In general, feed and grain companies conduct operations in a way that promotes production first and safety second. Even the notion of putting “safety first” does not by itself promote a safe workplace. Safety is an attitude and should not be thought of as “first” or “second,” but should be integrated into all thought processes throughout a business.
Undoubtedly, the most influential source of a company’s safety culture is the location manager due to their daily contact with employees. However, often the people who move into management are promoted due to their operational work, but technical proficiency doesn’t always indicate successful people management. So, when location managers need help creating a positive safety culture, upper management can help by:
- Providing a companywide, integrated safety management system. Safety expert Chris Goulart notes, “No single tactic, employed on its own, has ever been developed that clearly produces the highest level of sustained achievement. Complete alignment of organizational activities within a clear vision of continuous safety improvement that is based on the full engagement of everyone is necessary to develop a sustainable safety culture.”
- Providing a formalized means for employees to discuss near misses or hazards and to remediate these risks before an accident or incident occurs.
- Developing a method of tracking and measuring process-oriented “leading indicators,” rather than using the traditional method of “lagging indicators” (items that measure failure by looking at what already happened).
- Developing policies for standard safety-related work procedures.
- Educating managers on how positive interactions foster an honest and heartfelt desire by the workforce to be involved in the safety process.
What can be done immediately to foster a positive safety culture?
- Lead by example. Have available and use personal protective equipment at all times. Use the guards on all equipment and wear eye protection.
- Conduct daily job meetings and talk about the precautions for the day’s job (i.e., before loading a train; before cleaning a bin). Do not wait for scheduled company safety training for employees.
- Encourage employees to discuss daily tasks, equipment or tools they might need to do their job safely, and talk about near misses.
- Encourage using lists or permits to facilitate thinking the job through. Do not allow employees to skip steps to “get the job done.”
The location manager plays a key role in safety through their daily interactions with employees. When a manager leads by example, actively engages employees, identifies and fixes near misses, and creates a model of safety based on accomplishment, then a strong location safety culture is an assured outcome.
Julie Waltz is a safety consultant for RCI Safety. After graduating from Iowa State University with a B.S. in Industrial Technology, she spent more than 20 years in the agronomy and grain industry focusing on fostering relationships between facility operators and their emergency responders and developing safety cultures. Julie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.