Are We the Biggest Threat to Workplace Safety?

Workplace safety has never gotten more attention, or resources, than it does today, but in many industries there are still a high number of injuries and even fatalities each year. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that workplaces are changing quite quickly, which opens up the risk of new types of hazards in the area. Another threat to workplace safety, however, may be those who are tasked with improving safety.

This might not make sense at first, but the fact is, many safety managers and other individuals responsible for keeping facilities safe end up focusing more on things like meeting their required numbers than actually improving safety. These attitudes from those responsible for safety are more common than most people would like to admit. In most cases, the individual doesn’t even realizing that they are putting people at risk by not focusing on actual hazards, regardless of what statistics and reviews have to say.

Resistance to Change

One of the biggest things that cause risks in the workplace to go unaddressed is the fact that most people are resistant to change. Safety managers are no different, so they often want to keep doing the same things that have been done in the past. In fact, this resistance to change is almost programmed into our DNA:

The human animal has evolved keen defenses against change and resists it at an almost molecular level. Yet, on some level nature also knows that an inability to change results in the inability to adapt and an inability to adapt leads to extinction. It puts us in a pretty tight bind. If we change we die, but if we can’t change we also die. It’s a tough row to hoe. And the safety profession is the organizational personification of this dichotomy. But before you look to lay blame for the inadequacies of your safety system on some unsuspecting victim, take a look at these attitudes of safety professionals that are doing more harm than good and ask yourself “am I my own worst enemy?”

When a safety manager is working to avoid change, they aren’t likely to find new and more effective ways to improve the safety of the facility. They may continue to use the types of things that have been working in the past, and while they may offer some success, they may also be holding a facility back.

If, for example, a safety manager keeps pushing a safety seminar as the main way the employees learn about important safety requirements for the facility, he may get the same types of results that the facility has always had. Even if these results aren’t too bad, it is more important to look for opportunities for improvement.

The safety manager could, for example, implement computer based training opportunities that allow employees to get customized safety tips for their specific role in the company. In addition, this type of interactive training is likely to hold the attention of the people taking the class much more effectively, allowing more of the information to be retained.

There are always improvements to the safety industry, and if the safety managers don’t embrace them, they are literally holding their facility back. While there will always be risks associated with working in any type of facility, it is important that they are minimized as effectively as possible. This means changing the way safety is approached, so that it can keep up with all the latest and greatest options available.

If you are in a role where you are responsible for the safety of others, make sure you take a step back and honestly look at your approach. Are you doing everything possible to improve the safety of the employees and the facility as a whole?  If not, why not?  Try to find ways to create a safer workplace every day, even if it is a little uncomfortable at first.

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