The First Steps Toward Productivity, Quality and Safety

Many business people don’t quickly and easily connect the three areas mentioned in the Tip title.  How often do you see that?

In simple terms, Productivity is “on time, on budget” and enhancing the bottom line profits of the firm.  Quality is producing products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations.  And Safety is preventing injuries to both workers and the public who may be impacted by any operation or vehicle of the company.

As Rodney Grieve says in Defend Your Profits: Safety Tools for Bottom Line Improvements, senior management must communicate the Productivity and Safety messages at the same time and as one, unified concept.  If not, these two easily become polar opposites:  the first becomes just “profits” and the second slides down the list of what is important.  When a line supervisor says, “We gotta get this done pronto,” Safety (or Quality) – for the average employee – goes out the window.

Responsibility

The first step in effective Safety is showing who is responsible for the plan and can make updates and listen to suggestions (see Safety Program, the first Tip of this series).  This person is often supplemented by managers and supervisors who are also responsible.  These people are identified in the plan and must walk the talk – and do more walking than talking!  Employees can also be identified as responsible for reporting safety lapses or their concerns.

At a commercial yard where some noisy, dusty work was being done I noticed the employees nearby were not wearing their protective gear.  Then I saw some top management folks walking out through the yard without protective gear either.  I asked for a special management meeting to give my strong opinion.  Fortunately, they got it immediately and one of them volunteered to be “the champion” and help everyone comply with safety policies.

Compliance

This is the second section of the plan and reinforces that everyone follows the rules and watches out for each other, training is encouraged and safe actions are recognized.  Supervisors often need training to understand the goals, apply the rules fairly, and use progressive discipline.

The key is the critical connection between Productivity and Safety mentioned above.  First, employees need understand the business: where do revenues come from, and what expenses are paid – including the costs of losses due to injuries and lawsuits.  The bottom line is their jobs depend on great safety results.  If they don’t get this concept, it won’t work. 

I once noticed the safety manager in the shop without the required safety glasses and hard hat.  No employee said a thing – of course, this was top management.  I related to the manager later that one of the most effective ways to engender teamwork at all levels is to be the first to ask others, “Please tell me if/when I’m doing something wrong so I can correct it and go home with all my parts.”  Once that happened, others started asking for the same “watchdog” approach from teammates. Incidents and accidents decreased and teamwork soared.

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2 Comments

  1. Charles T. Wilson April 8, 2014 at 11:52 am - Reply

    I just had an email from a long-time friend and colleague with this comment:
    We had a loss control inspection for product liability/workers compensation operations. It was really interesting when the inspectors – after they asked if we have a safety program – asked about OSHA. They said that in the unlikely event that OSHA walked in and inspected, we could get fined and it could be sizable. I had never thought about that. So, I just wanted to pass on my experience as reinforcement that some advice on formalizing safety procedures is more than good for employees – it also is about compliance and potential fines. ~ Robin Critelli, H3R, Inc.

  2. Corri F. DiBagno April 8, 2014 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Indeed, all safety programs must begin with dedicated responsible management in leadership positions. To expect employees to “Do as I say and not as I do” will create an issue re: credibility, and harm chances for a productive, results-oriented business enterprise. Lacking in leadership would raise the obvious question by workers “If the boss doesn’t care, why should I?” The end will be poor quality products/services, unprofitable bottom line, and loss of customers. A blueprint for business failure.

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