We Believe The Safety And Well-Being Of Our People Is In Our DNA

Without a focus on safety, it’s easy to miss seeing the danger in your workplace. This is because it’s also a fact that people generally become desensitised to the hazards around them if they are working in the same environment every day. Whether you are at home or at work, when you do the same thing day in and day out, you stop seeing the hazards.

Believe it or not, not thinking about your safety is a normal state of mind! I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but you only tend to think about your immediate wellbeing when you consider yourself to be in imminent danger or you are being exposed to a hazard. It could be that your work environment is normally safe, or you have become desensitised to the hazards around you. Whatever the case, if you don’t feel you are in harm’s way you won’t even give safety a thought.

Case Study: Spot The Hazards

We did a workshop once in a steel plant designed to help employees see the hazards around them because, truthfully, we’re not born knowing this stuff. To identify a safety hazard isn’t as easy as it sounds because they’re not always that obvious.

In this plant, there was a really dangerous area called a rolling mill. In this part of steel-making, you start with a large billet of steel and it is passed through rolls known as “stands.” As it is pressed through each stand, it becomes thinner and thinner until you end up with a steel bar which is for used for applications such as reinforcing for concrete and the like.

Of course, to do that, the steel needs to be red hot. It needs to become malleable so it can be pressed. These rolls exert hundreds of tons of pressure as the steel moves through. As a bar goes through these stands, the thinner it gets and the faster it’s moving. It’s the same amount of steel, but it’s now drawn out more thinly.

By the time it reaches the end of the rolling mill, it’s red-hot steel, moving at about 60 miles an hour. If it comes through one stand and misses the next stand, it’s called a coggle. A coggle, out of control, gets pushed up into the air and randomly around the roll shop. If it hits anyone, it’s going to kill them.

Needless to say, it’s a really dangerous environment. On a down day, when they were performing planned maintenance, I held a workshop for the people who work in the rolling mill wherein I asked them to list the hazards in their workplace. I put up a big whiteboard and, after about an hour, they identified less than 10 key hazards in their workplace.

I then pulled a team of people who didn’t  work in that workshop at all but work in a completely different end of the steel plant. Within an hour they had listed about 200 hazards!

The people who worked there over time had stopped seeing the hazards because they were in there, working, every day. We become very desensitised. That’s another key reason why people get hurt. No matter what it is you do, doing it every day stops you from seeing their hazards.

These great observations and ideas that came from a fresh set of eyes, were then incorporated into the standard operating procedures going forward. It was clear that bringing in another perspective ended up benefitting the entire operation.

This process of cross-pollination of ideas from one business unit to another is standard practice in some organisations that are leading safety practitioners. If you combine these elements of executives not spending enough time focused on safety and employees not seeing the hazards through being desensitised to the dangers in their work area, you eventually end up hurting people.

 

Safety Is Good For Business

It’s important to care about safety just for the obvious reason of caring about people’s lives. From the financial aspect, the cost of managing injuries is not to be overlooked. This is easily lost in the day-to-day of business and operations.

There are plenty of studies that show a direct link between profit and not hurting people. There is much literature that demonstrates good safety performance with positive bottom line results. This is demonstrated in many industries and markets, impervious to business type or size.