The Need for Management Support for Safety
By Tom Fitzgerald | 04/23/2019
As we alluded to in the previous articles, management’s philosophy on safety can set the tone and the culture of the entire organization. You can understand how management feels about safety in the way they approach it. Is safety something they feel they must do, or something they do because it the right thing to do. Is safety a value or a goal? For indeed if safety is a value, management is in it for the long haul.
The most important thing management must do for you is give the safety program its full support. Support means many things, including resources and people. What is most important is how they do this, as their words must match their deeds! I have heard many times, “Walks the walk and talks the talk!” Employees watch few things as intently as they do safety. If you say, “Nothing is more important than safety,” you better really mean it! If you do not actually show it as well as talk it, the employees will be watching! Nothing destroys safety culture as fast as insincerity! Forget that at your peril!
Not only is management important to set the tone (culture), it is important for resources and support. Resources are, of course, important to the safety effort. First you have to spend money on safety. Safety equipment, like guarding, can be very expensive. Quite frankly, it is often difficult to sell your financial pundits on formal ROI (Return on Investment) calculations for safety items. Often the numbers are just not there to show a sure financial return. Machine time can be an issue too. Machines are expensive, their use, or non-use, is also a premium. A management team that regards safety as a value, just knows at times, it will have to take a “leap of faith.” It takes courage to do that at times. Managers never lose any sleep over making a safety decision. Managers that compromise safety often cannot say that! Safety as a value makes those Leaps of Faith much easier!
People are big resources as well. You need people to buy, fix, train, and get things done. Especially in manufacturing, labor is a premium. Taking people away from making things is always a struggle. In today’s business world there are not a lot of extra people around to do all these things. Again, you will need the backing of management to get buy-in for this time investment. If people are going to keep themselves safe, it takes time! Employees’ time is often the most precious of all resources. When it is viewed as wasted instead of invested, you will hear about it, usually very quickly.
If you have a management that supports safety you are in good shape. If you have one that makes safety a value, you are in great shape! If you have a management that seems to be somewhat lackluster, then your first priority should be to attempt to help them appreciate the benefits of viewing safety as a value. Once Safety is a value, ensure you are doing exactly what you say you will do. You will see people want to get involved and your efforts will have symmetry with others! You are now on the road to World-Class and a Zero-Injury Culture!