As I work with organizations worldwide, a common complaint is that the safety resources frequently act more like safety cops than like safety developers / engineers. In other words, they go out into the workplace looking only for what is wrong. When they find a victim who is violating some safety rule the safety resource swoops in, stops the operation, writes up the infraction and then disappears from the scene seemingly happy to have punished another “criminal safety perpetrator.” Is this the real purpose / value for safety resources? We all surely hope not. But how can we change and improve the safety cop model which has existed for decades?
In search of an answer, I referenced the cultural policing behind quality control and food safety; two areas in which I have first-hand experience.
The quality control model started very similarly to that of safety control; quality defects were ruining production and cost performance. People (quality inspectors) were trained in what the common defects were and then went out into the field to find these issues, stop production once they were found, write up a Corrective Action Request, then go back to the office and wait for production personnel to fix the issue. It quickly became apparent this approach did not really solve the quality issues. The International Organization for Standardization developed quality standards and then trained quality resources / officers how to both audit quality and participate in developing solutions. Their consistent approach deals with lead auditors interviewing front-line employees to find out their knowledge about quality standards and how they are trained. The next step is inspectors determining how employees and their leadership are engaged in continuous quality improvement activities which help error-proof flawed upstream processes that are delivering downstream defects / errors. A company’s “quality police” (inspectors) are then expected to participate in continuous improvement team activities which both detect and resolve the quality issues. A ‘find it’ mentality is not good enough. The inspection resource must also participate in the ‘fix it’ activities so another ‘found it’ traffic ticket will not have to be written.
In food safety an independent third party auditor is hired to provide an independent evaluation and verification of food safety in the manufacturing facilities. Additionally, government field inspectors are tasked with independent evaluation and policing of food safety standards in the marketplace. The non-governmental third party auditor has responsibility for evaluating manufacturing food related safety and food related sanitation. Additionally, this auditor must perform food related training of front line personnel – supervision – management in doing what it takes to eliminate critical food related errors which can lead to personal injury and death once their products reach the marketplace.
The point of this discussion? In order for our safety resource to be really effective in eliminating injuries from occurring they must not only write tickets but also:
· Be an expert in training how to do safety correctly
· Use their expertise while actively participating in root cause solutions which deliver engineering and accountability fixesJust like in quality and food safety our safety resources / inspectors must be an active part of a zero incident culture that does what it takes to prevent each and every occurrence from ever happening again!