Student Paper: Compare and Contrast Traditional Safety Techniques

As a professor at Seminole State College I like to feature students work periodically. Amerys, one of my students in the Bachelors of Construction Management program, wrote a paper worthy of sharing.

The assignment was to compare and contrast the “traditional safety techniques” still used in many organizations (i.e. enforcement, rules, manuals, etc…) with the “modern safety management methods” used by world class safety performers (i.e. Metrics, Accountability, Score Cards, etc…). Then the students were to explain how measuring safety performance has changed since we started using “modern safety management methods”.

Here is her response:

CONTRAST

TRADITIONAL SAFETY

TECHNIQUES

MODERN SAFETY MANAGEMENT METHODS

A group of old safety techniques that are not systematically applied or implemented at all and do not reach all the components of a safety system.

Address hazards in the worksite, reach the management system and assess human behavior, through a new and effective approach.

Don’t have scientific, behavioral or practical foundations, and are solely based on habits or traditions. They don’t evolve, and the system is usually accepted as it is.

Are based on education, assessment, observation, prevention and control, and outline responsibilities and support positive reinforcement.

Employ tricks and give rewards for following important regulations.

Plan, organize, and set goals, control and guide safety rules as a business function.

Usually get unwanted results like unreported injuries. Safety is considered separate from other worksite functions and in some cases is even viewed as a source of punishment or as the sole responsibility of a determined person.

Create a positive environment because they involve everybody in the worksite in the safety process and minimize dangerous work environment and risks.

Create distrust between workers and the management because the former are blame for breaking rules.

Create trust. The employees are expected to know and take the necessary precautionary measures to create and keep a safe workplace and they contribute to solving problems.

COMPARE

TRADITIONAL SAFETY TECHNIQUES AND
MODERN SAFETY MANAGEMENT METHODS

None of the aforesaid methods can eliminate the risk of injuries completely.

Both are supposed to achieve safety in the workplace and a positive safety culture.

If either one of these methods is not working, it means that there are problems in the management system and/or in the participation of the work force.

Both methods should imply actively identifying and controlling workplace hazards (including those generated by behavior), staff involvement and feedback, and regular supervisions, but the approaches are very different, so the results from them are vary from each other.

Measuring safety performance is not just complying with specifications anymore. Keeping records of injuries (measuring of failures) and historical records are not reliable indicators any longer because whether a particular event results in an injury is often a matter of chance, so it will not necessarily reflect whether or not a hazard is under control. Good safety performance statistics could be the result of few employees being exposed to the hazard or events not reported.

It is more productive to recognize were action is required and with what level of immediacy, provide solutions, and get feedback. At the time of measuring, the important things are those that impact health and safety (no just collecting excessive data), and the design of the process to measure the performance must include a representation of employees to stimulate ideas and team work.

Every worksite have unique characteristics, even in the same industry, thus the performance strategy must applied accordingly. In a hypothetical construction worksite, leading activity indicators to measure safety would be:

  • To check if the construction planning and cost control is effective, because usually when one construction activity gets behind schedule or exceeds the budget is when safety starts to get compromised in order to get on track again. Planning and knowing which activities will be going on simultaneously or in which order activities will occur would prevent accidents and rule breaking.

  • Management labor and direction, including leadership, clear communication, integrity and most importantly motivational skills.

  • Effectivity and frequency of supervisions and applications of long term solutions.

  • Objectivity in correcting and eliminating hazards and dangerous conditions.

  • Fulfillment of First Aid Requirements and emergency procedures trainings.

  • Observation of labor force and its risky behavior at all times and circumstances.

  • Safety education at all levels.

Results measures, although not preemptive, can give some general ideas about a company’s risks and its safety performance projection into the future. Some of them are:

  • Evaluations of results in periodic form and over time.

  • Ratio of accidents and incidents reported, in function of hours worked, and how they were followed up.

  • Reduction or increment in medical treatments, lost-time injury or sick days.

Student Bio: Amerys has a Bachelor Degree in Architecture from ISPJAE, University of Havana Cuba, and an A.S. Degree in Architectural Design and Construction Technology and A.A. Degree, both from Seminole State College. She has worked in architectural, construction and surveying and mapping companies and as a Lab assistant teacher for Autodesk AutoCAD and Autodesk Land Development Desktop at Seminole State College where she is attending to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree.


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