November 2016

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Viewpoint: Create a culture of safety: Protecting people while boosting your bottom line

Implementing safety best practices helps reduce employee risk, which helps minimize the number of workplace accidents and ensures compliance with industry and government regulations.

Schiff, T., ExxonMobil

Safety has long been a core value for most industrial companies, and with good reason. Implementing safety best practices helps reduce employee risk, which helps minimize the number of workplace accidents and ensures compliance with industry and government regulations.

However, the most successful companies also know that embracing safety can have a meaningful impact on another key success factor: their bottom line. Workplace accidents are costly.

Minimizing these costs not only relies on developing a robust safety program, but also on creating a culture of safety that permeates the entire organization. Some key guidelines that can help you build a culture of safety at your organization are discussed here.

Leaders create the culture

Instilling a strong safety culture begins with leadership. Leaders set the tone for their business. More specifically, leaders must take the initiative in encouraging employees to own the system and fully believe in it. In doing so, employee behaviors and beliefs can start to change, thus helping your organization achieve a sustainable safety mentality.

At ExxonMobil, safety is a theme that is discussed extensively among the company’s leadership. Employees are constantly reminded how safety is core to the company’s identity, and executives continue to champion new programs at industrial sites, as well as within corporate campuses. These programs have worked because the company’s leaders participated in, and advocated for, all of these initiatives. If you want others within your organization to embrace the right safety behaviors, look to your leadership.

Safety is an ongoing journey

Achieving a best-in-class safety culture does not happen overnight. It demands a philosophy of continuous improvement.

Once the decision is made to reinforce safety at all levels of the organization, immediate gains can be made by taking advantage of the low-hanging fruit, such as outfitting employees with the right safety gear, clearly identifying hazard areas, providing safety training and deploying mitigating actions.

However, you must continue to build on these quick wins by implementing tools, processes and behavior-based programs that enforce or facilitate safety best practices. These programs include avoiding distractions while driving or walking, safe behavior observations, assessment protocols and feedback mechanisms.

Companies can also look to implement more in-depth safety programs and comprehensive safety training, such as a job safety analysis (JSA) or a personal safety leadership plan. These plans allow employees to determine the safest means of doing their job, enabling the organization to analyze and mitigate risks in a timely and efficient manner.

Over the long term, continue to measure the success of these safety programs to identify opportunities for further improvement.

Partner with companies that also prioritize safety values

Any company that wants to build a culture of safety should also expect that same philosophy from their business partners.

Take a partner like your lubricant supplier. Typically, these partners are viewed primarily as vendors whose impact on your organization ends with the transfer of products bought or services rendered. However, these partners can play an important role in helping reinforce a strong safety culture. They can help you reach your goals by ensuring the safe manufacturing and distribution of lubricants, staying safe while on a customer’s site and lending their expertise to help bolster your operation.

The right lubricant technologies and technical service offerings can help optimize the performance of your equipment, meaning reduced human exposure to machinery.

The importance of selecting the right partners extends beyond just lubricant suppliers, and you should vet each business partner to make sure they adhere to the same safety standards you expect throughout your own organization.

Building a strong safety culture is a slow process, but following these guidelines can help ensure that you make efficient progress and achieve your long-term goals. HP

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