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You Are a Workplace Safety Rockstar: A Supervisor’s Guide to Taking Safety to the Next Level

Beginning in 2017, many employers must electronically provide to the agency the details concerning the workplace injuries and illnesses kept on their 300 logs.

It’s time to improve your workplace safety program. Federal OSHA just announced the sweeping new requirement that, beginning in 2017, many employers must electronically provide to the agency the details concerning the workplace injuries and illnesses kept on their 300 logs. OSHA then will make this material available for public viewing on its web site (read more here).

With unrestricted access to this information, your current and potential customers, vendors and clients will have a comprehensive view of your safety program. If what they see is a poor safety record replete with significant injuries and illnesses, you may lose business opportunities.

Safety will play a bigger role in the procurement process than it ever has. Take action; now is the time to revisit your safety programs, ramp up and document your training and make the business decisions necessary to decrease the number of injuries occurring at your facility and ensure your employees go home safely every night.

Most employers have good intentions and want to realize this goal, but fail to execute.
After OSHA makes a splashy announcement like the electronic reporting requirement, management often calls for a meeting with its safety team, mandating that “safety must improve.” Unfortunately, many safety supervisors don’t take this instruction seriously because they doubt that the company actually will provide the resources necessary to build a successful safety program. They’ve tried strengthening the program before, but failed due to a lack of manpower or budget restraints.

Having a vision for the safety program you want and developing the confidence to make it possible are key components to realizing your desire to keep injury rates low.
In her New York Times bestseller, You Are a [email protected]**: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, Jen Sincero masterfully outlines the steps one should take to be successful in any career, task or business venture no matter what obstacles you may face. Sincero believes that achieving any goal is possible if you surround yourself with the right people, stop procrastinating and develop confidence by recognizing your potential.

Here’s how Sincero might counsel a supervisor on overcoming obstacles in order to take a safety program to the next level:

1. Surround yourself with positive leaders. This doesn’t always mean making new hires. Recruit from within. If employees from other departments have shown a strong interest in safety and have a desire to build a safe work environment, seek permission to have them transferred to the safety team. Having the right attitudes on board will help you focus on the task at hand, delegate duties, and meet your goals.

2. Want safety bad. Don’t let previous failures and perceived obstacles prevent you from creating the safety culture you desire. Safety is paramount. If you want something bad enough – like an increased budget allowance – ask for it. Keep asking for it until you get it. Nothing is more important that keeping your coworkers safe.

3. Think outside the box. Go against the grain. “We’ve always done it this way” are words of restraint and limitation. They hinder creativity and decrease the likelihood that successful results will be achieved. Don’t be afraid to rewrite safety program documents or train employees in a different way, like using an alternate format or media. Talk to your coworkers. How do they retain information? What steps can you take to make safety more interesting to them?

4. Don’t procrastinate. The time for change is now. The reason many great ideas fail to come to fruition is because no one actually acted. No matter how small the task is – whether it’s rewriting training documents or meeting with coworkers – each step brings you closer to your goal.

The U.S. military often trains time-management through the acronym OODA: “observe, orient, decide, act.” The process of going through OODA is called a “loop.” The quicker your OODA loop, the more likely you will get results. The slower it is, the less likely you will make a difference. Take action, now!

5. Keep a vision board. Write down on a chalkboard or bulletin board the changes you want. Describe your goals in writing. Writing them down will create accountability. Focus your team on getting these items done. Don’t stop until your task list is complete.

6. Take the risk of optimism. Notwithstanding your failures in the past, believe that changes can be made. Your optimism will be contagious. Your team members will buy in to your vision. They will help your accomplish your goals. The worst thing that can happen is ending up where you are now.

Sincero sends a powerful message. The most difficult tasks can be achieved even when the odds are stacked against us. Take action. Believe you can make change. Following Sincero’s sage advice will help you develop the safety program you want.

Travis Vance is of counsel in the Charlotte, N.C. office of Fisher Phillips. He also is a frequent contributor to the firm’s Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog. Vance counsels employers and owners on all aspects of employment law and the development of preventive policies and procedures to avoid employment and workplace safety and OSHA- related claims. He handles litigation in both federal and state courts and claims pending with state and federal agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor.

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