In safety, we track our failures (accidents, lost time, costs, etc.) but don’t necessarily use that data to set goals. We may discuss changes that could be made and even implement some in a reactive state but fail to set goals that could drive meaningful and sustainable change.
Why do we fail to set goals? There is likely a long list with time and resources being at the top. Or maybe goals were set in the past and they were never met. Even with a mountain of data, goal setting is hard work. The right goals balance objectives, strategy and performance. When it comes to setting safety goals, we have identified five things you should consider to establish goals that motivate and spark renewed efforts toward safety.
Many organizations set and communicate goals that aim for a perfect safety record. While “zero-accident” thinking is commendable, much like starting a diet during the holidays, it can be self-defeating. Expecting perfection can be demoralizing and demotivating as much as it is to expect less than perfect safety goals. Instead, employers can focus on realistic goals aimed at reducing injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends setting descriptive goals, such as developing and implementing a safety program that controls hazards. Other possible safety goals may include:
We all know change doesn’t happen overnight and we need plans to help us achieve our goals. This same concept applies to safety goals.
Improvement is a stepped process. Actionable steps with clearly defined sub-goals should be identified and prioritized to ensure progress. A goal to be some percent better than last year with no particular plan other than to “pay more attention” or “try harder” will not lead to success. Such goals are akin to athletic coaches telling their players to run faster or fumble less often.
Leaders should not set goals to improve results and expect their employees to figure out how to make that happen without a detailed plan for meeting those goals. Setting strategic goals empowers organizations to develop numerous key performance indicators (KPIs) that potentially are more meaningful and motivational to average workers.
Safety incentives are among the most problematic programs we encounter. Even when intelligent people with good intentions design the incentive process, incentives fail more often than they succeed and can even make safety worse. Meant to encourage workplace safety, incentives may actually replace intrinsic motivation (caring about safety) with extrinsic rewards (caring about the reward). This may encourage employees to cheat the system or fail to report accidents and safety concerns. OSHA has realized this problem and made a standard that prohibits employers from engaging in practices that could have the effect of discouraging employees from reporting.
Several recent studies of performance motivation have concluded that visible progress toward specific goals is one of the best motivators. However, many safety goals are strictly based on lagging indicators which are not communicated back to workers on a regular basis.
Even well-communicated safety metrics like OSHA recordables are relatively meaningless to workers who cannot see their personal or their team’s progress in the numbers. Motivational metrics should directly correlate with personal effort and performance.
Once you’ve started to meet your organizational goals, it’s critical to celebrate those successes and recognize the key players who helped. This approach not only involves the establishment of meaningful metrics, but the effective communication of them as well. The most successful organizations simply do not send out information, they also measure how well and completely the communication is received, remembered and acted upon.
Risk management and human resources are traditionally two different job functions, and the people in these areas have rarely crossed paths — but that is changing.
Why are these people starting to work together more frequently?
If you could give human form to your safety culture, what would it look like?
Maybe it would be a thick-set, shirtless brute named Trog with a foul disposition beating out a drum cadence to keep your employees rowing in-sync.
Or would it be more like a fussy and constantly disapproving Dickensian paper-pusher named Fizzlewhite who has never met a rule or procedure he didn’t like, even though he hasn’t done most of the things he creates rules to address?
Send a Message
Find a Location