EHS Today recently published an interesting article entitled “Who Owns Safety?” where they shared data from the annual Fluke Safety Survey.
When asked about who is most responsible for workplace safety, 31% of respondents strongly agree or agree that safety lies with workers/yourself. Supervisors and managers and safety managers also ranked high while company leadership and HR department ranked low. The survey authors surmise that “[o]ne way to read this information is that there is mixed sentiment on who is most responsible, yet there is evidence that everyone plays some part in ensuring workplace safety.” –EHS Today
While the survey results were illuminating, I thought it might be good to think a little bit more deeply about what “Owning Safety” could, or even should, mean for responsible organizations.
Real time moment-to-moment physical safety is one aspect of “owning safety”, but who owns safety prevention plans, safety training programs, safety equipment purchasing, upkeep, and maintenance? Who owns accident liability, insurance payments, and legal costs?
Personal Physical Safety as Job One
Although 31% sounds like a shockingly low figure, almost a third of survey respondents recognized themselves as one of the “most responsible” owners of their safety on the job. Keeping yourself unharmed and healthy IS a personal responsibility at work. After all, it’s highly likely that you have family members and dependents, and yours and their wellbeing and lifestyle are reliant on you being healthy, going to work, and doing your job.
After An Accident
However, more than two thirds of respondents indicated that “most responsibility” for safety was attributed to supervisors, managers, safety managers, company leadership, and the HR department. Now, of course there is a shared responsibility in business for employee safety, but if you don’t feel properly trained, or your tools aren’t in proper condition, or you are overtired from overlong work hours, or the safety conditions of your work environment aren’t in your opinion safe enough to do the job without risking injury… you can speak up. Protecting your physical safety should be your biggest priority at work.
Sharing the Responsibility
As the survey results indicated, 69% of respondents thought the major responsibility for workplace safety lies with others in the organization. Those supervisors, managers, safety managers, company leaders, and HR staffers will be the ones who come through with the support needed in the event of an accident. The most important role they can possibly take in “owning safety” will be in their actions and decisions in the role of accident prevention.
Prevention is the Best and Likely Cheapest Medicine
Accident prevention is the responsibility of staff at every level of your organization and in every department.We’ve discussed prevention before, so if you’re looking into deeper dives on how in practical and productivity improving ways Forklift Safety Systems can help prevent accidents read the articles below:
Prevention is the fastest, most efficient, and inexpensive way to protect your most valuable assets: people.And:
How cloud-connected forklift safety systems can help managers make better decisions that improve driver safety, well-being, and productivity. -VIA News
Keeping your work environment and the tools you use properly maintained is one of the most important ways you can make your work safer and prevent accidents. Proper equipment and work environment inspection programs will probably be enforced, overseen or verified by supervisors, managers, and safety managers. Those inspection programs that exist and are properly budgeted for will likely fall under the jurisdiction of company leadership.
Training & Experience, Accounting & Purchasing
In the Fluke Safety Survey, the HR department was recognized as the least responsible group in the organization “having a massive 85.5% of the vote for least responsible”
This is surprising, particularly when you consider how important their role is in trying to find and hire the most suitable staff for the job.
In many organizations, HR is typically responsible for the onboarding process of new staff. That process should include training programs for the various roles. Organizations in which HR is also responsible for employee welfare should include ongoing programs that include updated and further training.
In a world of fast employee turnover, finding, interviewing, and processing new staff might already be an overwhelming task, and training might seem like a further burden, but if you’re looking for ways to make the training part faster and easier to manage we’ve got more information here:
“A cloud-connected forklift adds tremendous efficiencies to how fast and easily you collect and manage maintenance, inspection, and training processes and information.” -VIA News
And, while accounting and purchasing departments might not seem to play a vital role in employee safety, they undoubtedly do. Making sure corporate insurance policies and premiums are up to date and paid on time is crucial for when accidents inevitably do happen. Evaluating and buying the right equipment that achieves your productivity needs but provides ample safety features for protecting employees is a big responsibility. Knowing how to convince company leadership to authorize budget and purchases is yet another skill, but also a huge responsibility.
After an accident, who “owns safety” changes dramatically as issues of liability come to the fore. Triple J Aggregates Limited, is discovering this after facing 11 occupational health and safety charges relating to an employee death in a quarry back in 2020:
Among these, the company is accused of failing to ensure the safety of workers, ensuring all structures and machinery are in safe working order, failing to ensure safeguards were fitted on machinery to prevent workers from accessing dangerous points of operation, and providing sufficient training and supervision.
In addition, a supervisor at the gravel products company has also been charged with failure to ensure the safety of a worker under their supervision.
Looking at these charges they mostly related to the work safety environment and supervision of safety training. Management, supervisors and top company leadership will definitely be held responsible and pay the cost.
In the end, it’s clear that work safety responsibilities touch all the employees in your organization. That means it’s absolutely crucial to create a workplace culture of safety that encourages safe habits in all departments of your organization. That’s no easy task, but we’ve got some information for operations with forklifts on how technology can help make that easier for you,