McKinsey Quarterly recently published an article titled “Seeing the unseen: Transforming safety by improving hazard sensitivity”. The article largely focuses on the topic of hazard awareness and why executive leaders must seek bad news and make an effort to work closely with their health & safety leaders to act on safety observations.
Hazard Awareness: Are You Doing Enough?
According to the McKinsey article, safety performance in the oil and gas industry improved by 15% year-on-year between 2014 and 2017. However, between 2017 and 2018, “process safety” performance declined while “personal safety” remained steady.
One reason for the decline was “failure to act on safety observations data”. The study found that even though companies were proactively asking employees to record safety observations, there was no process in place for “next steps and actions”.
We believe that using a next-generation EHS system to record safety observations will make a huge difference. For instance, in ComplianceQuest’s Safety Observations product, it is not only about capturing data and observations, but also about proactive risk mitigation plans and actions.
Once an observation is recorded, relevant stakeholders can review, triage, and investigate it on the Safety Observations portal. The ComplianceQuest solution also offers the following capabilities:
- You can assign investigations to relevant users
- Evaluate risks within CQ EHS with our integrated risk management solution
- Initiate CAPAs, track progress and results
- Use the 5 WHY Root Cause Analysis feature to document various root causes
- After the RCA – users can attach evidence, capture decisions, and assign next-steps
The point is – it is important to rally together your entire workforce and record safety observations. But that’s only half the battle won. The key is to act swiftly to mitigate safety risks, after investigating the root cause of what causes unsafe behavior.
Seeking Bad News and Not Being Afraid to Report it
Over the years, the implementation team at CQ has closely interacted with health and safety leaders across industries. One “best practice” we noticed at companies that truly improved in terms of safety on an ongoing basis is that they weren’t afraid to record and document bad news.
We found the following common traits at companies where the executive leadership and safety team were truly a team:
- The safety team, or for that matter any employee, could walk up to the management and talk about a safety observation. There was no fear, no holding back. They would discuss unsafe behavior, potential risks and actions to be taken.
- The management team would encourage such behavior, giving the health and safety team a free hand to investigate based on safety observations data. It was not just about being proactive, but also actively trying to find out “what could possibly go wrong?”
- Digital transformation of the safety management process ensured that companies could collaborate better and plan mitigative actions.
4-Step Safety Improvement Process to Act Based on Safety Observations Data
The following process is ideal to act on Safety Observations data and information.
Step 1: Safety Observation Description Template
It’s critical to describe the observation with specific data and facts. For example, if you notice a puddle of oil on the floor after a machine runs, document this with specific details. Tag a relevant stakeholder to add details if needed. A well-documented safety observation can make a huge difference. If possible, templatize it.
Step 2: RCA Process
Next, conduct a root cause analysis (RCA) to identify the cause. Use the 5 Why approach if needed. Get to the root cause of any safety hazard, prioritize based on risk level and plan the next steps. Using CQ’s Safety Observations solution will help you streamline the entire process.
Step 3: Plan, Evaluate and Choose ‘Next-Best Actions’
For executive leaders, it is important to track no. of safety observations captured and how many of these were acted on. While planning the next steps, think both short-term and long-term. In the example mentioned above, the first step may be to clean up the oil puddle. But the final solution could very well be that the machine may need a repair or replacement.
Step 4: Implementation and Follow-up
Once the corrective action/preventive action process is in place, ensure smooth implementation keeping in mind the deadlines. Make sure to follow up on the impact of this action. A common mistake is that stop-gap solutions are considered final and the problem will repeat itself.
For a more detailed understanding of our Safety Observations Solution, visit: