BARBADOS EMPLOYERS’ CONFEDERATION: New start: the health and safety way
AT THE BEGINNING of each year, individuals and organisations set new goals and resolutions they wish to accomplish during the year. While some of us are unable to successfully see our plans through to the end, as an organisation, it is imperative that your goals are met to ensure the company’s viability.
In setting these goals, the company must first determine whether their accomplishment would align the company on its predetermined strategic growth path.
Once you have an affirmative response you must now ask yourself if these resolutions can be realised this year or should the company adopt a phased strategy extended over a year or two.
This article will focus on how to set your organisation’s resolutions with health and safety in mind.
Generally, everyone wishes for a new start each year. New start for healthy living is broken down as: nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, air, rest and trust in God. You may be asking: how does this apply to my organisation? With the lens focussed on occupational safety and health, below is the advice of the Confederation for organisations.
Nutrition: Just as food feeds our body, a clear vision and operational mandate feeds the culture of your organisation.
In order to maintain a safe and healthy working environment, an organisation must have a clear policy manual and statement of intent for all matters. Many persons generally have very concise safety policies focusing on emergency evacuation and routine inspections but forget areas such as purchasing of substances and equipment, maintenance, training and chemical safety.
Exercise: Exercise is an activity that requires consistency in order to see results.
Organisations must ensure that their functions are process driven while leaving room for discussed innovation.
A process driven organisation must execute their work in a consecutive manner, without skipping, adding or modifying steps.
Once thorough inspections are executed, any recommendations for changes in the operation of equipment must be suggested at the point of inspection and confirmed after indepth discussion with all internal stakeholders.
This, therefore, means that the company must ensure that their employees or outsourced safety inspectors are suitably trained and competent to execute the inspection and make valid recommendations.
Water: The human body needs clean pure water in order to replenish and quench our thirst while organisations need a clear and sound code of conduct to curb the thirst of negative behaviour.
Once the organisation understands the employees they employ and the rules they have implemented, a progressive disciplinary code must be developed and followed to encourage positive behaviour.
Changing a safety culture needs not only policing but reinforcement. Companies need to consider behaviourist B. F Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning. Safety and health is more than a theory, it’s a practice, and as such using operant conditioning model and the correct medley of reinforcers and punishers can lend to cultivation of a positive safety culture.
Positive reinforcers can increase the probability of a behaviour being repeated while punishers can decrease the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated.
Sunlight: For any company to experience true progress there must be measurement of successes and failures.
A safety and health system can only function correctly when there is a shining of the light inward to reveal any inefficiencies. Each company must execute a full internal safety audit to verify that the written policy, practices and employee values are aligned; the actions and policy of the company must be in sync.
Temperance: Each company sets production targets to be attained by their employees.
Managers must be cognizant of the employees’ ability to safely meet these targets without over-exerting themselves. While profit is important, the safest way to increase profit is to reduce cost.
If employees become overworked, there will be a consequential increase in absenteeism or decrease in productivity. Companies should eradicate incentives such as hazard pay (payment for executing hazardous tasks) and performance incentive short days (pay for accomplishing a day’s work in less than six hours). Such incentives encourage employees to work unsafely and put themselves at severe risk.
Air: Organisations should verify that the indoor air quality is conducive to productivity and the general housekeeping is tidy and free from debris.
Rest: The law requires that each organisation provide adequate facilities for rest during breaks and lunchtime.
Additionally, there must be allocation and policy to handle employees who may become ill while at work. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory states that an employee’s satisfaction is increased when basic needs are met.
Trust: All organisations must finally cultivate a culture of trust within their employees.
Without trust it would be difficult for the organisation to implement new policies and procedures as employees buy-in will either be slow or non-existent.
In conclusion, the history of Barbados as a nation has demonstrated our resilience and ability to adapt our employment procedures and workplaces to meet the requirements for occupational safety and health.
While there is always room for improvement, if we are following new start, the company can realise good strides and stay ahead to minimise risk to health and safety. It is believed that once a cooperative nature is fostered between employees and employers, as well as the institution of standardised procedures or approved codes of practice, safety and health can be effectively taken to the next level and be paramount in the development of each organisation and the nation at large.
Melony James is a labour management advisor/safety coordinator.