By Mary Kate McGrath - October 6, 2020
The manufacturing industry is unique in its reliance on team coordination - each operation requires a sale, planning, finance, and procurement team, in addition to on-the-floor workers operating machinery, overseeing workflows, and coordinating distribution. The organization's leadership or top-tier managers are also a necessary component of a manufacturing plant's operations, including safety procedures and protocols. There are several key ways that industry leaders can boost safety and health for workers, from implementing a cohesive communication strategy, offering extensive training opportunities, and understanding the everyday realities or challenges workers face.
While manufacturing leaders may not realize, their decisions will have organization-wide implications and there is in fact a strong correlation between leadership and safety. Therefore, it’s important for leaders to understand how their behavior might be undermining safety efforts.
The first step is ensuring stakeholders at every level are invested in safety management - if the importance of following protocol isn’t being emphasized by bosses, it will undercut any OSHA signage, training tutorials, or other efforts the company has already invested in. It’s vital to engage leadership in safety efforts. To make safety a priority across the organization, an organization needs to start at the top.
Now, there also can be negative consequences to a leadership team who are missing the mark on safety protocol - several recent case studies show that leaders with a limited understanding of workplace realities can implement dangerous policies that increase the risk for workers, according to EHS Today.
For example, one industry leader thought an effective strategy for eradicating safety issues would be to call any worker involved in a violation personally or inviting the individual into his office for a discussion. However, if the leadership was more in touch with workers’ concerns, they would have realized that the outreach stirred fear of retribution among workers, who thought they were being called out and resulted in fewer individuals reporting serious safety concerns.
There were several other notable instances of leadership failing to recognize how their business strategy might be undermining safety procedures - for example, one entrepreneur joined a refining company, and decided to force some of the older members of the workforce into retirement to make room for new, and supposedly more innovative, workers, as per EHS. However, the older workers never got the opportunity to mentor new employees on best safety practices, which had disastrous long term operational consequences.
One other scenario showed a leadership team who didn’t prioritize the training program their directors of safety put into place to mitigate risks - instead, officials had no qualms with postponing the training schedule frequently with visits or other priorities. As a result, many in the organization's workforce ended up ill-equipped to address safety issues.
There are several key strategies CEOs and other industry leaders can implement to align leadership strategy with security protocol, and ensure their executive suites are not undercutting on-the-floor safety. The most essential leadership investment top-tier managers can make is in communication - it’s only by liaising frequently and often across an organization can leadership prevent misunderstandings and improve decision making.
Managers will find improved communication to be the most essential to boosting safety, as it breaks down barriers between workers on the ground and executive leadership. Also, investing and making time for training, taking pride in running an effective and safe company, and meeting frequently with department heads to help shape the company vision and goals.
Implementing these safety strategies will offer leaders a more holistic picture of their organization’s safety needs, and ensure that leadership practices are having a positive impact on operations.
Manufacturing leaders need to invest in frequent and reliable communications. The industry is unique in the number of stakeholders required to collaborate - if leadership can communicate across the organization, it will boost organizational clarity and encourage transparency. A mass notification system can be an effective tool for distributing safety policies or changes, enrolling workers in safety training initiatives, and keeping everyone up-to-date on new or developing operational concerns.
The executive suite or relevant members of corporate leadership can use a mass notification system to distribute information or resources to all workers, whether or not these individuals are on-site or working remotely. The notifications can be sent out simultaneously, and reach workers via test, desktop alerts, sirens, or more, all in three simple clicks. This will prove even more essential in an era of increased risks, both from the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters.
Managers can accidentally undermine safety efforts already in place - such as physical signage in the workplace, major systems training or tutorials, or on-site safety training - if workers don’t believe their bosses are taking the efforts seriously. The reiteration of safety protocol - and increased awareness and access to safety resources - promoted by mass notification will show that your organization is putting workplace safety first.
One important safety strategy is to allow workers to report workplace concerns, potential safety infractions, or suspicious behavior, anonymously. A manufacturing safety app with anonymous two-way tip texting capability can be an effective medium for reporting concerns in real-time. Instead of confronting workers after an incident occurs, take a proactive stance that incentivizes information reporting across departments, without fear of retribution.
Establishing a safe and secure working environment begins at the top, with strong communication investment from leadership. The increased communications and commitment from top-tier managers will ultimately result in fewer safety infractions, worker retention, and due to fewer disruptions or obstacles, better workflows overall.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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