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Inclusion Is a Powerful Tool: Protecting the most important asset

By Chuck Kelly | Aug 14, 2023
people in construction attire
I’m angry. On job sites, I see safety issues everywhere from work zone setup to lack of PPE. 

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I’m angry. On job sites, I see safety issues everywhere from work zone setup to lack of PPE. Limited staffing or fear of losing workers is a poor excuse for not taking action against safety violators. If we don’t refocus our efforts on safety, there will be even fewer employees due to the potential increase in incidents. We need to remember why we invest in safety at all: to ensure that we can go home at night to our families while doing the work safely and in compliance. 

While I understand that there is a tremendous lack of skilled workers available today, I must push back. I am not talking about everyone. For the most part, we do a great job at protecting our most valuable asset, but we can and do sometimes fall into the trap of using staffing shortages to cloud our thought processes. 

This can lead to complacency, or thinking that because nothing bad has happened yet, nothing will happen in the future. We need to remember why we got into the safety field, lead by example and demonstrate our trust in the established procedures and work rules to protect workers and the organization.

I don’t mean to paint the entire industry with a broad brush and state that we all are guilty of these intermittent leadership failures. I am offering  the friendly reminder that safety is vital to the success of our companies and well-being of everyone. It’s more important now than ever as we continue to face labor shortages.

Returning to the old command-and-control method of managing is not the answer. As I’ve written before, today’s workforce does not respond to that method. Employees want to take a more participatory role in the work environment. We need to engage our employees and strive to make safety part of their everyday life. 

Essential Communication

Communication is an essential aspect of achieving success. We need to take a three-pronged approach to each job: discuss the task, why we’re doing it and how to safely complete it, while soliciting input from the crew. This approach conveys that you have trust in their expertise and are seeking ways to improve job safety. 

This method does not circumvent the management’s authority to enforce safety rules and work procedures. Rather, it allows for open discussion as to how the job can be completed. After all, who better to discuss a particular job with than the actual folks doing it?

I would venture a guess that everyone reading this article has seen how a discussion on a particular job and its associated work practice with crew members has resulted in a positive change. Inclusion is a powerful tool in achieving our safety goals, and we should take advantage of those opportunities.

Safety is top of mind

My goal is to make us aware that today’s workforce issues do not give us the leeway to slack off on enforcing safety. The issues are very real and so is the safety of our workers. Don’t allow these issues to cause you to fall into a complacency trap and overlook the necessary safety protocols set in place. 

Remember, no job is as important as the people who perform it, because without them there is no work. Collaborate with those you have and believe in what you do, because we are all thankful you choose to do it. Be the best you can and demand that your employees give you the same. If you lead by example and work with them to ensure safe work practices and
positive results, those demands to be the best will become second nature and all will succeed.

About The Author

KELLY, president of Kelly Consulting & Mediation Services, has worked with utility industry leaders on safety, labor relations and human resources for more than 30 years. Reach him at 540-686-0118 or [email protected].

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