Kevin Ian Schmidt

Barriers to Improving Workplace Safety

The first stage in improving the level of safety in your workplace is to assess exactly where you are. This is your starting point. Then, you have to recognize the culture that exists in your organization and the factors that have created it. The culture is the sum of the experience, history, belief system, work practices of the people within the organization.

Frequently within businesses there are opposing forces that compromise safety. We have to understand the inevitable conflict that arises between safety and output. We have to realize and accept that no organization is just in the business of being safe. Every company tries to meet two objectives. Firstly, keep the risks has low as reasonably practicable. Secondly, stay in business.

To improve the levels of safety, it often becomes necessary to cope with the forces that have a negative effect on safety. These forces may include time pressure, cost cutting, the single-minded pursuit of profits and indifference to hazards. So often, organizations look at the forces that are lined up against them and give up on improving safety or just pay lip service to it. Under these circumstances each organization gets the repeated accidents it deserves. As always, the losers are the members of staff who get injured or killed.

Check Out: Improve Workplace Safety Culture in 6 Steps

To improve levels of safety, all staff within the organization must be better informed. In other words, they understand and respect the hazards they face and are constantly reminded of the potential dangers in their workplace. This means that they will never forget the dangers around them.. They know the dangers without having to fall victim to them.

An improved level of safety is achieved by creating a safety information system that collects, analyzes and disseminates knowledge from “near hits” and other incidents. Of course, this can only be achieved when there is a reporting culture that promotes the collection of this sort of information. Generally speaking, staff members understand the need for this information in the interests of safety. Unfortunately, it also requires people to report their own mistakes, errors and lapses. Overcoming this barrier requires sound leadership and positive reinforcement for those people who report.

Check Out: The Road Map to Build a Positive Safety Culture

It is possible to institute a system which can include the confidentiality of the people who are reporting the “near hits” and incidents. Within the system it is vital that all aspects of blame are removed. Any blame direct or implied will ensure that reporting will be minimized. Removing the blame barrier can be a challenge.

The single most important component of an improved level of safety within the workplace, is the establishment of a greater degree of trust. Again, this is a substantial barrier for some organizations to overcome

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