Feature: The path to achieving sustainable safety
The path to achieving sustainable safety
One of the most critical issues our clients face is the ongoing safety of their employees and operations. The path to achieving Sustainable Safety – a term ERM uses to describe an effective, self-sustaining safety and risk management approach – can be very challenging.
Many companies continue to experience fatalities and serious injuries despite a sincere commitment to zero harm. Organizations at times struggle to balance personal and process safety management priorities. Often CEOs will state, with passion, that their organization has a no-blame culture, yet that is not how employees feel when an incident occurs. Some workers feel overwhelmed with procedures that are difficult to understand and may be disconnected with how work is actually done at the front line.
ERM has found that many companies are spending a significant portion of their operational expenditure on safety, yet typically only a relatively small percentage of that spending actually drives improvement in safety performance. Companies may have invested significantly in leadership programs, yet their processes often are bureaucratic and unwieldy. They may have prioritized personal safety over process safety, and lost the ability to spot weaker signals of impending catastrophic equipment failure. Inadvertently, companies may have built a liability management system that protects the business, rather than a safety management system that protects employees and contractors.
Achieving a culture of Sustainable Safety
ERM has developed a model to analyze the safety culture of our clients that focuses on the intersection between people, process and plant. In our experience, great safety performance originates at this nexus. The model looks at how the people who work within the organization utilize the processes (management systems, procedures and permits, etc.) and facilities (equipment, machines and vehicles, etc.) available to them.
Companies that perform well capture both lessons learned and best practices. Leaders play a key role, in what they say and, importantly, in what they do, including their behavior on site and the conversations they have with their colleagues about safety.
With our clients, we emphasize continuous improvement and transformational outcomes that result in substantial change in the short term and sustain performance over the long term. Concise, fit-for-purpose procedures, in-the-field coaching of leaders, supervisors and front-line workers and the institution of appropriate technologies and controls take into account the interaction of human, procedural and equipment factors that comprise the bigger safety picture. Sustainable safety can be achieved when leadership is properly engaged, workers are competently trained, safety is a part of day-to-day operations, processes contain multiple lines of defense that reduce the severity of unintended consequences, and risks and monitoring data are evaluated and addressed.
Tangible results for our clients
As noted by John Waters, Global Managing Partner, Sustainable Safety, "Over the years, we have learned what distinguishes companies that have excellent and sustained safety performance. ERM helps clients 'do safety differently,' with solutions tailored to their business needs, not standard off-the-shelf packages. The benefits are clear. One mining client had its first fatality-free year after ERM's input to their safety program. Other clients have seen notable reductions in serious injuries and fatalities and have reduced the likelihood of catastrophic incidents as a result of the critical controls we have helped put in place."