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A storm was rolling through my neighborhood bringing wind and heavy rain. I watched what I considered to be both a miracle of nature and the epitome of parenthood unfold in my front yard. A pair of robins had built a nest in a dogwood tree in front of my bay window and as the storm hit, the two robins perched face-to-face on opposite sides of the rim of their nest and spread their wings to enshroud the two baby robins in the nest. They maintained this position, sacrificing their own comfort and safety to protect their young from the ravages of the storm. When the storm had passed, the two robins flew off in search of food for the young birds.

What does this story have to do with worker safety? Simple. The laws of nature have assigned these two robins the responsibility of protecting their young. With parenthood comes responsibility. Granted, their actions were instinctive, but the point is; they took action to protect those for whom they were responsible. In the workplace, responsibility comes with authority. If you are a manager or supervise employees, you have a responsibility for the safety of those in your charge. You are obligated to “stand on the rim.”

Recently, I conducted a mock OSHA inspection at a large manufacturing plant. Each time we entered a work area, my escort, the plant safety manager, would extend a courtesy to the area supervisor by informing him/her of our presence and what we were doing. In one particular area, the moment the area supervisor learned we were doing a safety inspection, she walked through the area informing all workers to put in their hearing protection. Her action was very telling. It told us that during the course of the day, she, the supervisor and representative of the management team, was not enforcing the use of hearing protection. It told us that she was not fulfilling her role as a leader responsible for the safety of her workers. If she doesn’t enforce the rules regarding PPE, what other rules does she not enforce? 

Managing worker safety is a subject that is near and dear to me; so much so, I wrote a book about it, (Effective Environmental, Health and Safety Management Using the Team Approach-Wiley & Sons, 2005). Senior managers should be striving, with assistance from the EHS professionals, to build a business culture. That is a culture in which all rules for production, quality, cost, worker relations, and safety are of equal importance and are managed (enforced) in the same way. It’s a culture in which workers and managers alike, recognize the importance of safety and are willing to adhere to the rules for the sake of their own well-being and that of their co-workers.

Let an EI EHS management expert help you to build a business culture at your facility. Give us a call today at 800.717.3472 and ask how we can help.