Underfunded, under staffed, under regulated, under appreciated … ad infinitum. In the trenches a common phrase for excuses goes something like; ‘Excuses are like [certain orifices], everyone has one.’ And that leads to an understanding of how much we can count on outside entities like OSHA, MSHA, politicians, etc. to facilitate change. For quite some time now my belief is that we can count on them for absolutely nothing. If it is to be, it is up to those involved to do something about it. Sure, this is an uphill battle when you are starting from scratch in a resource restricted environment which pretty much exists no matter where we are. The big three of operations (cost, uptime, zero defects) always get in the way. We know this low safety focus is not good business, but it is often reality.
How do we get out of this kind of hole? First we must stop digging the hole deeper, and that means ‘complaint = what we do every day’ must be replaced by ‘complaint = goal.‘ There is always a piece of an organization that will begin to seriously tackle safety issues and ultimately safety culture reality if it is brought into meaningful engagement. This means start small where your limited resources will bear fruit, i.e., stay away from world hunger issues you can’t solve anyway and concentrate on delivering one success at a time.
Somewhere in this progression you will come upon the Mike Rowe (of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs”) concept that safety is not number one, safety is number three; first comes common sense, then personal responsibility, then safety. We can’t count on outside support for safety excellence. Safety excellence must start with the people who are at risk taking responsibility and delivering accountabilities (actions) that protect their own safety. Find a group that will develop this kind of personal safety culture reality, nurture them with the resources you have and then square-by-square spread their solution approach. Count on outside resources for absolutely nothing and be glad when (if) you ever get any outside help. ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’ You (we) must take responsibility for leading the improvement charge, and for utilizing the resources that are available.