As a safety professional or “safety guy” as we’re called in my neck of the woods, I meet a wide variety of people investing in different facets of safety programs. In all of my conversations, I have yet to meet business owner or leader who has said, “Money is more important than my employees’ safety.” So what makes one company’s safety program better than another’s? Is it how much money you spend, how many classroom hours, or how thick your manual is? The reality is any of these on their own or for their own sake, will not help your company’s safety program improve.
Can you overspend on safety? Absolutely. Companies do it everyday. You can easily spend too much on products, training, policies... even holding a safety meeting can be a waste of money. If companies are playing a VHS tape from the 90s featuring a guy in a jean jacket and a yellow fanny pack... let’s be honest- we’re probably wasting everyone’s time. How can a company on a limited budget provide value to their employees while abiding by their safety program?
Two correlated challenges that impact our industry are the cost of training employees, and poor employee retention. Some companies withhold training, to ensure that they don’t spend money on someone who will leave for a nominal raise. By contrast, not investing in employee’s professional development (safety or otherwise), causes high turnover rates, and wastes valuable time that has been invested in employees. (Synergis HR, 2015) Here are a few ways to spend wisely, and not destroy your safety program before it gets its wings.
1. Visit the field or shop with your top people.
Ask them on-site what their greatest risks are, how your employees can improve their quality, and listen for any obstacles keeping them from being successful. This should take up about an hour a month, and hit every position and task in your company.
2. Develop a simple onboarding (new-hire) training program.
It should clearly identifies your company’s safety expectations and priorities Keep it short and sweet (typically no more than an hour- and company, not OSHA specific).
3. Talk to your competitors.
Seriously. Get involved with local safety groups or industry professional chapter and seek advice. There are no trade secrets to a good safety program. When one more person is safe, we all win.
Some well intentioned safety program can actually be a detriment if they’re not developed with the field guys in mind. Your field people will always be your best resource. If you still need help, there a plenty of reputable, free online resources as well... so I hate to say this.. but google can also be a good resource. Safety isn’t always sexy- but it is the difference between a good company and a great company.