You began with the best intentions and celebrated an early success. The company never had a Safety Inspection program before – but as the Health and Safety leader you managed to find the resources, influence executive support and start one. After the first year the results were obvious – half the injuries from the prior period, workers more readily engaged in safety conversations, and a measurable difference in the safety culture. But now performance has plateaued and you sense with new projects the team is struggling to keep focused on your plan. Your methods of gathering safety inspection data may be the thing that’s holding you back.
Here are 4 ways to improve your data gathering approach for sustainability and long term success:
1. Have a safety inspection strategy.
A formal plan for collecting data will outline the “who, what, where, when and how” so any new inspector can easily assimilate into your program. The “how” is often overlooked, but a quality program demands consistency in the way safety risk assessments are collected. A common mistake is leaving the observation process open to interpretation from the individual. Without a formal process the quality and usefulness of your inspection data will start to diminish over time. Setting and communicating company expectations allows team members to see how their individual efforts contribute to the bigger picture.
2. Keep your inspections simple.
Steve Jobs’ quote “Simple can be harder than complex” is so true when gathering safety inspection data. Modern Safety management systems play an essential part in simplifying the collection of multiple of dimensions data – checklist questions, (voice to text) comments, and photos that can be marked up to immediately draw attention to identified hazards. Your inspectors have many competing priorities and their interest in supporting your program will wane when it becomes too cumbersome to collect data.
3. Remember that success is an ongoing process, not a one-time event.
When things are going well there is a tendency to become lax in our methods of collecting data. Motivation theory suggests that most workers want to succeed – so continually monitor and improve your approach to give inspectors the direction they need to succeed. Great safety leaders keep the team focused with ongoing coaching and feedback. Remind observers the reasons behind their efforts – Why are we doing this? How does it make our company better? A two-way feedback loop often reveals the safety inspectors themselves as a great source of ideas to improve your data collection methods.
4. Show results.
A common pattern is that initial enthusiasm for a new inspection program fades when the observers realize their company isn’t using the data they are amassing. This is particularly true with paper based collection methods, where the team may be collecting the right safety leading indicators but the data ends up unused in filing cabinets because it’s too difficult to extract. Without the right tools another pitfall is that observation data is only one dimensional and does not provide enough context or detail to be useful in identifying specific areas of risk or long term tends. Many quit collecting because they don’t see how the findings are making an impact. Make it personal, and follow the Plan-Do-Study-Act process for safety improvement managing & mitigating risk. After you collect data, make sure that you have the right safety analytics strategy in place to react accordingly.
Safety inspections are important, but only if they’re actionable. The safety risk management work that you do by gathering safety inspection data is critical to being able to prevent workplace injuries and maintain safety in the workplace. Don’t overlook the methods and tools you provide your inspectors to collect that data in order to ensure long term success in incident reduction. Best in class inspection programs provide stronger, safer and more profitable companies.
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