Accidents don't happen in the safety manager's office. They happen in the field. That's where the management of safety must take place. High safety performance doesn't magically come about in organized safety meetings, although good safety meetings are part of the solution. Safety performance happens when you deal with safety issues, decisions and behaviors one on one.
The best learning takes place when workers are mentored one-on-one with practical tips, tools and discussions as they're doing it - not in large group meetings discussing generalities. Everyone learns better and retains more when they are coached in the moment one-on-one.
So why are there so many group meetings in safety - even though the evidence is clear that what you're doing isn't getting you the result you want? Is it because you don't want to the do the dirty work of changing minds one at a time? It is dirty work and it takes time and effort and energy - and it needs to be repeated day after day.
Group meetings called to address and fix individual behaviors is dangerous. That's like trying to address one person's time management skills by forcing the entire staff into a time management course. It punishes those who are doing it right, it demotivates the rest of the staff and it makes people want to hate safety.
Here are five strategies safety managers and safety supervisors can do today to start improving the buy-in to safety from their people:
1Get Out Of Your Office - go back to good old fashioned management. Safety trainers and courses only give employees basic skills - to a level of competency. Safety managers and supervisors must ensure workers use what they've learned and assess where to fill in the gaps of whatever is missing. You cannot hide behind your title and speak in generalities at large-group presentations masquerading as learning sessions. Safety happens in the moment - on-site - where safety management should be present.
2Coach The Individual - If you have a problem with one or two people's performance, don't take the entire staff hostage in a meeting room and subject them to the endless onslaught of mind-numbing PowerPoint slides in the HOPES that the person or persons you are talking about actually get it. You change behavior issues at the front-line, head-on, one-on-one, face-to-face. It's a slow and arduous process but it the most effective form of safety behavior shift.
3Ditch the PowerPoint - You don't address one person's unwillingness to wear their eye protection by calling a group meeting, preparing a PowerPoint slide show, showing gruesome photos of eye incidents, developing new rules for wearing eye protection and then sending a memo upstairs to senior management announcing you have addressed the number of eye injuries with a safety meeting. If you can't talk about safety without the use of PowerPoint slides, your passion and convictions for safety are not evident. You will not get employee buy-in without your own conviction readily evident.
4Unleash Your Inner Pit-Bull - Good old fashioned management is what fixes safety issues. You fix problems as they are occurring - not months later at the next safety meeting. You address individual performances directly with those one or two individuals. You pull them aside, you follow them, you dog them, you embarrass them if you have to but you fix the perpetrators. You don't hold the entire staff hostage to your PowerPoint show. You unleash your inner pit-bull and you don't let up until they get it. If they know you're dogging them, they will either get in line or find another job.
5Trash The Surveys - don't ask them to fill out surveys to fix your safety program. You manage their participation in the moment directly, face to face, not anonymously asking them to "pick the closest answer." What if the answer they want to give is not one of the choices you've offered. Managing by survey is dangerous to safety. Don't survey them on what they would like to see at the next safety meeting - ask them what they're doing with the information you gave them at the last meeting. You still need to care about their opinions and solicit their ideas but corner them one at a time and ask point-blank questions that solicit point-blank answers.
The real job of safety managers and supervisors is to get employees to buy into safety in the first place. The easiest way to justify your worth as a safety manager or supervisor is with a zero record. Zero happens when you employ good old fashioned management skills one to one with your employees.