Top Training Challenges: How do you begin a safety program?

Top Training Challenges: How do you begin a safety program?

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.

The following is an excerpt from our on demand webcast, Troubleshoot Your Training—Live!, hosted by Chief Safety Officer Jill James and Dr. Todd Loushine.

Dr. Todd Loushine:

This question is more for people who are sort of incidental safety professionals and I know we had a lot signed up because I was reviewing the roster that the joke that we used to have is we'd meet someone, they'd say, "Hey, I'm the new safety professional here at this company," and our response is, "Oh, what'd you do wrong?" But getting to the actual question, I hope people are laughing, otherwise, I'm all by myself. You have to have, it was weird, we were talking about this right before this started that I couldn't imagine not having mentors and people teaching me and coaching me when I first got into the field.

So the first thing you need to do and this is what I teach my students is you got to start creating relationships in the workplace. The workers and the supervisors are going to be feeding you pretty much everything you need to know about the work and the work expectations so you can start evaluating where there are potential hazards or potential risks. They have insight. They're there looking at it everyday and they can tell you about it and then you can refer to the OSHA website for additional guidance.

Also, you need to know, there is no single approach that actually provides you with the full picture of your hazard or risk profile. You got to do different things. OSHA compliance officers do visual inspections but you can go much more in depth because you're there. You can do job hazard analysis. You can do ergonomic analysis. You can do process safety analysis. Use any of the plethora of tools from the systems safety world. There's surveys you can do, interviews, a data analysis of tasks, your last run reports from the work comp carrier or your OSHA logs. There's a lot you can do and you do need to look at everything.

You need to look at them on either an annual or biannual basis to find out have things changed, what more can I learn. Then you have to come up with a variety of control strategies. If you cannot eliminate something, it becomes part of your safety program. What are you going to do on the daily basis, shift basis, weekly basis, to try and reduce the exposure to it? If you do reduce or eliminate exposure, you're not going to have a negative outcome. I could go on and on but Jill, do you have anything to add?

Jill James:

So I looked at where to begin and I would say with regard, taking a cue from you Todd about building relationships, I'd look at building relationships in kind of three different ways. One would be with other people who are in your same boat, who are in charge with the same thing. The great thing about the practice of safety is that it's not a proprietary thing and those of us who are doing it are really willing to share information. Being part of an organization or group or being part of a group on LinkedIn ... Crazy enough, LinkedIn has a huge following of safety people and you can post questions, you can ask your hardest things there and you can kind of build some mentorship virtually if you want. That would be one relationship to build.

Like Todd said, the other is with the employees whose lives you're trying to protect and really finding out about their work and respecting the work that they're doing and sometimes that might mean doing their jobs side by side with them for a while so you can understand what their reality is and then remembering that they might have the best solutions that you never thought of once you're working with them, talking with them, building some trust with them, identifying something that's a problem for them or asking them the simple question, "What are you afraid of at work everyday?" Because you might not know what really kind of freaks them out and might uncover some things. Those relationships with workers are so important.

Then the third one is with your management structure which we'll talk about a little bit later because I know that's on the top of everyone's mind as well. So don't forget about the importance of building credibility with your management structure as well.