What do you do every day to integrate our Mission Zero program?
The Mission Zero Safety Program was started in 2013, and since that time IPS has been working to make Mission Zero a recognizable brand. Safety needs to be automatic for us. Our Mission Zero brand represents the culture that we require to be successful. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the incidence rate of total recordable cases (TRC) of workplace injuries for private industry employees—those not employed by state or local governments—has remained the same for the past three years: 2.8 per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers. The mission of our clients is to improve and save lives. Workplace injuries simply cannot be associated with our services or the standards we set for ourselves.
Right now, the total recordable incident rate (TRIR) for IPS is 0.3. That means that there is the expectation that for every 300 employees, we would expect 1 OSHA recordable injury per year. Statistically, when compared to the average for our industry (0.7), we are doing OK. But it is simply not acceptable if you are the person that gets hurt. We are dedicated to preventing every injury.
We manage many subcontractors that engage in construction craft labor. These workers are subject to some different hazards than the IPS construction managers, engineers, and quality workers. As an example, the TRIR for a roofer as reported by the BLS is 4.8. A roofer is almost 7 times more likely to get injured at work than someone in the engineering services industry. When we are managing a project with subcontractors, we do not accept that an injury to one of them is any less important than an injury to one of our employees. Making sure that no one gets hurt can be tricky business. Now, we are talking about controlling many things: equipment, environment, procedures, and, most difficult of all, human behavior.
The standard tools for improving safety include job planning, risk assessments, training, and permits. These tools can easily fail if an individual’s behavior does not incorporate them with attention and trust. Even then, they need to stay focused on the task continuously. This can be a real challenge. We cannot control the factors that influence behavior. The number of the things that can distract a worker is endless: an argument at home, not enough sleep, no time for breakfast, a road rage incident on the way to work, your kid’s graduation party this weekend, all add to that distraction. When we look at the root cause of most incidents, we see that the worker recognized that the hazard was present but failed to keep the hazard under control. It is all too common that they just relaxed their focus or the need to do exactly what they should have done. It is hard to be completely focused all day.
So, how do you help workers stay focused on safety? How do you prevent the urge to rush through a task? How do you convince a worker that it is better to have a disappointed manager than to cut corners? How do you prevent people from acting on impulse? How do you get workers to take extra time to review the task and talk about it with a supervisor? These can all seem contrary to human nature, but some behaviors need to be learned and become a habit. We must develop the habit of integrating safety into your everyday life.
Integrating safety into your everyday life, regardless of if you are at home or the job site, might be a new habit for you and habits can be tricky to pick up. With a quick search online, you will find that it takes anywhere from 21 to 66 days to form a new habit. Exactly how long it will take will vary from person to person and the habit itself. So, how can you start making safety part of your everyday routine?
Regardless of how long it takes to make safety a habit, there are few things to consider:
- Level of Commitment - You need to believe that making safety a part of your daily activity is worth the effort. There seems to be countless objectives vying for your attention and your time, and it is not easy to juggle everything. If you take note that safe operations and products are demanded by clients and are expected in everything we do professionally, you can accept that safety is worth some commitment. It does not hurt to realize that improving your safety habits will make a positive impact on the health of you, your family, and your friends.
- Internal and External Accountability - There is plenty of accountability when we are faced with a largely recognized hazard, like a crane lift on a project. Try to hold you and your colleagues accountable to assume the added effort to stop and apply some of the safety basics that you are looking to make a habit of your project.
- Size of the Habit - Start small. Once the effort earns a place in your thinking, you can develop more tools and techniques. Start by taking a few minutes to discuss safety with your co-worker or assess what you plan to do or your surroundings. Get comfortable talking about safety with your team because they might be looking for ways to discuss safety, too.
Here are some helpful ideas that might keep you engaged:
- Remember that it is going to take some effort to incorporate safety into your routine if it is not there already. The first thing you must do is stop and think about safety and your job.
- Look around the room. Are there things on the floor that are trip hazards?
- Have you thought through your entire task and considered the hazards and how to eliminate or reduce them? If you are in a group or part of a team, discuss safety with them before you start and at regular intervals. Build it into the job.
- Have you thought about the other people involved in your task or who share your space? Maybe that includes your family if you are working at home?
- Have you considered the impact of your instructions on other people? What are you asking them to do? Should you include a discussion about safety?
- If you are preparing a bid for a client, is there an opportunity to discuss the safety aspects of the project? The client might appreciate that you single out the safety of the project for special consideration.
- Did you consider a safety review of your design – a specific discussion to assess the impact on ergonomics, constructability, safeguards, etc.? Maybe energy, waste, recycling, or other environmental impact is worth review.
- Did you notice that a fellow employee demonstrated our Mission Zero culture by making safety recognizable on your job? Tell your manager and give that person an award that is recognized by the team. That proves we value our Safety program and the people that promote it.
There is no limit to how you can integrate safety into your everyday tasks. It starts with a conscious effort to do so.
Like any habit, the longer you practice, the better you get at it. It will likely take years to change a company’s safety culture. By starting now we can start the foundation sooner to build a better, safer workplace.