The implementation of a safety programme should reflect its nature as a normal, day-to-day concern of general management. The need for information for decision making at all stages and for communication between all levels of the enterprise form the basis for successful implementation of such a programme.
Initially, the introduction of a new or modified safety programme will require the agreement of senior management, who may regard it as a cost/benefit decision to be made in light of competition for resources from elsewhere in the enterprise. The desire to reduce damages, pain and suffering in the workplace through the implementation of a safety programme will be tempered by the organization’s ability to sustain such an effort. Informed management decisions will require three elements:
- an explicit description of the programme, which fully defines the proposed approach
- an assessment of the impact of the programme on the company operations
- an estimate of the costs of implementation with a prediction of the benefits that are likely to be produced.
The only exception to this will be when a safety programme is mandated by regulation and must be instituted in order to remain in business.
In the latter endeavour, it is useful to add an estimate of the true costs of the current safety record of the enterprise, as well as those costs covered by direct insurance or direct out-of-pocket expenses. The indirect costs are likely to be significant in all cases; estimates for serious incidents in the United Kingdom suggest that the real costs (borne by an enterprise as indirect costs) range from a factor of two to three up to a factor of ten times the actual, direct insurance costs. In those countries requiring compulsory insurance, the cost, and hence the savings, will vary widely depending on the social environment of each particular nation. Insurance costs in countries where the insurance carriers are required to cover full medical and rehabilitation costs, such as the United States, are likely to be higher than those in countries in which the treatment of the injured worker is part of the social contract. An ideal way to emphasize the significance of such losses is to identify the annual production required to generate revenue lost in paying for these losses. This is highly compatible with the concept that, while a business must necessarily assume the risk of doing business, it should be managing that risk in order to reduce the losses and improve its financial performance.
Following acceptance at the senior management level, an implementation team should be formed to develop the strategy and the plan to introduce the programme of the roll-out plan. Such an approach is more likely to be effective than one that shifts the responsibility for safety to an individual designated as the safety engineer. The size and level of the involvement of this implementation team will vary widely, depending on the enterprise and the social environment. Nevertheless, input is essential from at least those with responsibility for operations, personnel, risk management and training, as well as key representatives of employee groups who will be affected by the programme. It is likely that a team of this composition will detect possible conflicts (for example, between production and safety) early on in the process, before attitudes and positions, as well as procedures, hardware and equipment, have become fixed. It is at this point that collaboration, rather than confrontation, is likely to provide a better opportunity for problem solving. The output of this team should be a document that identifies the corporate view of the programme, the key elements of the programme, the schedule for implementation and the responsibilities of those involved.
Care should be taken to ensure that the executive commitment is particularly evident to managers at the operational level at which the safety programme can be effected. Perhaps the most significant way of achieving this is to establish a form of chargeback, or allocation of the true costs of an accident directly to this level of management. The assumption of medical and indemnity costs (or their associated insurance costs) as a corporate overhead should be avoided by management. The unit manager, concerned with day-to-day financial control of the organization, should have the real costs of inadequate safety programmes appearing on the same balance sheet as the production and development costs. For example, a unit manager of an organization in which all the workers’ compensation costs are carried as a corporate overhead will be unable to justify expenditure of resources to remove a very serious hazard affecting a low number of workers. This difficulty can occur at the local level, despite the fact that such expenditures could produce major savings at the corporate level. It is essential that managers who are responsible for workplace design and operations bear the brunt, or reap the benefits, of the safety programme for which they are responsible.
The supervisor is responsible for understanding, transmitting and ensuring compliance with the managerial objectives of the safety programme. Successful safety programmes will address the question of educating and training supervisors in this responsibility. Although special safety trainers are sometimes used in educating workers, the supervisor should be responsible both for this training and for the attitudes of workers. In particular, informed supervisors see their responsibility as including the prevention of unsafe acts and exhibiting a high level of intolerance of unsafe conditions in the workplace. The control of the manufacturing process is accepted as the mainstream responsibility for supervisors; the application of such control will also produce benefits in the reduction of damages and unintentional injuries. Regardless of whether the safety function is staffed by safety officers, joint worker-management committees or consultants, the day-to-day responsibility for safe, error-free operation of the process should be a written component in the job description of supervisors.
At the beginning of the century, the primary emphasis for workers to perform safely was placed on negative reinforcement. Rules were set, workers were expected to follow those rules without question, and a transgression from the rules subjected the worker to disciplinary action. With increasingly complicated workplaces, flexible management systems and the rising social expectations of the workforce, the inadequacies and liabilities of such an approach have been revealed. It is not only in the military arena that flexibility and responsibility at the local level appears to be a vital component of high-performance units. This approach has led to an increasing reliance upon positive reinforcement and empowerment of the workforce, with the concomitant requirements for education and understanding. This thrust in safety mirrors the worldwide trend of labour to seek improvements in the quality of working life and the development of self-directed working groups.
The key elements of the safety programme will identify the requirements for familiarization with the conceptual basis of the programme, the development of specific safety skills and the implementation of measurement tools. Responsibilities will be assigned to specific people within a phased programme at the point of introduction. The end of the roll-out process will be the establishment of a measurement system, or safety programme audit, in order to assess the continuing performance of the programme. Appropriate communication must be explicitly specified in the plan. In many cultures, multiple dialects and languages coexist in the workplace; and in certain cultures, a “managerial” dialect or language may normally not be used by the workforce. This problem includes the use of jargon and acronyms in communication between groups. Worker participation in the roll-out design may avert such shortcomings, and lead to solutions such as multilingual instructions and guidelines, a wider use of symbols and pictograms, and the selection of simple language. The wider approach to worker participation in the plan will produce benefits in terms of “buy-in” and acceptance of the plan’s goals and approaches.
The review process, or safety programme audit, should be repeated on a regular (annual) basis and will form the basis for 3-year rolling (or cyclical) plans. These plans will establish the future direction of the programme and provide the impetus for continual improvement, even in the face of changing production and process systems.
Successful safety programmes do not remain static, but change to reflect changes in both corporate and social environments. Equally, successful programmes avoid dramatic but unachievable goals. Instead, a philosophy of continuous improvement and of continually rising standards is a key approach. The annual 3-year rolling plan is a good way to achieve that. Each year, the plan identifies broad goals and estimates with respect to likely costs and benefits that will develop over the next 3-year period. This will automatically provide for adaptation and continued improvement. As such plans are to be reviewed by management each year, an additional benefit will be that the objectives of the safety function are continuously aligned with corporate objectives.
The implementation of the safety programme must reflect its being an integral component of the management of the enterprise. Success would depend on clearly identifying the responsibilities of the various levels of management. The participation of workers in the implementation programme, and particularly the roll-out plan, is likely to produce benefits in the widespread adoption of the plan. The roll-out plan is a document which identifies the necessary activities, the timing of those activities and the responsibility for implementing each activity. The components of each activity—whether training, development of a working procedure or education—must be described in a way that is unambiguous to all levels of the enterprise. The final stage in the roll-out plan is to ensure that a continuous improvement cycle can occur by the installation of a safety programme audit on at least an annual basis.