Perspective News

More Stories:

How safe is safe enough?

Our Marketing Director recently posed an interesting question to me, “Other than management buy-in – what contributes to BLHI’s track record of ongoing safety success?”  Frankly, my kneejerk reply was a bit shallow. But it caused me to seriously stop and think.

I sincerely believe our sustained success grows out of BLHI’s Guiding Principles. A commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace is a natural outgrowth of that foundation. Yet, in our industry traditionally there is a bit of a trade-off with regard to workplace safety and production that I would very much like you to think about. Ask yourself, really – just how safe is safe enough?

Consider this statement – most workers will be as safe as they need to be, without being too safe, in order to be productive. Stop and think about that for a moment.

Many in our industry see workplace safety as a tradeoff. They picture safety on one side of a balancing scale and productivity on the other. As you shift the balance on one side, the other must compensate. Too many believe there is truly direct conflict in requiring people to be both safe and productive at the same time. Then a disaster occurs and, in hindsight that philosophy is judged to be wrong.

So, what is BLHI doing that has shifted a paradigm from an “either/or” view regarding safety and production to “and / also”?  Frankly, production and safety are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they absolutely must co-exist. Step one is a realization this is not about compliance with the rules. I always cringe a bit when I hear one of our folks focus on OSHA compliance as being safe. (Or MSHA, OBO, USACE, etc) 100% rules compliance simply means we are doing the minimum the law requires. Our approach instead is to stress that efficiency and thoroughness requires safe-productivity. That is another statement to pause and let sink in a bit.

To work safely is to properly empower, equip, plan, and execute our work – thus enhancing productively by minimizing work stoppage, re-work, and unforeseen costs. We fail when we shift from efficiency and thoroughness instead to a view of safety versus production. However, our successes prove that walking the walk and truly living by our Guiding Principles will sustain a culture of safe-productivity. So, how safe is safe enough?

Frank Wampol, Vice President of Safety and Health

More Perspective Stories