The Safety Professional’s Top Goal of 2018

The Safety Professional’s Top Goal of 2018

Jill James

Jill James

Chief Safety Officer

Jill James brings an unrivaled perspective on risk, regulation and liability. With 14 years of experience as a Senior OSHA Safety Investigator with the State of Minnesota, and nearly a decade in the private sector as a safety program manager, Jill is a passionate advocate for training ROI.

Baseline: a minimum starting point used for comparison. 

With the start of a new year, as many of us strive for those little personal improvements, a lot of us are thinking about a ‘baseline’—that’s where we are today.

“I’m going to get fit! I can only do 5 push-ups today, but by the end of the month, I’ll be at 10!” 

“I’m going to drink less caffeine! I start each day with 3-cups of coffee and a RedBull. By the end of the month, I’m going to be down to 2-cups of coffee.” 

“I’m going to improve family time! We’re going to have a meal together at a table with no electronics at least three times a week, rather than no meals at a table.” 

5 push-ups? 3 cups + RedBull? 0 family meals?

Those are baseline numbers, starting points, simple markers that help us define the progress we’re hoping to make.

If you don’t know your baseline, it’s difficult to set realistic goals and close the distance where improvements must be made.

Question: What is your organization-wide safety baseline? 

Where is your organization starting the year with safety? How do you know? What metrics are in place to establish and measure the safety baseline you are responsible for?

A lot of environmental health and safety professionals begin by measuring rudimentary safety minimums, familiar to most in the profession.

For example, let’s say that you’ve done quite a bit of research and learned that to reach compliance with a basic Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requirement for written safety programs, you’ll need to finish authoring a total of 12 programs; you have completed six to date. That means your baseline for written safety programs is 12 and you have 50% to go.

In another example, let’s say that you’ve determined all employees in one of your departments must receive safety training on 7 subjects and they’ve been trained on only 5. In this example, your baseline is 7 safety training topics, so you’ve got 2 roll-out (hopefully before an audit).

There are good goals in each example; achieving basic compliance is sometimes the baseline we’re handed as safety professionals, so if the organization you support is not there today, it’s the perfect place to start—find the foundation and shore it up.

What if, in 2018, you want to do more as a safety professional? It seems like most safety professionals do.

In fact, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) just released the 2018 Top-10 New Year’s Resolutions of occupational safety and health professionals.

Guess what the top goal is? “Build a culture of safety and health.”

Most of the goals relate to developing a healthy organizational safety culture.

Have you ever thought about how to determine your baseline for safety engagement or where to start?

This remains one of the largest challenges in safety because most folks have no idea where to begin, but the truth is that getting started is easy.

No, seriously.  

After years of answering this question of safety culture + engagement, my friend and colleague-in-safety at the University of Whitewater, Dr. Todd Loushine, “scienced” a solution. 

Drawing from his own professional experience and extensive academic research, Dr. Loushine developed a first-of-its-kind safety climate survey.

Think of a climate survey as you would a thermometer, only taking your workforce temperature regarding safety—you’re establishing a baseline.

Dr. Loushine’s survey doesn’t ask 100 questions about safety specifics like other surveys using the same common yet antiquated methodology...in fact, it’s only 19 questions.

Why? Because research suggests the dominant factor behind high-scoring safety climates is simple: trust between employees & management.

This survey asks simple questions to measure organizational trust:

Employee Question

Manager Question

Management makes me feel like I’m a valued member of the organization.

We (management) do whatever we can to make the workforce feel valued.

Management spends enough time talking to me about expectations and measuring my performance.

Management regularly provides feedback and communicates effectively with workers and supervisors. 

You feel that management is 100% committed to keeping you and your co-workers safe. 

Management is able to make worker safety #1 organizational priority.

Management demonstrates care for people injured on the job.

Workers are injured as the result of their own unsafe behaviors. 

Do ‘feelings’, ‘beliefs’, and ‘attitudes’ seem too touchy feely for you?

Think about it...

If employees (yourself included) don’t like where they work, don’t feel they are cared for, are scared, or feel unable to influence working conditions, will they do good and safe work? 

If managers don’t respect or trust employees, how do those attitudes support your corporate mission and help to keep employees safe?

Now, imagine seeing the responses to those questions...

Where do employees and managers align? Where do they differ?  What does this say about your safety climate? 

If, for example, employees expect to sustain an injury in the coming year, yet mangers do not expect to deal with one, what do you not know about possible unsafe work practices or conditions? 

If, for example, you learn that a high percentage of employees feel they aren’t receiving appropriate feedback on performance, perhaps that is an indication more training is required for employees and managers alike?

Gauging concerns, perceptions, and attitudes, also allows you to create new goals for the coming year and prioritize work in different ways.

Taking the temperature of your safety climate now to establish a baseline gives you actionable data useful for measuring success and identifying opportunities for progress.

Measuring your climate reveals the truth of your safety culture, and that knowledge is the ‘holy grail’ of safety.  

Learn more about Vivid’s survey experience here: Safety Engagement Survey

If you decide to opt-in for the survey experience, know that Dr. Loushine and I are here to help you through it—we’ll cover results interpretation and analysis and offers data-backed suggestions or recommendations for your organization.

This is a great leadership opportunity for any safety professional start the new year.