A version of this blog post was originally published on Epigroup.
The Difference Between Visible and Invisible Safety
Organisational safety can be classified as visible or invisible depending on how it’s handled.
In organisations that use a visible safety methodology, they have at least one person dedicated to the role of safety. This is the “safety person” and they’re responsible for all the WHS admin, reporting, actions and follow up.
When something goes wrong, the organisation often lays the blame on that one person. Management believes its position is to enforce safety standards with punishment and rewards for workers. Safety is only ever discussed in a silo of its own workshop or training session rather than incidentally in the course of work.
One person or department isn’t solely responsible for safety. Accountability for safety is distributed more evenly through the organisation. Management doesn’t assume to know all the answers when it comes to safety; they involve all staff in making decisions and changing procedures. They realise that every role in the organisation has a different view of safety and can contribute differently. Management enables safety by setting processes and people up for success.
An Integrated Safety Program
If you want safety to be effective, it needs to be built into the way the company works and the responsibility needs to be evenly distributed across all roles. It can’t just be seen as an add on within the organisation.
The sign of a good safety program is one that disappears because it’s entrenched within employees’ jobs.
Parts of the safety program appear in documents and in conversations through the organisation. While it’s good to talk about safety, it also needs to be in writing to reduce the chance of ambivalence and misunderstanding by anyone in the organisation.
It’s not a safety document that is filed away in a drawer; it appears in many records including:
Mission Statement – include work safety in the statement, so every manager and employee understands that safety is part of every task they undertake in the organisation.
Job Descriptions – this is an opportunity to specify the responsibilities towards health and safety that each must undertake as part of his or her role.
Policies and Procedures – this is the most visible part of safety that most organisations require, some by law. They include the safety policies, procedures, training, regulations, inspections, emergency response and accident investigation.
Not all safety regulations need a separate written plan, but several of the commonly written regulations include personal protection equipment, emergency action plans, electrical safety and fire prevention plan.
OHS Management Program
While safety must be a part of every employee’s role, gaining the commitment from management must be the first step. Without a fully committed management team that understands what safety in their organisation is about, you can’t expect the rest of the organisation to take safety seriously.
Management must also be willing to look outside their team. When integrating safety into an organisation, there must be a program that involves all staff. Research shows that if employees participate in setting up the program, it is more likely to be successful due to a sense of ownership.
There are also event tracking tools (like Epihub), which allow all employees to contribute to safety. When a whole team of people can engage stakeholders across multiple sites, allocate tasks, assign accountabilities and implement solutions it drives behavioural and cultural change.
Free Epihub trial
Research shows that employees that are new to a job are more at risk of an injury than an experienced worker. A manager can decide when an employee is competent to undertake specific tasks. Training guidelines can be used to know when to provide training such as during a new hire, transfer of an employee to another department, new or changed process, the identification of a new hazard or refresher training.
It is the responsibility of the managers to conduct annual reviews of safety processes and, with the help of staff, look for strengths and weaknesses.
Management should be involved in the investigation or review of all accidents and incidents. The report should determine the cause of the incident, what can be done to reduce the chance of it occurring again and the correction action required.
With safety included in many of the organisation’s documents and internal communication such as the mission statement, job descriptions, procedures, newsletters and memos, safety soon becomes integrated within the organisation.
When everyone in the organisation is talking about safety on a regular basis, rather than a safety officer or management delivering a safety message, safety becomes invisible. There’s no need to have a dedicated time for safety discussion amongst a disinterested workforce when safety is already ingrained in the psyche of all the workers, no matter what role they hold.