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Best Practices to Change Your Culture

Statistics showing a continuing decline in lost-time workplace injuries, along with a stabilization of workplace fatalities, are an encouraging sign that workplace safety initiatives are beginning to take hold throughout Canada.

November 7, 2011  By James Larsen and Peter Goodman

However, the 260,284 lost-time injuries and the 939 deaths in 2009, reported by the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, are still too many.

Is your company ready to make real change to improve workplace safety?

Real and sustained improvement of workplace safety starts with an unyielding and unwavering commitment from the corner office, a commitment that is required to affect change to the fullest extent possible.

Once it becomes engrained in the culture, is no longer just the responsibility of a safety director, and is a universal expectation of all employees, that is when real change takes place.



Setting Goals and Getting There
An organization must set safety goals and state those goals regularly and publicly. For example: Reduce recordable injuries by a specific percentage. No lost-time injuries.

The changes made must be made with the right intention in order for all employees to buy in. Changing policies just for the sake of change will not be effective. A company must ask: What are the most important practices to examine and what really will reduce hazards?

And when something does happen, ask why multiple times to get at the core of what is really going on. An example: An employee gets hurt because he “wasn’t paying attention.” Why wasn’t he paying attention? Because he was in a hurry. Why was he in a hurry? Because we are short-staffed. Why are we short-staffed? Because we haven’t been able to fill two critical positions.

During this change, winning the hearts and minds of veteran workers is vital. Since these workers have done a certain task many times before, they may believe they can cut corners. One example is the story of Charlie Morecraft, a 15-year veteran of Exxon when he was severely burned in an accident caused by shortcuts.

Show a video about Morecraft’s horrific story. It will make a lasting impact on your employees.

Another way to bring the safety message home is to install a corkboard in the break room or other prominent location. Make it the “Why I Work Safely” bulletin board, and ask employees to post pictures of their families.

Nortrax has found that multiple strategies and programs like these boost safety in our work place.

Strategies For Safety
Bring in human resources. Safety must become a part of performance appraisals, hiring practices and job descriptions.
Start every meeting with safety. Without exception, make safety the first topic of discussion on every management meeting, every employee meeting.

Know where the hazards are and eliminate them. Track injuries and know where they happen. Then, engineer out the risk where possible.

Reward safe behavior with positive reinforcement. Managers are often too quick to correct and punish employees for doing something wrong. Instead, hold them up as an example of good work and publicly say “Thank you.” Sincerely expressed gratitude for a job well done is often more effective than cash and prizes.

Have the right personal protection equipment. Require everyone to wear safety equipment, not just the workers, and ensure it is easily accessible. Visitors, including company executives, should also follow the same rules.
Make training frequent and short. Hours of safety training, or days dedicated to safety don’t cut it. Talk safety daily to make important announcements, discuss any near hits and focus on one safety item. More formal training, once a month, can be hosted online.

Set up an injury reporting system. Reporting should be encouraged and immediate. Ask employees to report near hits so changes can be made to avoid future accidents. All accidents are preventable, and expect no lost-time injuries. Welcome government inspection as yet another set of eyes in order to be safer.

Send out safety alerts to every employee. When an injury occurs, send out a notice of what happened and why to every single employee in the company. Make everyone aware of the safety challenges in your company.

Safety goes along on site visits. It is always good to have another set of eyes watching out for safety. Expect that whenever a member of the corporate office, or company leadership, visits a site or a branch, the person builds in time to look at potential
hazards and whether the site is following proper safety protocol. Report back any thoughts to another member of management and the site manager. During these site visits, managers and front office personnel wear the appropriate or mandated safety equipment. This helps reinforce standards and leads by example.

Create a pocket-sized safety piece for all workers. A recent piece Nortrax created focuses on four words: Think, Look, Take and Do. We believe these are essential steps to prevent accidents.

  • Think through the task
  • Understand the job & procedures
  • Get the right tools & equipment
  • Be aware of equipment and other operations nearby
  • Complete a job safety review
  • What could go wrong?
  • Look for hazards
  • Manual handling, splashes, sprays, moving parts and pinch points
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Working at unsafe heights
  • Lockout, electrical hazards, and vehicle traffic
  • Waste materials, dust and fumes
  • Weather, environmental conditions
  • Take the precautions
  • Reduce, isolate and/or remove the hazard
  • Use safe work procedures
  • Do the job safely
  • Continue thinking about the task. Ask yourself, “What can go wrong?”
  • Stay alert for changes in tasks or surroundings

How Do You Want To Be Seen?
Driving towards a better safety process or culture is reflective of the state of affairs for your company. How do you want to be identified? What do you want to be known for? You cannot offer great pay and benefits, but neglect safety and say you value employees. Safety has to be a core value of the culture, an expectation. Taking it seriously differentiates you from the competition.

James Larsen is the industrial health and safety manager for Nortrax. Peter Goodman is the human resources director for Nortrax in Canada. Nortrax is the largest John Deere dealer for construction, mining and forestry equipment in North America. Its presence extends across the eastern and central portions of the United States and Canada with 52 locations. More information about Nortrax is available at www.nortrax.ca.

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