Elements of a Safety Program

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Dr. Wes Scott joined John McDermott for a Grainger Insights discussion of the key elements of a world-class safety culture. They talked about the ROI of safety, the connections between safety and quality, the importance of leading indicators and lagging indicators, and more. Dr. Scott is a retired military officer with more than 30 years experience in the engineering, environmental, biomedical, industrial hygiene and occupational safety and health fields. John is Senior Strategy Manager for KeepStock and Manufacturing programs at Grainger.

Dr. Scott says that what ultimately makes a world-class safety culture is the way that respect for safety rules and requirements becomes an instinctive part of the work. "It's not because somebody is telling them to do it," he says, "but . . . because it's the right thing to do."

For this kind of safety culture to thrive and grow, all levels of the company must be involved. "We definitely need a top-down approach," Dr. Scott says, "where the boss gets it and that will cascade down through the organization." Ideally, there's also an embrace of safety principles that comes up from the bottom of the organization: "Somewhere they meet in the middle, and that's where it really works."

Dr. Scott says that getting buy-in from top management is often a matter of speaking the right language. "If you have a boss or a leader within the organization who's focused on the money aspect, then the conversation really should be about—let's show you what a cost-benefit analysis looks like. Let's show you what that return on investment looks like." He notes that it's important to be prepared with real examples involving real dollars for your organization.

Comparing quality and safety, Dr. Scott says they should be viewed as equally important, because failures in either area can be "devastating" for a company. To illustrate this point he cites the consequences that news about an accidental death could have for a company's public image.

Fatalities are a lagging indicator of safety, but Dr. Scott says that leading indicators should be monitored as well. Leading indicators "measure what we're doing proactively," he says. "Let's gauge the benefit that we're getting from it." He points out that there are many opportunities to measure proactive safety efforts, as by measuring the number and quality of safety inspections or job safety analyses (JSAs) performed.

In closing, Dr. Scott points to additional resources, including the National Safety Council's book "Nine Elements of a Successful Safety & Health System" and OSHA's recently revised safety and health program guidelines. 

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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