I attended this year's OSHA Annual Summer Summit, where the topics ranged from Occupational Safety & Health Administration recordkeeping to engaging the entire workforce — regardless of age, language, and race — in critical safety conversations. One key theme that overarched the summit: fostering collaboration for all workers is essential to building a strong safety culture and reducing incidents and hazards.
In the keynotes, timely topics were touched on, including changing the regulatory landscape based on new presidential executive orders, COVID-19 compliance including the new emerging temporary standard (ETS) for the healthcare industry, and the importance of preventing heat exposure, especially as we continue seeing record-breaking temperatures globally.
One breakout session that was particularly enlightening was “Safety, Capacity, and Resiliency,” which discussed the importance of transitioning from an old safety paradigm (in which the focus is on DART rate, lost work days, hours without injury, and workers’ compensation cost, and other lagging indicators) to a new safety paradigm (in which the focus is on empowering workers to solve problems participate in a proactive safety culture). Some key components of the new paradigm concepts include the importance of measuring success, encouraging employees to speak up, and increased trust and learning. This means moving away from “blaming” the worker for problems and instead asking the worker how systems can be improved in order to learn from mistakes and reduce future errors.
These concepts were also reiterated in the presentation on “Crossing the Generational Divide.” The presenter indicated that fixing the system is best done by using the worker — because the worker best knows the work. This requires building trust between employees and leaders — one can either blame and punish or learn and improve — but not both. When there is high trust, there is better teamwork and business outcomes, including a good safety climate.
In relation to the importance of involving the worker in communication and training, these concepts have been spoken about by some of our clients, emphasizing the importance of empowering all employees within the organization with access to incident reporting — via web and mobile. They’ve noted that safety technology on its own is not enough to solve safety issues and it must be coupled with communication in the workplace about the importance of reporting safety incidents and hazards as well as the fact that there are no negative repercussions to reporting. Our clients have also indicated that they have been able to leverage technology as a training tool — including educating managers on audit and safety meeting modules to implement a positive safety culture.