Editor’s Note: Achieving and maintaining an injury-free workplace requires strong leadership. In this monthly column, experts from his DEKRA, a global consulting firm, share their perspectives on what leaders need to know to lead their organizations to safety excellence.
The crew was set to operate the equipment at the customer’s site, and realized that the job required the machine to fit in tight spaces. He feels uncomfortable, pauses, but continues. Five minutes later, he drove over a piece of infrastructure, causing damage and alerting the customer’s site.
Situations like this often arise when employees are tasked with doing the right thing but don’t know exactly what the right thing is. Delighting customers takes precedence over personal safety and values to protect the company’s brand.
Coordination can be a big challenge for leaders. When trying to achieve multiple goals at the same time, certain goals may compete with each other. Such conflicts may cause leaders and frontline employees to make choices on the fly to get something done on time instead of taking the extra steps to do it safely. Frontline employees believe they are doing what their leaders expect them to do: meet production targets and delight customers.
Through consistent day-to-day actions and conversations, leaders demonstrate which actions are acceptable and which are dangerous.
Misalignment increases risk tolerance on the front line, where injury risk is highest. That means team members who are most prone to serious injuries have the most to lose when making risk-based decisions. Organizations focused on safety excellence and becoming best-in-class must first take specific actions to achieve alignment and facilitate real-time decision-making within acceptable risk levels.
I often see leaders conveying a clear message about the importance of spending time safely. But other messages also cascade, such as meeting customer expectations, meeting deadlines, and delivering on time. By the time your message reaches the front lines, it can become insecure or compete with more urgent messages. Because field leadership decisions are made in real-time and do not benefit from deep analysis or reflection, leading safely “in the moment” helps employees understand what matters most. important to
Trustworthy organizations have the value of safety built into every decision. The ability to reliably predict high performance depends on adjusting for risk. Through consistent daily behaviors and conversations, leaders indicate which behaviors are acceptable, which are dangerous, and which rules should be followed and which rules can be ignored.
What happens when leaders and teams stray from accepted risk norms? In trusted organizations, responses are consistent and predictable. Here’s how to keep things safe. Let’s fix it together. “
Achieving production targets and creating quality products while meeting customer expectations is critical to the success of your business. So what actions can leaders take to safely align quality and production?
First, leaders must align on how decisions are made, and second, the value of safety must be built into all conversations and decisions. Second, leaders must communicate in their words and actions an unwavering expectation of safe work. Finally, leaders must provide enhanced performance improvement skills to the forefront. This should limit human error and further support team members in making safe choices in the moment, even when conflict arises.
We often make the wrong decisions. But in the end it will have bad consequences. Preventing this is what risk adjustment is all about.
This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as an endorsement of the National Security Council.
Elizabeth Prazeres is an organizational effectiveness and change management expert at dekra.us. Her experience includes organizational change, human performance reliability, and safety leadership. Prazeres has worked in a variety of industries including oil and gas, utilities, manufacturing, equipment rental, transportation, chemicals and energy.
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