What I Wouldn't Do for One Good Idea

Start your summer reading with our safety management series and you may find that one idea that can recharge your safety process.

Let's face it nearly all of us are standing directly in the path of change. Our organizations are downsizing, rightsizing, decentralizing, globalizing, acquiring, spinning off, adding value and generally resembling the Tasmanian Devil after refueling on an Expresso Doppio at Starbucks.

For safety managers, that leads to an interesting dichotomy. You share a constant value in your professional lives keeping employees and the public as safe as possible but you are juggling that value in organizations and careers that are constantly, even mercilessly, undergoing change.

Our job at Occupational Hazards is to offer you ways to cope with and even benefit from those changes. That's why we're especially pleased to be sharing our three-part series this month entitled "Breakthrough Safety Management." We're betting you'll come away from your reading investment with at least one good idea (and maybe a whole fistful). In the series opener, Managing Editor Sandy Smith delves into the ongoing debate about what constitutes "world-class safety" and offers several menus for the elements that go into such a daunting appellation.

Next, safety leader Larry Hansen challenges you to pursue safety excellence right now in "The Covenants of the ROSE," his entertaining and enlightening look at the principles needed by an organization to establish operational safety success.

"Excellence requires two critical elements: knowledge and hard work. In safety, most organizations resist developing the first and are unwilling to expend effort on the second. In business (and safety), there is no such thing as a quick fix. However, when strategy is sound, leadership is strong, resources are adequate and efforts are meaningful… there is great potential for rapid returns," Hansen writes.

To help you achieve those "rapid returns," Hansen and two of his colleagues, Hank Sarkis and Dan Zahlis, are joining with Occupational Hazards to present a Web seminar on July 20 at 12 noon EDT. The seminar, "Re-defining Operational Safety Excellence," will explore how high-performing organizations manage safety not only better, but differently. If that's knowledge your organization would find valuable, get your safety staff, safety committee or facility managers together and join us for this lunchtime learning experience (remember, the pizza is on you). For registration details, go to www.occupationalhazards.com/webcast.

Contributing Editor William Kincaid wraps up our series with his insights on how lean manufacturing techniques can benefit the safety program and ways in which safety managers can use these advanced processes to their advantage.

For many safety topics, of course, the old adage applies that "you could write a book about it." That's just what Darryl Hill, CSP and 37 colleagues did in creating Construction Safety Management and Engineering, published by the American Society of Safety Engineers. The landmark 717-page book consists of five sections covering preconstruction tasks, key components of the safety process, emerging issues in construction safety management, legal aspects and technical construction issues.

While construction continues to have the highest number of fatal injuries (1,121 in 2002) of any major industry, Hill cites three trends that are leading to significantly safer construction projects. The first is safety through design, in which hazards are minimized or eliminated by designing and engineering safety features, such as anchorage points for fall protection, into a project ahead of time.

The second is pre-job task planning, in which contractors, subcontractors or owners examine the work to be completed, the hazards that work may entail and effective safety measures.

The third trend Hill identified is owners requiring that safety program costs be explicitly included in job bids by contractors. While far from universal, said Hill, more owners are recognizing that they have legal and financial liability stemming from construction work and that it is in their interest to promote safety on their jobs. By requiring the inclusion of safety, said Hill, owners level the playing field for all contractors, particularly those with superior safety programs.

Though more owners and contractors who are proactive about safety are welcome, said Hill, some of his colleagues are concerned that tight economic times could lead to fewer full-time safety professionals at construction sites. "A lot of individuals may not be construction safety professionals by experience or education, but have been given safety responsibilities as a collateral duty," Hill explained. "I'm not saying they are not competent, but they may not have the in-depth knowledge or skills as the [career professionals]."

That may be one reason why Hill urges his colleagues not to lose sight of the business side of safety. He says safety pros must help ensure that safety recommendations are not only effective but cost-efficient. "It's not that everything must be driven by cost, but we just need to make sure what we do is financially prudent."

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