Safety programs are constantly changing and evolving. That’s because safety isn’t an exact science, and human error is an uncontrollable force. Since we haven’t perfected workplace safety and reduced incident numbers to zero, we still rely on safety professionals and safety research to constantly improve and adapt.
Tim Herrmann, safety manager at Wheatland Tube Company, has worked on adapting his approaches and techniques during his nearly 30 years of experience. We asked him to explain some of the behind-the-scenes points of working as a safety professional.
The Trouble with Training
What’s the biggest issue that Tim sees in workplace safety? “The culture is a big thing that’s hard to overcome and hard to change,” he said. By that, he means that there is great difficulty in influencing long-standing employees to change. When “things have always been done this way” and certain policies “have never been required before,” improving safety practices is a tough job to say the least.
Tim said safety training that is given needs to be effective and geared toward the environments that they work in. Trying to keep the employees engaged is key. Employees when working shifts sometimes need to be kept engaged in the material that is being presented. Engage your audience if at all possible. We want the training being presented to be instilled with them as they leave the training room, for the most part.
Tried and True Approach
Monthly training works well for Tim and his trainees. He sets up training times that work for all shifts of the day, and he chooses topics that are relevant and interesting at the time. This is a great approach, since he is working with everyone in the workplace during times that are convenient for them and covering important safety topics that they can really use.
But how does he know which topics to choose each month?
“I try to get out on the floor several times a day to walk around, and I talk with all the employees,” said Tim. “Different people at different times of day—How you doing? Anything going on? Any issues that you may have?” By connecting with employees during the times that safety and workflow is most relevant, he gets a clear picture of what needs improvement and what kinds of things are troubling workers.
Tips to Take With You
One of the best pieces of advice that Tim has to offer is to create a safety orientation for new employees. If new employees are told and shown right from the beginning, the safety attitude is much more likely to stick with them. Make sure you communicate to them exactly what you expect and what importance safety holds in your workplace.
The key to engaging new hires in your safety program is to involve them from the start. Teach them about safety as you’re teaching them about the workplace and the job duties—don’t make it an afterthought.
“My ultimate goal,” said Tim, “is to make sure you guys come to work safely, work safely, go home and come back tomorrow with all your fingers and toes.” The point of enforcing safety programs is to improve safety. It’s all about the people in the end, and that’s an important point to remember.