Think of safety as an important aspect of the quality of production and service. Product quality is elusive. The only way you know you have it is by asking those who define it: the customer. All the company can do is try hard to produce a product that fits the customer's definition of quality. When the product is designed to prevent injury or illness, the customer will define the product as safe. Unfortunately, some companies do not consider safety when designing products. Consequently, they may unintentionally design unsafe or unhealthful features into their products.
Quality and safety are very closely related. Both may be considered error-free performance. When an injury occurs, the "event" increases the number of unnecessary and wasted steps in the production process. So, how does safety fit into a philosophy of continuous improvement?
Every CSMS requires periodic review, analysis, and evaluation to make sure the system is efficiently and effectively operating as intended. Take a careful look at each element in the CSMS to see what is working and what changes are needed. Identify needed improvements and design, develop, and deploy them into the CSMS.
After reviewing, analyzing, and evaluating the existing CSMS, you may discover that a number of improvements to the CSMS are necessary. It's important to carefully develop and implement the needed changes using effective change management principles.
A common change management technique is the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle, first developed by Dr. Walter Shewhart, and later successfully applied by W. Edwards Deming. If you remember the 1950s (a few of us still do), you probably remember that Japan did not have a good reputation for producing quality products. Deming was sent to Japan during the post-war occupation to teach quality control methods and he promoted the PDSA Cycle and was partly responsible for Japan's meteoric rise in manufacturing. He believed statistics held the key to improving processes, and that management must take responsibility for quality in the workplace because management controls the processes. He was so successful in helping Japan, he was awarded special recognition for his work.
Today, Deming is considered by many around the world as the father of Total Quality Management (TQM).
The PDSA Cycle uses a systematic series of steps to gain data for the continual improvement of a product or process. The process is called a "cycle" because the steps are continually repeated. The PDSA Cycle contains four primary steps. These four steps are repeated over and over as part of a never-ending cycle of continual improvement.
Let's see how we can apply these steps to improve the CSMS:
Important principles have evolved from companies that perform continuous safety improvement planning and implementation; they represent best practices in continuous safety improvement:
Once the CSMS is established, it should be evaluated initially to verify that it is being implemented as intended. After that, employers should periodically, and at least annually, step back and assess what is working and what is not, and whether the CSMS programs are on track to achieve their goals. Whenever these assessments identify opportunities to improve the program, employers, managers, supervisors, and employees should work together to make adjustments and monitor how well the program performs as a result. Sharing the results of monitoring and evaluation within the workplace, and celebrating successes, will help drive further improvement.
OSHA's CSMS evaluation and improvement contains three steps or "action items:" Monitoring, verification, and corrective actions. The basic components of the three-step process include:
The first step in monitoring is to define indicators that will help track performance and progress. Next, employers, managers, supervisors, and workers need to establish and follow procedures to collect, analyze, and review performance data.
Both lagging and leading indicators should be used.
It's more important to track leading indicators as they are predictive of future performance.
Develop and track indicators of progress toward established safety and health goals.
Indicators can be either quantitative or qualitative. Whenever possible, select indicators that are measurable (quantitative) and that will help you determine whether you have achieved your program goals. The number of reported hazards and near misses would be a quantitative indicator. A single worker expressing a favorable opinion about program participation would be a qualitative indicator.
Initially and at least annually, employers need to evaluate the program to ensure that it is operating as intended, is effective in controlling identified hazards, and is making progress toward established safety and health goals and objectives. The scope and frequency of CSMS program evaluations will vary depending on:
Program evaluations should be conducted periodically (and at least annually) but might also be triggered by a change in process or equipment, or an incident such as a serious injury, significant property damage, or an increase in safety-related complaints. Whenever a problem is identified in any part of the safety and health program, employers, in coordination with supervisors, managers, and workers, should take prompt action to correct the problem and prevent its recurrence.
According to W. Edwards Deming, "the aim of supervision should be to help people and machines do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers."
The key to adopting and instituting leadership, of course, lies at the top. Management needs to lead by example, action, and word. The leader "cares" about those he or she leads. After all, the management's success is tied to the success of all employees. The "servant leadership" (leaders serve those whom they lead) model fits well into the ideas expressed by Deming and others.
There is no better way to demonstrate sound principles of leadership and commitment than in making sure employees have the support, resources, training, and time to use safe work procedures at a job site. Ensuring safety is one of the most visible undertakings management can take to show employees that they are not merely hired hands who can be replaced, but are valued human resources: a part of the family.
To have an effective safety culture and CSMS, Deming believed that we must first, "drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company."
Driving out fear is the most important requirement when deploying an effective CSMS. You must begin here first. Management controls the workplace. It influences the standards of behavior and performance of its employees by creating cultural norms in the workplace that dictate what are, and are not acceptable behaviors. Management may rely solely on safety rules and progressive discipline (negative reinforcement) in their attempt to control the safety behavior and performance of its employees. However, a strategy such as this, that may be successful in forcing compliance, is never successful in producing excellence in product or process. Strategies using fear and control are rarely, if ever successful. What develops from such a strategy is a controlling, compliance driven climate of mistrust and disgust; only a shell of an effective CSMS.
Managers and supervisors can drive out fear through a real commitment to:
Doing these things will help build trust between labor and management. Morale and motivation improve because employees are not afraid to report safety concerns to management. In an effective CSMS, a safety concern is never considered a complaint.
Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish CSMS improvement. The improvement process is everybody's job. What a great concept! Put everybody to work to improve the safety culture and CSMS.
Here's the hard part. Someone must have the vision: If not top management, who? How do you shift responsibility for safety from the safety director and/or safety committee to line management? If the effort does not have the approval of the CEO (with action); real improvement may never be successful.
The safety committee may serve as the catalyst to initially begin the planning for CSMS improvement. If top management balks at the need for an improvement process, focus on "educating up" by emphasizing the benefits. The safety committee must provide the education to influence the perceptions that ultimately shape the transformation.
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