Five steps you can take to upgrade your safety supply chain
June 3, 2022
By Brent Roeder | VP of Safety and Metalworking Sales
By Brent Roeder | VP of Safety and Metalworking Sales
Safety is everywhere. It touches everything we do. From manufacturing to education, you won’t find an organization that doesn't have to think about safety.
But safety has shifted. The spotlight has become brighter, both in our personal lives and in the work environment. Data has become more important, especially surrounding injury reports and near misses.
Safety leaders are a thoughtful bunch. They want to get to the root cause of why a team member got hurt. Above all, they want to prevent that incident from happening in the first place. But they’re also a busy bunch, with limited time and long lists of challenges to tackle.
The good news: You are not alone. Read on for a list of strategies and resources to help develop your safety program.
Find a fresh set of eyes
I lead a team of almost 80 people. Each is a dedicated safety consultant. On a daily basis, they engage with teams that are looking for an expert opinion.
With that expectation in mind, we must invest heavily in training to ensure we:
That foundation helps them engage with safety professionals in performing hazard assessments. This gives those looking for expert help a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective.
The best safety professionals who I’ve worked with often use questions as a means to understand processes. By understanding a process deeply, safety leaders can ascertain how a worker interacts with potential hazards and the risk involved. Once they understand the hazards, it just comes down to solution creation, which to this point has meant following the hierarchy of controls.
Basic guidelines start by seeing if there’s a way to engineer out the hazard. Then, if they get all the way down to PPE, the professionals on our team will help people find exactly what PPE they should be using to protect their workers.
This topic could be a graduate class, but start with these three ideas in mind.
Take back your time
One of our foundational principles is to reduce the labor necessary for safety managers to protect workers. It's project management at its core, but it's with a nod to a safety competency.
Each of those specialists I mentioned helps people by going to facilities in Canada, Mexico, the United States, Europe, and beyond. The goal is always to identify risk in the workplace, help mitigate those risks where possible, and then form meaningful and uniform PPE programs.
This is where you can save time. If you’re using a safety program already, we want you to be able to build around it, whether that’s from a procurement standpoint or a safety one. We create a network with a dedicated account manager to roll those programs out on an enterprise level along with local consultants that engage at the site level.
So, if you think about it as a safety manager:
My team and I help you with all three of these areas, taking work off your plate with each answer.
Secure your supply chain
Everyone wants a stronger supply chain. To me, this boils down to identifying your critical parts. Know your needs and create a plan around them. To help with that, focus on your partnerships.
One thing that's getting better within the safety industry is the trilateral agreement. This is where you have a partnership between the safety (or procurement) manager, your distribution partner, and a manufacturer directly.
When you get all three parties to agree on what you're trying to accomplish, it is so much easier for everybody to make the commitments that truly secure your supply chain.
Perhaps the number one misconception is the idea that putting all your eggs in one basket is bad. As everybody went through the pandemic, people felt the need to diversify as a way to make sure they could get products.
You should do the exact opposite.
Whether you choose Fastenal or another partner, you should form a trilateral agreement with your distribution partner and manufacturer. You should be able to get a guaranteed commitment for what your needs are, and your distribution partners should help you to define those needs.
This really is the greatest way to help secure your supply chain. When everybody knows what the expectation is upfront and your partners are committed to ensuring your needs are seen as more important than others in the market, that’s when your supply chain is stronger.
Remove risk in the workplace
Everyone wants to eliminate risks, but which ones? Avoiding one hundred cuts is great, but if it comes at the cost of failing to save a life, it clearly pales in comparison.
Let’s look at the difference between a total recordable incident rate and life-altering workplace injuries. Most people use frequency, severity, and likelihood, or a combination thereof, to measure a risk matrix. They take this path hoping to determine what workplace injuries they should target first.
In recent years more professionals are beginning to embrace PSIFs as a more meaningful metric. The concept of Potential Serious Injuries and Fatalities can help lead you to the areas of greatest need. Case in point, the Campbell Institute and the NSC have really taken a deep dive into the topic, and their takeaway is that frequency isn't a great indicator.
I’m paraphrasing here, but they are saying the severity of the outcome is really, truly critical and should be a more important guide when looking to engage the risks that exist in your work.
This shift towards serious injuries and fatalities to me has been a positive change in the industry. Trying to decrease the effect on the employees doing the daily work is the goal. And really, we want to focus on the gaps in the process where team members will say, and you don't know how many times I've heard them say this: "It's always been done this way."
Then, if you bring someone like us in, a third-party observer, we’ll look at that task and go, "Wow, that really seems unsafe." But to the person who does it every day, it's a known and accepted risk. “That's not a big deal. I do it that way all the time.”
If you're looking to drive risk out of the workplace, focusing on either accepted work practices or tasks that seem safe to the worker but have inherent risk are great places to start.
If you’re taking one of these steps, you’re doing the right thing. Each can be a boost to your workers morale and safety. And as safety professionals, we should continue to invest in ourselves and our teams to make sure we have the skills to protect workers in any environment.
If you want help on your safety journey, let’s talk. Email me at email@example.com and we can dive into the safety questions you have.
A great resource
I just want to take a second to applaud the work of the Campbell Institute and NSC. In 2018, they published a piece called Serious Injuries and Fatality Prevention: Perspective and Practices. If you're a safety nerd, like me, and you want to dive a little bit deeper into this topic, I would tell you that that's a fantastic literature piece and super thought provoking.
So, that's a great place to start a safety journey.
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