Yokogawa: Creating a Safety Culture

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 @ 01:09 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
To create a culture of safety you have to go about aligning and engaging employees along with having effective communications that reinforces what you want and challenges what you don’t want.

“Do the right thing and hold the people accountable to do the right things,” said Steve Anderson, chief executive at Integrated Leadership Systems during his talk last Thursday at the 2014 Yokogawa Users Conference and Exhibition in Houston. “This stuff just doesn’t make your plant safer, it also makes you more profitable. You want everybody on the same bus to be aligned.”

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He gave an example of one construction company that went from $80 million a year in revenues to $250 million after implementing a safety program.

It is all about creating a culture of leadership that creates safety. Safety is something management has to believe in and also it has to preach the message at all times and allow for open communications.

In a perfect world that works, but companies have to work in real time and get the job done quickly, efficiently and under the most cost effective manner.

Time pressures force people to cut corners, scheduling becomes a problem, bureaucracy often creeps up in the daily workplace, some of the rules may be outdated, and workers may not want to change because of the fear of the unknown.

But, Anderson said, that should not stop a company from enforcing a solid safety program.

Critical ingredients for successful safety organizations:
• Culture without fear
• Transparency
• Checks and balances
• Sharing of information
• High morale
• Accountability
• Communications

When it comes to hoarding information, Anderson said that just needs to end.

“A lot of times people work in silos. They think ‘If I hang onto the information, I am irreplaceable.’ I say anyone who is irreplaceable needs to be replaced,” he said.

In the end, though, it all comes down to management being willing to listen, understand and promote communications.

There are two types of management styles, Anderson said. There is the old school method that is top down and goes under the “do as I say” mentality.

Then there is new school where management is at the bottom. In this method, management understands the people on the front line are the ones making the money, so they need as much support as possible.

“You have to provide an avenue to succeed,” he said. “Do what you can to support the revenue generation.”

In terms of support, it all comes back to communications. There are various types of communications via email or face to face. In the best world, face to face works best because it allows for a feedback process. In that process, it is possible to communicate the project’s goals.

On the other hand, in the communication process, when you send out an email, you need some type of feedback. “If you have critical safety information to go out, you need feedback.”

So communicating and understanding what makes the workers tick can add up to a solid safety culture.

When it comes to workers making errors, the levels increase by about 1000 times for those not engaged in their work, he said. That means management needs to ensure workers remain motivated.

“People don’t leave companies,” Anderson said, “they leave supervisors.”

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