One of the fundamental necessities of good safety are the barriers we erect to protect our employees from injury. The level-one barriers include things like glasses and gloves, arc flash protection, guarding and a whole litany of other physical protections that must exist between our employees and the job site physical realities. There is also a need for non-physical barriers like well thought out processes and procedures our hourly and salaried personnel practice every day when faced with situations that could harm those at the workface. These well thought out, well executed processes must have another kind of active barrier; safety accountabilities that are appropriately practiced in a timely manner by all levels of the organization. A manger has a different kind of active safety accountability from that of the line supervisor and hourly technician or operator. One more nontraditional barrier that protects our employees and the community that uses our services and products is a culture that continually engages in efforts to improve what they do. An excellent safety culture goes way beyond implementing physical barriers. Multiple active mental and physical engagement approaches are also necessary barriers that protect our organization’s people and customers.
The other side of the coin in safety reality is that there are numerous obstacles that must be overcome. The more obvious are physical in nature, like housekeeping, tripping hazards, ineffective guarding and the like. Often the more difficult obstacles are mental in nature. These include poor attitudes, a resistance to doing anything differently than how we have done in the past, a satisfaction with status quo, etc. Both these kinds of obstacles to safety improvement must be overcome. And like the barriers discussed above, an effective safety culture must pursue the mental aspects of both what enables and what impedes the relentless pursuit of excellence.