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How to promote safety culture in industrial environment

Author : Bryan Christiansen, Limble CMMS

24 March 2021

Ever-increasing market demands have put modern industries under pressure to produce large quantities of high-quality products under tight deadlines with minimal tolerance for errors. But, considering that their employees need to achieve these targets by operating complex and often dangerous machinery, industrial facilities are undoubtedly workspaces with numerous potential hazards.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

As a result, these organisations have to strive to achieve the optimum balance between operational efficiency and employee safety. 

So, how can industries keep their workforce safe despite all the noisy moving parts, chemicals, energised equipment, and powerful heavy-duty trucks? To help address this challenge, it’s best to attack it from the source - the behaviours and attitudes of your people. Because good safety systems and equipment are only as effective as the people that will operate them. Meaning, improve the safety culture, and you have a better chance of improving safety overall.

Depending on the current state of affairs in your organisation, improving the safety culture may require just a few tweaks. Others might have a long and difficult process ahead of them. Whatever the case may be, here are five tips to set you on the right track.

1) Perform a baseline assessment 

Start with a thorough assessment of the current state of your organisation's safety culture because that directly impacts safety performance and preparedness. 

There are several things to be mindful of at this point, especially:

- leadership commitment to safety

- current workplace conditions

- supervision of staff

- workers’ feedback, attitude, and behaviour on the job

- historical safety information and recurring issues 

Conducting this assessment is a critical step that should not be skipped, as it will help expose the weaknesses in your safety culture. After gaining a better understanding of your position, you can then begin implementing other steps to address the identified problem areas.

2) Document SOPs and guidelines

Based on your findings during the assessment, the next step is to formulate improved standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines that directly address the identified issues. For instance, your new guidelines should reflect feedback from the plant floor and address the most commonly reported challenges that workers have been facing. Among other things, you might need to include better instructions for handling specific equipment like lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures.

After that, ensure that all these guidelines and instructions are easily accessible in different formats for all staff to use. Explore a combination of different mediums like video, downloadable texts, and PDFs, graphics, etc. The objective here is to help workers to keep safety at the top of their mind. The end goal is to get them to eventually identify it as a core workplace value.

3) Safety training 

Now that the improved safety guidelines for your operations are available, focus your attention on providing adequate training for all staff. Because manufacturing can be particularly hazardous, it’s advisable that your safety training program is exhaustive and that it covers as many scenarios as possible for your niche, including the use of PPE, exposure to chemicals, electrical hazards, moving parts and equipment, and so on.

Bryan Christiansen, Limble CMMS
Bryan Christiansen, Limble CMMS

Safety training should also cover as many industry best practices and emergency response protocols as possible. To make it easier for your staff, consider getting them training kits specially designed for the industrial environment. 

Furthermore, it’s important that while training staff on the “how” of safety compliance and procedures, they also get to understand the “why” and the direct benefits to themselves.

Depending on the types of machine and materials they are working with, workers should receive specialised training. General safety guidelines that everyone should know aside, employees should receive safety training that is relevant for their job description. For example, if there is a live wire somewhere in the facility, a machine operator needs to know not to touch it, how to mark the area us unsafe, and who to contact to solve the problem. Maintenance technicians or industrial electricians, on the other hand, need to have proper training and PPE to know how to safely handle the issue. 

Safety training is a continuous process that is never done, especially in an industrial environment. Remaining compliant can be tricky due to the potential pitfalls, changing regulations, and increasing penalties. It is important for safety managers to stay on top of the trends in the industry so they can adjust their training programs and update safety policies accordingly.

4) Use EHS tools and applications

If you are looking for solutions to improve and monitor safety in a streamlined manner with minimal stress, then digitisation is the way to go

There are numerous EHS management software tools and applications available in browser and mobile app versions that will help to keep workers always mindful of safety matters. Users can collect and process safety data, create and submit reports, monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), conduct audits and inspections, receive notifications, and more.

Also, since unexpected equipment breakdowns can be a trigger for a plethora of safety incidents, companies are increasingly switching to computerised maintenance management software (CMMS). They use CMMS software to schedule preventive maintenance that reduces the likelihood of dangerous equipment malfunctions. Logging maintenance work into maintenance software also leaves a digital trail that can be used while performing certain safety audits.

5) Lead by example

Safety is everyone’s responsibility from C-level to the plant floor. But, no matter the systems and procedures that you try to implement, if workers don’t see your commitment to the process, it’s just a matter of time before things return to the old status quo.

Promoting the new and improved safety culture will work faster if the management leads by example. You can eliminate confusion among staff and minimise disregard for the new safety culture when the leadership “practices what they preach.” That includes applying the same rules and deterrents for everyone regardless of their position in the organisation. 

In conclusion

Even when your results begin to show remarkable improvements in the safety culture, be wary of complacency. Keep seeking feedback and suggestions from the staff, then continually modify and improve your processes. A common practice in some organisations is to provide incentives to the staff for improved safety performance. This may be in the form of awards, prizes, work free days, etc. With time, it will become clearer where you need to focus more attention and resources as catalysts for change.

About the author:

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organise, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

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