Looking at work as it is done

3 Sep 2017



I’ve been to a few training sessions recently where people are talking about work as it is done. Traditionally, health and safety has been based on fear, problems, and, sometimes, blame. Health and safety has had an image of being the “fun police”, not about people. It would be fair to say that putting rules in place and insisting on compliance is the starting point for most companies, especially those who are just starting the health and safety journey. There is a place for this type of health and safety.

Once the basic health and safety structure is in place, it can be time to move on to the next level. There are a few key points to having a great health and safety culture, but, it all starts with people. Recognising people (workers) are responsible, want to do the job as well as they can, and want to go home safely, allows everyone to work together safely and effectively.

Start by recognising that work is changeable and seldom goes the way we expect. There are changes every day. These can include weather, customer demands, worker illness, breakdowns, etc. When work or work conditions change, workers will modify their actions so that the work gets done. Management may not realise this is happening, particularly if the outcome is what is expected. When we expect widgets and get widgets, we tend not to look at how the widgets were produced.

By visiting the workplace, and talking to the workers we can see, and hear what is actually happening. Asking questions such as “tell me about a job that went well. What made it go well” and “tell me about a job that didn’t go as well as expected. What made it not go well?” will give management a lot of answers. It also makes the workers feel engaged in the process of work, and safety.

Take the time to listen, and walk around. Give workers feedback on their suggestions, recognise their contributions, and give them a sense of pride and belonging. The workplace will become a place people want to be at, pride in their work will increase resulting in more quality and less downtime. It may require a change in attitude and some perseverance but it will pay off in the long run.  



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