AUSTIN, Texas--One trend that evolves constantly is safety.
“(Safety) has become a big deal in our lives,” said Dale Lesinski, vice president, sales and marketing, Dival Safety Equipment Inc., during his keynote presentation during the Rubber Roller Group's annual meeting held recently in Austin.
“And we've seen safety evolve significantly in our work lives.”
Why is safety such a big deal? It's about money, Lesinski said, and safety impacts money.
“Accidents damage assets, physical assets: machinery, equipment, property. But more importantly, their human assets,” he said.
While companies do not want anyone to get hurt, companies incur a cost when employees do get hurt. There is the possibility of lawsuits. Lesinski said there were three messages on his cup of coffee that morning warning him about his coffee being hot, all to prevent a lawsuit.
Workers compensation and insurance costs are factors that companies must consider. Additionally, there is a new reason why safety is so important: lost customers.
“When companies do business with other companies, they are choosing business partners. And there's a lot of criteria that goes into that decision,” Lesinski said.
When choosing a partner, a company thinks about cost of goods, delivery times and quality; however safety performance now tops that list, Lesinski said, “because how you treat your human assets is a leading indicator to what type of business partner you're teaming up with.
“Safety impacts the bottom line.”
When a company says safety is its No. 1 priority, it's expressing its values, Lesinski said. While a company exists to make money, it can only do that if it does it safely.
Knowing your role
Lesinski told a story about how he once worked construction for a few weeks one summer and had two foremen: Dominick and Sal.
At 7 a.m., he reported to Dominick, who told him to grab a shovel, dig a ditch and have it done by noon. Around 9 a.m., Sal came over and asked him how he was doing. Sal showed him the plans and explained that he wasn't just digging a ditch but a footer for a portion of a bridge.
He explained that it had to be 6 by 6 by 3, exactly, because the concrete workers were coming to fill in the hole later that afternoon. Lesinski said within five minutes of speaking with Sal, everything had changed for him.
“He made me understand what my role was,” he added.
Employees need to understand why procedures are in place, what their role is and what the end game is. Understanding how they fit into the big picture is important.
“The safest companies deliver the highest quality,” he added. “There is a direct correlation from safety to quality.”
Mandatory training often can lead just to making sure everyone has signed the roster, Lesinski said, so he encourages “effective training,” which means employees understand, comprehend and can apply what is taught. Both the trainee and the trainer are responsible for making this happen. The trainer needs to come to training with materials, and the trainee needs not only to stay awake, but engage and participate.
“There is not a more important time when you are at work that you spend than when you are in safety training,” Lesinski said.
Procedures are designed for operations to run effectively and safely, but they are not always followed.
“We skip procedures all the time,” Lesinski said, “You know why: because we can. Because we are human and we can get away with it, a lot. The fact of the matter is, (the) root cause analysis of almost every injury and accident in the workplace and almost every single fatality comes back to somebody somewhere skipped a procedure.”
This means the entire accident could have been avoided if all the steps in the procedure were taken, he said.
“The scariest part is, very often, the person that skips the procedure is not the one who pays the price,” Lesinski added.
The impact of your actions
Behavior is the leading contributor to incidents or injuries in the workplace because people are only human, and mistakes can happen.
“You have to do it for the right reasons .... You've got to change your values when it comes to your personal safety,” he said.
Lesinski asks the crowd to think of four people in their world they would never want to see get hurt. Most lists have the same people: family, children and friends.
Lesinski told members of his audience that when they return to work and run through the procedures they have always done, to consider what would happen if they got hurt, instead of doing just an eyeball test.
What if “as a result of our unsafe act, of our shortcut, we come out of the hospital as a quadriplegic?” Lesinski asked. “Think about how that unsafe act could impact the four people you care most about and how it permanently affects them for the rest of their lives.”
Lesinski recalled working as a speaker at a manufacturing plant that used a machine that had caused several amputations. People would stick their hand in the machine to fix jams instead of turning off the machine first.
“This company had an amputation every year for 10 years,” he said.
The company kept trying to retrain and repost proper procedures, but it wasn't until they posted a picture of the four people the worker cared most about that something changed.
“It stopped that week. That week, people would not reach past their children or grandchildren unless that machine was turned off and it was safe,” Lesinski said.
This messaging can work if teams work together.
“Seeing something is easy; saying something to those people, that gets kind of tough,” he said.
Lesinski explained how you approach someone violating a safety procedure can make all the difference. For instance, if you see someone without safety goggles, he suggested pointing to your goggles, then showing four fingers with your hand to represent their four most important people. This is a positive, but simple message.
Safety is an important issue in the workplace. Working together can ensure everyone makes it home safely as well.