A new year is a great time to start thinking about safety resolutions. Even making a few small changes can help you develop a safety culture. Now is the time to take a look at your safety systems. Are your processes efficient? Do you require your employees to document the safety steps they take?
On this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, Miguel Ramos joins us. Ramos is the COO and co-founder of Limble. The company develops software for the maintenance industry. Their smartphone app helps manage inventory, work orders, and maintenance processes. For Ramos, people should always be the focus of any safety system improvements.
First, we’ll discuss why Ramos put people first in his work. Then, we’ll talk about why having good systems in place is important. Finally, we’ll share three tips business owners can use to improve their safety systems today.
Listen to this episode on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.
Safety systems: Focusing on people first
Limble serves customers around the world. When Ramos founded the company, he had one focus in mind. If he could help people have fewer injuries, then they could lead better lives. Ramos has an educational background in engineering, ergonomics, and safety. He knows how to develop better and safer systems. But he knows a safety system isn’t helpful unless it’s designed with employees in mind. “If you can always focus on people, you’ll always be able to make a difference,” he shared.
One of the biggest complaints Ramos hears from clients is that safety takes too much time. Many companies use outdated methods. Some are slow, or hard for employees to use. A major issue he sees is that safety systems have been designed by someone who has never done the job. When this happens, it slows down work. Employees may even try to skip safety steps to save time. For Ramos, safety systems have two essential parts: processes and documentation.
What are safety processes?
Safety processes are the steps employees take to be safe. For example, a delivery driver might inspect their truck before each trip. A restaurant employee might put on protective gloves and an apron before using a fryer. Facing COVID-19, many employers may ask employees to wash their hands before starting work. These steps help keep employees and their coworkers safe.
What is safety documentation?
Safety documentation is a record that a safety step or process has been done. For example, an employee may fill out an inspection form to show they have checked their company vehicle before using it. If an employee breaks a safety rule, then their employer might fill out a corrective action form to document the incident. An employee that finds a maintenance issue may fill out a repair request form. These documents show that safety processes are being followed.
Safety systems save lives
Safety systems are valuable in every line of work. However, some processes take a long time to do. Documentation may be long and complicated. They might add extra time on to a job. As a result, employees may try to cut corners. Ramos sees this happen – and the outcomes can be hazardous.
Skipping a safety step could mean a machine breaking down, or forgetting an important piece of safety equipment. But it could also result in a life-changing injury, or even death. When an incident happens, no one complains about how much time the safety systems take. They just wish they would have followed them.
3 tips for improving your safety systems
Putting good systems in place improves safety. But Ramos knows creating a good system takes time. “You don’t create a process in one go, and then you’re just done.” Start with one process at a time, and optimize it. Processes and documentation go hand in hand. Any good safety system should have both.
Ramos sees safety systems as flexible. As companies change and improve, so will their systems. Here are three ways employers can start improving their systems and documentation today:
Decide on your priorities
At many companies, production is the priority. Ramos doesn’t see this as a negative thing. After all, management must keep the doors open and employees paid. Unfortunately, it can also cause safety to take a backseat.
However, Ramos points to these priorities as a great place to start. If keeping production lines open is the most important thing, then start with the safety systems there. How long do they take to complete? Where can they be improved? First, decide what is most important in your business. Then, review and improve those systems. These things will make the biggest impact first.
Use good data
Company management must make decisions based on data. If you need some additional buy-in to improve your systems, then start there. How many maintenance issues has your business run in to? Do machines regularly break down or need repairs? How long do these repairs take, and how much are they costing you?
Ramos has seen the cost of improving a system greatly offset constant repair costs. “If you have the data, you will make great decisions,” he added. It’s also important to review near misses. A near miss is a safety incident that doesn’t result in an injury or damage. Often, we only focus on the data for incidents that ended in injury. But to Ramos, near misses are just as important. They show you where the danger is. If the problem isn’t addressed, then it could easily happen again – with a worse outcome.
Make sure employees report near misses. Then, look to see where near misses happen in your business. What process could you implement to prevent them?
Put people first
When improving your safety systems, it’s important to put people first. Every person contributes to keeping the company going. First, work with employees to understand their needs. What processes and documentation are they required to do? How long does it take them? Could upgrading technology save them – and the company – valuable time? Then, review the labor involved in your safety processes. Are employees at risk of strains and sprains by doing them? Put people first when designing or improving a process.
For Ramos, having a great system allows you to make great decisions and improvements. It also allows you to make decisions based on data, and not on recent memories, which aren’t as reliable. Processes and documentation create the safety systems you need to keep your employees safe.