Welcome to the first in a three-part series on Getting the Most out of Your Safety Program!
Let’s start with a pretty basic question that has a controversial answer…
A safety manual (and I’m sure this definition will cause debate in certain circles) describes your safety management system (sometimes called a safety program). So, the next question is, “What is a safety management system?” Remember that your safety management system is NOT just your safety manual. Having a manual sitting on your shelf gathering dust does not mean that you have a safety program.
A safety management system is the set of policies, practices, programs, and processes used to “keep you and your workers safe” (as well as keeping property, the public, and the environment safe). It likely includes a safety manual, and the documentation used to implement a program, and I’m hoping there is also a training aspect of your safety program. It might also include a competency program, an observation program, an incentives program, etc…it ensures your organization meets the various requirements that a safety program must meet (legislative, client, operational).
Just as important as ensuring you meet requirements, your safety program must be about your company. It should be a tool that you use daily to tell your workers what you expect from them, what they can expect from you, and, most importantly, how they work safely.
I (Dean) bought a copy of The Joy of Cooking when I was in university. Living on my own, I wanted to be able to cook something other than soup out of a can. If I wanted mashed potatoes, or apple pie, or roast beef, it was all in that book. Twenty-five years after I purchased The Joy of Cooking, my family gave me The Science of Cooking by the good people at Cook’s Illustrated. A step up from my first cookbook, The Science of Cooking answers the “why?” questions. Why do you preheat the oven? Why do you use unsalted butter for some baking? Why do you let a steak rest after you cook it?
Think of your safety manual as your “safety cookbook.” Instead of a recipe for mashed potatoes, you’ve got a procedure on how to use a grinder safely. Instead of directions in grilling the perfect steak, you’ve got a practice that explains safe ladder use. Following the lead of The Science of Cooking, your safety manual can also answer the “why” questions, giving your workers the reasons behind the procedures. Instead of an explanation for why you would use vodka in the crust of your apple pie (really!), you’ve got a policy explaining why it’s a good idea for all workers to complete a field-level hazard assessment before starting work.
Having a cookbook doesn’t make you a good cook. You need the tools (BBQ, oven, pans, utensils) to actually cook. You need the raw ingredients. You might need someone to show you, in person, the right way to knead bread, and even after learning how to knead bread, you’ll still need practice (I baked pies alongside my grandma for years before attempting it on my own…true story). Just like having a cookbook won’t magically produce a perfect turkey dinner, having a safety manual won’t magically keep your workers safe. They need to have tools, resources, mentors, training, and the motivation to work safe. THIS is what makes up your safety management system.
We love working with clients to develop a customized safety program that meets legislative and industry requirements, but also meets the operation needs of our clients’ organizations. Call us if you would like to talk about what your needs are and whether Boreal can help you!