Tidings of Loose Ends!

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By Barbara Semeniuk, BSc CRSP

Well, it’s December and the end of the year is fast approaching. As a safety professional, there are some loose ends that require tiding up now.

Statistics from This Year

The first loose end is ensuring that you’ve created statistics for the year end and have both proactive (“leading”) and reactive (“lagging”) statistics to monitor the status of your health and safety program. For instance, you need to keep frequency and severity statistics that are lagging indicators. Example: The number of incidents that have happened and the number of days lost to them per 100 employee years worked.

In addition to lagging indicators, you should also track leading indicators. Leading indicators prevent incidents and are items such as the number of inspections, safety observations or hazard assessments conducted by supervisors or the JHSC in the workplace.

You should examine the statistics you’ve generated for any trends—both positive and negative—and think about how you’d correct the negative trends, such as by consulting your PPE supplier in the new year regarding improvements in this area or determining the time and day incidents are most likely to happen so you can warn workers to be extra careful at these times. You should also devise methods to eliminate any health and safety hazards so they won’t be a problem for your workers.

Review of This Year

Review your OHS program and history for the year and summarize what worked well and what areas you’d like to improve in 2012. For example, look at the bright spots in your health and safety system and determine the key measures that made them a success. Then try to apply those same measures to other aspects of the OHS program that require improvement so you may better meet your health and safety targets/goals. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outlier for more information on this technique! You can also use Pareto’s approach and identify which 20% of your activities will achieve the most, i.e., 20% of your activities lead to 80% of your achievements. And consider which areas you’d like to have more resources allocated to and devise ways to secure the additional funding, manpower, etc.

Scheduling for New Year

The next thing you should do at year end is chart out your work year schedule in 2012 if you can.  For example, determine which safety conferences, seminars and courses you need to take and add them to your calendar before you get bogged down. Year end is also when I plan my vacations for next year to recharge the old safety batteries. Stephen Covey has an excellent time management book called First Things First, which states that your values determine what time you’ll allocate to them. If you need work/life balance, then book time with your family now and keep it clear as family time may be non-negotiable to you. If you don’t allocate time according to your values, you’ll feel stressed and unhappy, which will impact your job performance as well as other aspects of your life. So decide what’s important to you and set aside time for those priorities just like you would for an important business meeting.

Planning for New Year

Once you’ve planned your schedule as best you can for 2012, you should think of the strategic direction you wish to take your safety initiatives. For example, for what safety activities do you want or need management support? What are your chief safety priorities for the New Year? Use the conclusions from your review of 2011 to guide your strategy for 2012.

Schedule a meeting with your management team to discuss the company’s health and safety strategy and goals but be very careful about making your goals achievable. If your goal is zero incidents and on January 1, 2012, you have your first, you’re dead in the water right out of the gate. Shooting for, say, a 10% reduction in incidents or a frequency of two is more achievable than the unrealistic goal of zero incidents, which, we as safety professionals, are continually seeking to achieve. In other words, with help from your management team, create a realistic strategic action plan for safety initiatives for 2012.

But above all, have an excellent holiday season and I wish you and yours a very happy and safe New Year!

Ms.  Barbara Semeniuk BSc. CRSP is President of Purcell Enterprises Ltd., a loss control management firm that specializes in health and safety auditing, and a member of the OHS Insider Board of Advisors. If you wish to discuss this article, call her at 780-951-0867 or email her at bls1284@telus.net.