Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Taking Positive Measures

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Taking Positive Measures

Article excerpt

Making safety an accomplishment benefits programs and the people who manage them.

It's the difference in baseball between a .350 slugger and a bum who can't make it on base two-thirds of the time. The hits and misses are the same, but how they're measured and reported have a profound impact on our perceptions.

Using positive measurements, whether in business or play, puts an emphasis on accomplishment, rather than failures. For the safety and health field, however, the norm is still to measure failure rates. Companies that live and die by injury/illness rates are constantly trying to eliminate mistakes of the past, rather than tracking their employees' hard work to achieve a safer future.

John Channing is an industrial hygienist who believes his colleagues need to pay more attention to the emotional impact of the work they do and the measures they use. At the Professional Conference on Industrial Hygiene (PCIH), Sept. 26-29 in New Orleans, Channing pointed out that line managers must deal with an array of responsibilities, including production, personnel issues and safety and health. They are focused on "trying to achieve things." Too often, though, they see safety and health professionals as people who are "trying to stop me."

Channing said professionals must work not only to keep safety and health on line managers' agendas, but to do so in a way that makes managers "feel good about their tasks."

Part of that process, he told PCIH attendees, involves marketing the safety and health product. He named an accident investigation process "Lifeguard," for example, to increase interest and acceptance.

The psychology of numbers, Channing pointed out, is that "bigger is better," Rather than focus on shrinking injury rates, he espouses, it makes more sense to develop "metrics of success" built on positive data.

At Kodak's manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom, Channing has championed "Safety Leadership Profiling." The process is designed to ensure that line management gains visible accountability, empowerment and ownership of safety and environmental processes and issues. The health and safety professional's role is "not, as far as possible, to do it, whatever 'it' is," said Channing, but rather to provide advice, assistance and assessment. And he notes, the way that they do this is through "feel good" processes that encourage and support managers.

Channing shared one of the tools used in this process -- a compliance chart for material handling regulations. …

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