Every years students participating in FIRST robotics get injured. Many of those injuries are minor, however several student every year find their way into the hospital. Power tools, heavy machines and heavy untested robots all create opportunities for injury that students need to be aware. As with all things FIRST related, the potential for injury that students face is mirrored in industry. Billions of dollars are spent every year to prevent injury, and as such, their are industry best practices that are widely accepted and we recommend FIRST teams adopt. We recomend team’s set up a safety culture and use the tactics outlined in the FIRST Safety Manual. If you want to learn about safety culture, take a look at the OSHA excerpt below.
Why do you want a strong safety culture?
It has been observed at the OSHA VPP sites and confirmed by independent research that developing strong safety cultures have the single greatest impact on incident reduction of any process. It is for this single reason that developing these cultures should be top priority for all managers and supervisors.
What is a safety culture – how will it impact my company?
Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior. An organizations safety culture is the result of a number of factors such as:
- Management and employee norms, assumptions and beliefs;
- Management and employee attitudes;
- Values, myths, stories;
- Policies and procedures;
- Supervisor priorities, responsibilities and accountability;
- Production and bottom line pressures vs. quality issues;
- Actions or lack of action to correct unsafe behaviors;
- Employee training and motivation; and
- Employee involvement or “buy-in.”
In a strong safety culture, everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis; employees go beyond “the call of duty” to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, and intervene to correct them. For instance, in a strong safety culture any worker would feel comfortable walking up to the plant manager or CEO and reminding him or her to wear safety glasses. This type of behavior would not be viewed as forward or over-zealous but would be valued by the organization and rewarded. Likewise coworkers routinely look out for one another and point out unsafe behaviors to each other.
A company with a strong safety culture typically experiences few at-risk behaviors, consequently they also experience low incident rates, low turn-over, low absenteeism, and high productivity. They are usually companies who are extremely successful by excelling in all aspects of business and excellence.
Creating a safety culture takes time. It is frequently a multi-year process. A series of continuous process improvement steps can be followed to create a safety culture. Employer and employee commitment are hallmarks of a true safety culture where safety is an integral part of daily operations.
A company at the beginning of the road toward developing a safety culture may exhibit a level of safety awareness, consisting of safety posters and warning signs. As more time and commitment are devoted, a company will begin to address physical hazards and may develop safety recognition programs, create safety committees, and start incentive programs.
Top management support of a safety culture often results in acquiring a safety director, providing resources for incident investigations, and safety training. Further progress toward a true safety culture uses accountability systems. These systems establish safety goals, measure safety activities, and charge costs back to the units that incur them. Ultimately, safety becomes everyone’s responsibility, not just the safety director’s. Safety becomes a value of the organization and is an integral part of operations. Management and employees are committed and involved in preventing losses. Over time the norms and beliefs of the organization shift focus from eliminating hazards to eliminating unsafe behaviors and building systems that proactively improve safety and health conditions. Employee safety and doing something the right way takes precedence over short term production pressures. Simultaneously, production does not suffer but is enhanced due to the level of excellence developed within the organization.