It doesn’t matter what you fill in as the blank in that statement, culture kills people. I’ve known this for years, having spent nearly a decade in Health & Safety, but got to see it first hand in a recent audit. That does NOT for one second discount people’s individual choices and decisions. Still, a good culture around safety, quality, security, etc.. they all impact the performance for the best and worst performers in your organization.
You’ll find at the bottom of this post, some of the requirements from the standard for reference, in case you need to make some findings of your own.
First thing, lets recognize people do “dumb stuff”, its hard to avoid. Lets consider it a RISK to be mitigated. I myself stood on a chair last week to change the light in my office. We MUST recognize that culture is vital to the success of any Quality or Health and Safety Management System. The number of rules enforced *and followed, does not directly correspond to the safety of the folks working there. Culture is key.
Let’s take a couple of common findings in any safety audit, or any quality audit where safety problems are clearly visible. No I’m not talking about Forklift Inspection Checklists. Yes, auditors go straight for them cause they are clearly required and it’s clear if they are missing. The majority of deaths from forklifts are not caused by a missed oil change, and leaky hydraulic fluid is generally found apart from the daily inspection. We all know by common sense that the number one way folks are killed or injured by a forklift is by getting crushed by a falling load. Check it out here . Most folks that are killed or injured by a forklift, I’m sure, knew the rules. The people, and the management, turned a blind eye to small infractions, at best. At worst, management encouraged the behavior “to save time”. That sends a massively clear message that convenience, and arbitrary time savings is more important than your safety. It’s not the message you want to send. I’ll bet everyone knows the punishment for showing up late, but how many know the punishment for riding on a forklift?
Crane Accidents Causes
Another common source of OSHA violations and injuries in most industrial locations is cranes. An industry crane can be a dangerous piece of equipment. Each and every year there are injuries and deaths due to crane accidents. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 1992 to 2006, there were 632 death caused by crane accident in the construction area alone.
Causes of Crane-Related Deaths in Construction, 1992- 2006
In a recent audit, I observed two workers working underneath an elevated load weighing approximately 3500 lbs. The workers were cleaning and taking dimensions. When questioned, it was determined that this is standard practice. When speaking with management I found out that in the past the company had used some rather large jack stands (these could come with their own hazards but would be infinitely better than relying on rigging alone to keep yourself safe). One employee quickly spoke of this being why he has life insurance. I get the jest, but when speaking with the shop foreman the topic was avoided, and again seemed to be a daily practice. I would expect top leadership to jump in and take action, but no immediate action was taken. Again, a clear message was sent to the employees that convenience and arbitrary deadlines are more important than being 10 minutes late.
Now I’m going to be a realist, I know there is close to a one in a million chance something bad will happen here, but the 632 deaths between 1992 and 2006 where workers died from being struck by a crane load felt the same way. Let’s not forget, most businesses in America are small businesses, and a small business, unlike large O&G corporations, cannot absorb the loss and continue business. I know that sounds crude, but if you have enough people working for you there are “statistically acceptable” numbers for these sorts of things.
I’ve personally conducted over 60 accident investigations in my career. At the time of investigation, I’m always presented with some form of the idea that it was the employee’s fault. He should have just checked the rigging, he shouldn’t have used that grinder, he always, he should have… These are all true. But, each of these 60 cases had 1 or more witnesses. No one stepped in to stop the guy once on any of the investigations I’ve conducted. Yes, the worker did something unsafe for bad cause, but he worked in a culture that allowed unsafe acts and, at times, promoted it. He worked in a culture where the deadline was more important than slowing down to do the right thing, even if it meant taking a fine from a customer. A $100,000 fine for being a day late on the project is nothing compared to the loss of a life, and the subsequent loss of the 100+ jobs of the men and women working there.
Look, “unsafe acts”, “dumb stuff”, “wasn’t thinking”, “going too fast”-these are not the reasons for most injuries and in industrial facilities. Culture, a culture where men are more afraid of being 10 minutes late to a 4 AM shift than they are standing under a 3500 lbs load, and justify it by saying they have life insurance.
If and when you run across these situations in your career, here are some easily cit-able references from the standards.
5.1 Leadership and commitment
d) promoting the use of the process approach and risk-based thinking;
e) ensuring that the resources needed for the quality management system are available;
i) promoting improvement;
5 Leadership and worker participation
5.1 Leadership and commitment
a) taking overall responsibility and accountability for the protection of workers’ work-related health and safety;
c) ensuring the integration of the OH&S management system processes and requirements into the organization’s business processes;
d) ensuring that the resources needed for to establish, implement, maintain and improve the OH&S management system are available;
f) communicating the importance of effective OH&S management and of conforming 576 to the OH&S management system requirements;
5.4 Participation and consultation
d) give additional emphasis to the participation of non-managerial workers in the following:
1) determining the mechanisms for their participation and consultation;
2) hazard identification and assessment of risk (see 6.1, 6.1.1, and 6.1.2);
3) actions to control hazards and risks (see 6.1.4);
4) identification of needs of competence, training and evaluation of training (see 7.2);
5) determining the information that needs to be communicated and how this should be done (see
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