Safety Themes That Should Concern You
The workplace has changed since 2020. Previous safety strategies are now obsolete. We must change our approach to meet the new realities of today. If we don't, anticipate broader organizational challenges in the days ahead.
Consider this a call to action. The workplace has changed since 2020. Previous safety strategies are now obsolete. We must change our approach to meet the new realities of today. If we don't, anticipate broader organizational challenges in the days ahead.
Undesirable safety performance is often a symptom of larger issues in the broader workplace and organizational culture. When safety performance continues to trend poorly, we find deviations from expectations also occurring in quality, delivery, reliability, efficiency, or cost. When this becomes the new reality, it is no longer a safety problem; it is an organizational problem requiring operational leadership to get involved and develop a new game plan to meet the new playing field.
When we are surprised by undesirable results, we are often either blind to the indicators or are not giving them the deserved attention. What follows are the indicators (themes) I am observing in many workplaces that concern me and should concern you.
- Workplace shortages and decreased expertise—This is seen in attrition, increasing attendance issues and average knowledge levels and competencies reducing.
- Engagement scores decreasing—Engagement has reached the lowest levels since 2015, and active disengagement is decreasing.
- Oversight decreasing—This is observed with first- and second-line supervision and safety professionals not in the field or on the floor as much as needed to observe work as it is occurring and proactively seeking out deviations to address the influences before they result in an unwanted event. Additionally, in several organizations, the experience levels of these leadership groups are also decreasing. This results in less technical or operational knowledge of the standards by which the work should be performed safely.
- Less training and new training new—There is decreased time training new employees in their work, and new employees training new employees. This creates cultures of decreased understanding of hazards and risks associated with the work.
- Corrective actions are more paperwork and PPE—When comparing thousands of corrective actions taken after an injury against the hierarchy of controls, most of them fall into the category of additional administrative controls or personal protective equipment (PPE). With newer people entering a company whom other new employees train, this creates additional error-like situations.