July 02, 2012 | By Julie Waltz

Building a Safety Culture

Location managers are critical

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 front line supervisor or location manager due to their daily contact with employees. However, the people who move to the position of manager are often promoted due to their successful operational work, and technical proficiency is not always indicative of individuals who can successfully manage people. So, when location managers need help creating a positive safety culture, upper management can help:

  1. Provide a company-wide, integrated safety management system. According to safety expert Chris Goulart, “No single tactic, employed on its own, has ever been developed that clearly produces the highest level of sustained achievement. Complete alignment of all 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.” 
  2. Provide a formalized means for employees to discuss near misses or hazards and to remediate these risks before an accident or incident occur. 
  3. Develop a method of tracking and measuring process-oriented “leading indicators” rather than continuing to use the traditional method of “lagging indicators” (items that measure failure by looking at bad situations that have already happened). 
  4. Develop company policies and procedures for standard safety-related work practices. 
  5. Educate managers on how positive interactions foster an honest and heartfelt desire by the workforce to be involved in the safety process. 

What can a location manager do immediately to foster a positive and powerful safety culture at their location?

  1. Lead by example. Have available and use personal protective equipment at all times. Use the guards on equipment (e.g. Use the guard on a bench grinder and wear eye protection). 
  2. Conduct daily job meetings. Talk about what everyone is doing for the day and any precautions for the job (i.e. Before loading a train; before cleaning a bin). Do not wait for scheduled company safety training for employees. 
  3. Encourage employees to discuss daily tasks, equipment or tools they might need to do their job safely, and talk about near misses. 
  4. Encourage the use of lists or permits which facilitate “thinking the job through”. Do not encourage employees to skip critical steps in order 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. 

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