Safety Requires More than Training

Safety Requires More than Training

May 15, 2019

Federally and locally mandated health and safety regulations have drastically reduced the number of workplace injuries and fatalities. Simply training to code and enforcing regulations, though, is not enough. By coupling the compliance of mandated policies with promoting a strong employee-driven safety culture, companies will revolutionize their health and safety programs.

Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 passed to protect America’s workforce by setting and enforcing health and safety regulations and standards, as well as providing associated training and education. Since companies have been held accountable for their health and safety performance and training, the number of job-related injuries and fatalities have remarkably decreased.

However, attaining compliance with these regulations has been a constant struggle. A 2011 Safety+Health article examined the difficulties that both large and small companies faced satisfying OSHA regulations. The article cited a communication gap as one of the primary obstacles for large companies, whereas small companies found it challenging to afford the cost associated with compliance. At the time of article, a Small Business Administration report found that “businesses with fewer than 20 employees pay about $250 more per employee for occupational safety and health and homeland security regulations than firms with 500 or more employees.” Though the companies interviewed in the article all largely agreed with the need for OSHA’s requirements, it concluded that no matter the size of the company, remaining compliant was difficult.

How can companies mitigate the difficulties associated health and safety compliance? Let’s take a lesson from the 1972 Miami Dolphins football team.

On January 14, 1973, the Miami Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins to earn the title of Super Bowl champions. The team went 17-0, which is the last time to date that an NFL team won the Super Bowl with a perfect record.

Certainly, the team was comprised of talented individuals and a coaching staff that excelled at strategic playmaking. However, more than just talent and strategy were necessary to finish the season undefeated. This accomplishment required all team members to study plays in detail, visualize their roles, ask questions, and provide suggestions. But it didn’t end there. Each player had to then strap on their laces, step onto the turf, and practice plays until they could anticipate their teammates’ next moves. Every Dolphins player needed to be wholeheartedly dedicated and equally committed to the team’s goals to succeed.

This team concept doesn’t just apply to sports teams. This same concept applies to a company’s health and safety program. The health and safety of all employees requires more than completing a checklist of OSHA requirements. Safety is a mindset, and it’s not just the safety mindset of each individual within the company. Rather, it’s the collective mindset of the company as a team.

To instill this mentality, employees must sufficiently understand their unique roles. This can be accomplished in training. Management should not only train employees to compliance, but also discuss why it is important and how it applies to the company’s work. These trainings should allow for open discussions, which should then become part of the team’s regular daily dialog. It is the responsibility of all employees – from management to staff—to continually keep safety considerations the primary focus of work each day.

M.C. Dean, Inc. was named one of EHS Today’s Safest Companies of 2017. With 3,000 employees performing electrical engineering, service, operations, and maintenance across thousands of sites, the company shifted its health and safety program from a regulatory and compliance-based program to an employee-based operational risk management process. By heavily relying on the participation of all employees throughout all levels of the organization for the success of their health and safety program, M.C. Dean saw an 88 percent reduction in workers’ compensation costs, as well as a rise in employee trust of the company.

Another way a company displayed a team commitment to their health and safety program was by celebrating the program’s goals together, despite their geographical locations. PLH Group, Inc. is comprised of 11 individual entities throughout North America that perform complete power line and pipeline construction for the oil and gas, electrical, and industrial markets. During OSHA’s 2018 Safe and Sound Week, PLH Group entities each appropriately celebrated from their respective locations. The companies enhanced their conversations about health and safety, ensuring that despite differing business objectives, their dedication to the health and safety of all employees throughout the company remained unified.

PLH Group’s diverse workforce celebrated OSHA Safe + Sound Week companywide.

Ensuring the health and safety of all employees does not lie within the hands of management or the company’s health and safety team. Rather, a successful health and safety program is achieved through employees working as one team with unparalleled commitment and dedication to the goal that each employee returns home at the end of the day in the same condition that they arrived.