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March 2013 Feature 5

Circumspectly Creating A Culture Of Safety

Even more important than who, what, where and when, education on the why of safety training can make or break your efforts.

March 18, 2013
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You have likely heard statements similar to this: “Training — how are we going to train when we have to clean the building? What time do we need to allocate, and do we even have a budget for safety training expenses?”

And, if your training efforts have ever been met with resistance, this might sound familiar: “Let’s clean first; we can train later. We can’t afford to pay staffs overtime to be trained. Safety can wait. Just distribute the forms and have the cleaners sign-off that they’ve been trained. How often do we have to train anyways? We just trained everybody last year.”

Regardless of the excuses or rebuttals, the long and short of it is that we must train for safety.

Businesses today cannot afford to ignore safety; they must recognize the true benefit of safety training and in establishing a culture of safety.

The potential increase in the morale of cleaning staffs and the overall process improvement from safety training has been proven beneficial.

More importantly, non-compliance to safety regulations — being served a Severe Violation or a Willful Violation from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — can carry significant fees.

But, before any training is delivered, three crucial questions need to be addressed:

  1. What needs to be done to establish a safety program?
  2. How do we implement a safety program?
  3. How do we create a sustainable safety program?

First, senior management must endorse and embrace every aspect of a safety initiative and mandate that a safety program be implemented without compromise.

Firmly publish statements regarding safety, the active endorsement of safe operations and, ultimately, the enforcement of a disciplined human resources structure.

The attitude of safety must flow from the top down through the organization.

If senior management is behind a program, the chances of it being successful increase greatly.

In understanding that all staffs acknowledge senior management’s commitment to a safety program, the transformation of mindset and the ideas of change will have a better chance of survival.

A phony approach will be obvious to your people; be real in selling and implementing the idea of safety.

Communicate your thoughts and surround yourself with staff members that share your same philosophy, as they will assist in the development of employee buy-in.

An owner or a manager that is highly visible, walking around the jobsite and talking to workers, promotes good will.

It is here where a manager or owner can communicate firsthand how he or she feels about safety or business in general.

Visibility of simple things like “Safety First” buttons, catchy slogans, colorful posters or even taking the time to deliver a five-minute toolbox safety talk reinforces to your staffs that you are sincere about the idea of safety.

No matter how you do it, you need to successfully advertise safety in the workplace.

Planning To Train

Regardless of the size of your organization, you need to know where to go for answers.

Available at your disposal is www.OSHA.gov, a website that provides myriad facts, plans, sample forms and statistics to help you navigate the compliance conundrum.

The National Safety Council has additional information that can assist in structuring a safety culture.

You need to understand safety in general and all of the components of safety.

For instance, how does your cleaning business mesh into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)?

As a specific component of safety, you will need to become familiar with 29 CFR1910 Regulations.

Again, refer to the OSHA website for specific answers and planning.

If you are unsure where to begin, OSHA training courses are available and the locations of their facilities can be found online.

You can also contact representatives of OSHA to request assistance in setting-up safety education through their Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).

In 2012, SHARP completed 11,534 on-site consultations for companies with 1 to 25 employees and 6,535 visits for companies of 26 to 100 employees.

Prepare your training curriculum by initially looking at your job hazard analysis.

A good practice is to coordinate the job hazard analysis with the development of your hazard communication standard.

Identify the greatest occupational hazards your staffs encounter and start the training there.

In gathering your facts, enlist the aid of your workers through open communication, which breeds intangible attributes like trust and respect.

According to OSHA, you need to train in three circumstances:

  1. When new employees are hired
  2. When equipment, chemicals or processes change
  3. Annually to prove competency.

During your sessions, make sure the training informative and keep the material you are teaching relevant to the occupational exposures your staffs may encounter in their respective job functions.

All training efforts are another opportunity to restate the importance of a safe work environment, so never miss out on such a chance with a captive audience.

It is all well and good to have senior management endorse a safety plan; however, they must establish benchmarks on safety and hold people accountable.

Senior management must express a sense of pride in determining benchmarks and provide feedback to staffs.

Just as importantly, workers must feel empowered to communicate good or bad situations without fear of recrimination.

If an employee has a concern or recognizes an unsafe circumstance, they must feel they can initiate a remedy or announce an alarm.

Do not allow a complaint from a staff member fall on deaf ears.

Investigate their report, go over the situation, explain, if necessary, what actions will occur and then thank them for their concern before letting others know what happened.

People will watch to see if what you preach is for real; your actions speak louder than words. 

As an owner or manger, you are changing how people think and act; you are trying to create a paradigm shift in behavioral attitudes, which is not an easy task.

Your subordinate managers or supervisors must share your feelings or they will undermine your efforts.

Developing a safety committee may help avoid this type subterfuge altogether.

Committing To Safety

A safety committee should consist of both frontline workers and those in authoritative roles, as those personnel providing the hands-on daily cleaning understand the nuances beyond what make the process safe or profitable. 

To make the committee worthwhile and to keep discussions on track, you need a mission statement and a vision statement similar to that of your overall business plan.

It is important to record the minutes of each meeting and allow outside members special attendance privileges if they have a particular concern or idea to share with the committee.

If people feel they are in danger of becoming injured, they may resort to whistleblowing; however, by being a proactive manager and establishing a committee that addresses safety, you may prevent an unsafe situation and avoid any whistleblowing in the first place.

Make your staffs feel like they are a part of your efforts — because they are.

Respect their exertions and appreciate their ethic and desire to make the jobsite a better, safer place to work.

When your workers reflect the culture of safety you have established, your customers will see the shift in attitude.

When your customers feel they are being serviced by a world class organization with the highest regard for safety, it is a win-win for all parties involved.

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