Safety is often the biggest priority in industries like metal fabrication. But like in any work setting, the prevailing culture and norms dictate certain behaviours. These, in turn, either help or impede efforts to consistently uphold safety.
As workers and contractors come and go in a facility, accepted practices and norms change as well. It becomes a challenge for management to stick to expected safety standards. While accidents can never be entirely avoided or anticipated, companies must make it a point to foster a strong culture of safety in the workplace. What are some ways to achieve that?
1. Understand where employees are coming from.
Companies need to approach the issue of safety from the perspective of the workers. If people understand that management is upholding it not just for the sake of avoiding costs and equipment damage, they’ll be much more inclined to contribute towards the collective effort. Communicate to employees that at the end of the day, it’s human lives that matter. You also need to set firm examples to show you’re committed to that.
For instance, you can enact policies around inclement weather. Encourage workers to make the call on whether they should go to work amid a storm. Of course, if it’s an extreme weather event, keep employees from leaving the safety of their homes.
2. Hold everyone accountable.
Companies should create an environment where everybody feels free to speak up. If a worker finds that a superior is engaging in risky behaviours, they should be in a position where they can professionally inform management.
By holding everyone accountable, people won’t feel like special considerations are given to specific individuals. Whether it’s avoiding hazardous gases and fumes with proper equipment to purge pipes or identifying electrical faults in welding tools, it’s everyone’s responsibility to point out safety loopholes.
3. Follow through and be proactive.
There’s no use in workers speaking up about safety improvements that need to be made if management can’t follow through with necessary actions.
Companies need to show employees that they take their suggestions and ideas seriously. One way to do that is to immediately craft actions around issues that are raised by your workers.
You need to be proactive and regularly review procedures and protocols. You’ll likely find that some of them will need updating. Additionally, don’t hesitate to ask for people’s input and don’t wait for them to prod you to do so.
4. Hold proper training.
Your safety managers need to be adequately trained to handle situations where safety is potentially compromised. While they may be more than familiar with the technical side of things, it’s also crucial for them to be equipped with psychological tools that enable them to get erring employees more involved. When conversations start with a rundown of what people did wrong, that can be a quick way to shut off communication lines and create more unnecessary friction.
Instead, safety managers can start and focus on the positive things that were done. Then, they can carefully communicate that everyone’s safety is their concern and that some things were done that might have compromised it. The idea is to make people feel that they can significantly contribute to ensuring general safety. After all, the last thing anyone wants is for someone to get badly injured.
There are many policies to consider in avoiding welding hazards and upholding safety. But the main focus should always be on your people and empowering them to build a culture where proper protocols are observed.