORDINGLY When it comes to safety culture, it is important to understand that safety is not “one-size-fits-all.” Therefore, it is essential that facility managers maintain a database of all the building’s safety threats and identify any potential hazards. It’s no surprise that risks and hazards differ greatly between various facilities functions and facility types. For example, multi-family residential structures and warehouses have different sets of hazards and nuances to evaluate when maintaining the building. For one, residential buildings have an obvious added element — residents. In this way, not only is it vital to maintain a safety culture for staff, it’s also valuable to promote safety to occupants. Routine facility care like maintaining the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system and cleaning shared spaces using non-toxic products become safety measures to consider with additional groups of facility stakeholders. In a warehouse filled with forklifts and large pallets, additional dangerous elements should be acknowledged. In both scenarios, however, the facility staff and occupants are important contributors to the shared goal to maintain safety. When combined, these best practices help create a topnotch safety culture within a facility. By prioritizing safety, implementing measures that go above and beyond OSHA regulations, utilizing technology, leading by example and clearly identifying facility-specific hazards, managers are set up to ensure emphasizing a safety culture remains a critical business practice. As you begin to implement or refresh your safety culture, think through the “Four E’s” — engineer, educate, empower and enforce. Engineer. First, managers and operators must engineer a safer environment by adding appropriate safety information and equipment throughout the building. Educate. The next step is to educate staff on proper technique, procedure and communication to ensure all tasks are carried out in a safe and correct manner. Empower. After employees are educated about safety procedure, it’s important that leaders empower their staff to get involved and invest in their own safety. One way to do this is by introducing a rotating safety committee made of in-the-field staff . By meeting once a month and constantly changing who is part of this committee, all employees have a chance to voice their concerns, discuss potential issues and solutions, and increase communication within the company. Enforce. Finally, leaders must enforce safety habits in every situation, and reward staff for upholding a positive safety culture. JOHN REY is the senior vice president for Able Services, a facilities solutions provider in the United States. In this role, he oversees operations and provides leadership and direction for the U.S. Midwest and East regions. Rey ensures the team provides operational expertise to increase safety and operational performance and delivers services within the client’s management systems and processes. ROBB BURY is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and the national safety director for Able Services, where he manages the organization’s safety and workers’ compensation departments on a national level.
Published by International Facility Management Association . View All Articles.
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