The Safety Agenda

Creating An Attitude to Change Lives

When starting a leadership discussion on safety, the natural inclination for most people is to consider physical safety (OSHA, etc). Many companies have reacted from purely a compliance perspective, yet others have embraced safety and expanded upon the intent. I’ve learned that safety is both physical and intellectual (different viewpoints matter), with a key requirement being attitude.

Early in my career, specifically my second role, I became an Environmental, Health and Safety Engineer. The position gave me a broad view on training, policy, manufacturing process, product management and the need for precision. My boss/mentor was John Cox, who was a Chemical Engineer like me, but he also was an Industrial Hygienist and Professional Engineer.

Physical safety was the primary focus of my job when I was an EH&S engineer, but John’s guidance then and now provided me with intense insight on EH&S in the workplace while simultaneously showing how this discipline can be incorporated into everything we do.

The exposure that I received provided me with an agenda for leadership discussions, but also impacted my personal life.

Professional Focus

• Meetings: every meeting starts with safety and health. Include wellness in the discussion (exercise programs and diet). Make safety and health a line in the sand for the company, including employees, customers, suppliers and the community.
• Lean and 5/6S: take the time to visit your business locations and remove the clutter. Audit, inspect, communicate and expect improvement.
• Training: teach the basics of lifting, workplace ergonomics, environmental awareness, priorities of the business situation and make it personal.
• Sustainability: recycle everywhere that you can across the business – paper, plastic, coffee grounds, etc. This mentality helps to form a coalition around removing clutter, while gaining on the objective of sustaining a clean and safe work environment.
• Diversity: include nonjudgmental discussions from everyone on how they see safety and wellness. Being a driver for the need for diverse points of view provides an environment of intellectual and emotional safety.
• Customer: make safety and wellness a part of the agenda. The topic creates a personal, cultural and a business essential bond.

Personal Focus (the obvious, but often missed)

• Texting: mandate there is no texting and driving. Place the phone in the back seat and take the pledge.
• Eye protection: always wear glasses/goggles when operating any machinery, from a drill to a saw to a lawn mower.
• Hazards like water on the floor: stop and dry the floor whether at home, or in a store.
• Home: keep fire extinguishers handy and clear floors of clutter to prevent trips and falls.
• Hotels: be aware of the situation and ask for the safety checklist at the front desk.
• Public Spaces: be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you see something that doesn’t look right, report it to the proper authorities.

Creating an attitude around safety, and broadening the discussion – both professionally and personally – can change lives through prevention or simple awareness.

By creating this dialogue we are establishing a very personal and perpetual learning environment that yields higher performance.

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2 comments on “The Safety Agenda

  • Allan McLaughlin says:

    Engaging employees in open, honest and educational discussions about safety and health is a good thing for the employees, the company and one’s community. Raising the awareness factor enables a proactive approach to maintaining a safe environment. Be safe!

  • If your organization believes in going beyond OSHA requirements, would you be going out on a limb to advocate for HR 676, fiscally conservative, comprehensive, improved Medicare For All? The U.S. trails its peers in numerous health indicators. Fixing the accident of employer sponsored health insurance is badly needed. What will you do to help?


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