Friday, October 26, 2012

Workplace safety: A cultural change

Financial News and Daily Record by Karen Brune Mathis 28 March 2012

Organizational consultant Hal Resnick contends that workplace safety is a culture and creating it can require major organizational change.

The root causes of major accidents — and most others — lies in the lack of a fundamental safety culture.  In virtually every one the post-disaster analysis revealed a set of underlying conditions that made these disasters both predictable and avoidable.

Resnick says that “Management’s excuse is that excessive attention to safety will hamper productivity and break the bank.  The reality is that creating a safety culture drives the same values and actions that also create increased productivity; enhanced product quality and reliability; increased innovation; continuous improvement; enhanced employee engagement; and an improved bottom line." 

“It’s both the right thing to do and it makes good business sense."

According to Resnick, a safety culture has three dimensions: organizational or structural, group norms, and individual responsibility and accountability.

Structural attributes of a safety culture
• Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined and followed?
• Are employees empowered to act to address safety concerns, or are they expected to follow the chain of command?
• Does the organization recognize and reward employees who raise issues, or is the general response to shoot the messenger?
• Are work processes and procedures clearly defined and followed?
• Is attention to safety everywhere or confined to an employee’s own work area?
• Does the company expect everyone to do work safely or is the message that the organization can’t afford the time to do everything “by the book”?
• Are safety reports reviewed with action and follow-up or do they generate a defensive response?
Group norms and values
• Are employees at all levels across the organization encouraged to speak up to raise concerns without fear of retaliation or reproach?
• Are audits welcomed or seen as an intrusion?
• Is safety perceived as a real commitment or an act of compliance?
• Does peer pressure encourage individuals to speak up or keep their mouth shut?
• Are safety and production intertwined or is safety seen as a cost that interferes with production?
• Are accidents seen as preventable or to some extent unavoidable?
• Are employees encouraged to have a questioning attitude?
• Do employees believe they are treated with trust and respect?
Individual responsibility and accountability
• Do employees at all levels accept personal responsibility and accountability for safety or is it seen primarily as the job of the safety department?
• Are potential safety issues identified and addressed before an incident happens?
• Does senior management lead safety by personal example?
• Do all employees have the authority to stop work or is that authority reserved only for management?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Google shares suspended after accidental email wipes $22bn off value

The Guardian by Charles Arthur 18 October 2012

Search engine's unfinished financial release inadvertently sent, revealing quarterly results well below Wall Street expectations

It was the printer's error that wiped about $20bn from the value of the world's biggest search engine. Shares in Google were suspended after an accidental email to the US stock market authorities revealed that the company's latest quarterly results were far below Wall Street's demanding expectations.

The inadvertent – and clearly unfinished – financial release began with the words "PENDING LARRY QUOTE" – referring to the company's chief executive, Larry Page, whose job, normally, would be to put the best gloss on the financial figures. But he was likely to be offering different sentiments after the stock tumbled 9% before trading was halted. After trading resumed the shares recovered slightly to close down 8%.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Five Changing Trends in Managing Workplace Ergonomics

Occupational Health and Safety by Walt Rostykus 1 October 2012

Traditionally, safety professionals have driven ergonomic improvements in an effort to reduce injuries, but all along they have been the wrong people to do this.

Occupational ergonomics continues to emerge as one of the priority workplace issues addressed by employers today. This is driven primarily by the need to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). In our recent benchmarking study, we found that participants attributed between 24 and 75 percent of injuries to poor ergonomic conditions. This rate has remained relatively consistent over the past several studies. Most companies attribute the high incidence of MSDs to:
  • Reduction of other types of injuries. As a result of programs focused on reducing and eliminating mechanical, electrical, and chemical hazards, MSDs are emerging as a priority issue.
  • Increased work demand on individual employees. This is typically attributed to workforce downsizing, production rate changes, cost constraints, and "doing more with less."
  • Aging workforce. Some companies attribute their MSDs to the capabilities, conditioning, and condition of both older and younger workers.
The five trends are as follows

1. Getting Proactive - using quantitative tools to measure exposure to MSD risk factors and then focus their efforts on changing the job conditions to reduce the level of exposure—before an injury occurs.
2. Integrating the Process - managing ergonomics as a process that is aligned with, or integrated into, existing improvement processes (e.g. Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement, and Safety Management Systems). This engages people across an organization, ensures that the processes are sustainable as time, leaders, and business needs change, integrates the processes into the business and ensures that they are not dependent upon a few people, and provides a logical system for determining and driving improvement.
3. Engaging Others and Shifting Ownership -Successful organizations expand ownership, involvement, and accountability for ergonomics to people outside the EHS staff.4. Moving Upstream - Consistently addressing ergonomics in the design phase of new processes, equipment, layouts, and products is a common practice of advanced organizations. About 5 percent of all organizations are at this level. The greatest value of good upstream design is the reduced cost of making changes. The cost of changing equipment and layout once it is in place is more than 1,000 times the cost of making the change in the design phase.
5. Addressing the Office - The biggest trend in managing office ergonomics has been the movement toward employee-driven assessments and workplace changes. By providing online training and self-assessments, employers are enabling and empowering individuals to take the first steps in adjusting their workstations to fit them.

In addition to these common trends, we’ve identified two common challenges with managing ergonomics that companies at all levels of program maturity have experienced.
1. Funding for training and engineering solutions
2. Failure to use or meet established ergonomic design standards.