SAFETY Vs. PRODUCTION

Production in this case refers to an organisations core business. I am sure most of us have come across slogans such as “safety First, Safety Always and a myriad of other variations basically communicating that the company puts safety considerations above all else. However, circumstances arise, more often than not where safety takes a back seat to production.

Before we discuss this further, I would like to take you back to early childhood. There were common fables in which their morals were to teach us certain values. One such tale was that of The Goose and The Golden Egg. It went something like this;

“There was once a farmer who owned the most precious Goose imaginable, for every day when he visited the nest, the Goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg. The farmer took the eggs to the market and soon began to get rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the Goose because she gave him only a single golden egg a day. He was not getting rich fast enough.

Then one day, after he had finished counting his money, the idea came to him that he could get all the golden eggs at once by killing the Goose and cutting it open. But when the deed was done, not a single golden egg did he find, and his precious Goose was dead.”

Taking us back to the subject of this article, we need to come up with a sustainable model in which farmer profits from the golden egg and he is also able to use the proceeds to take care of the goose. In this case we can liken the goose to the organisation and the golden eggs as the production output. Allow me to elaborate further…

The instant gratification that comes with successfully accomplishing a task using shortcuts tends to outweigh the slow grueling task of working safely, that is, until an accident occurs. After which all the short-term wins will instantly disappear or become losses in the long term. To put it another way, the golden goose (aka the organisation) will get sick/die and will no longer produce anything at all. Your goose is therefore cooked!

In rare instances, there can be a focus on safety that is so extreme that it stifles creativity amongst the workers and creates a lot of procedures for even low risk tasks. Most of us safety professionals fall into the trap of thinking this is the ideal situation. We design solutions that are both very expensive to implement and difficult for others to comprehend. The result, a safety department that is equal to the police in “law” enforcement and in some cases, a very safe but broke company. In this scenario the goose may not survive for long if the farmer fails to see the value of the golden eggs.

So how can this tug of war between production and Safety be rectified? One word, BALANCE…

The balance between safety and production is the sweet spot where we are able to profit from the golden eggs while taking care of the interests of the goose. Therefore there should be no distinction between production and safety. The production managers should be involved in safety and vise versa. Too often we find those two functions completely separated. Case in point is that the various safety trainings I have been privileged to facilitate, production managers rarely attend the full course, if at all. Reason is always the same, Production deadlines. Likewise, safety managers are rarely involved, or involve themselves, when it comes to matters pertaining to organisational targets pertaining to production and sales.

This separation of policies is at the core of the problem at hand and as we have seen if safety wins, production loses and if production wins it does so at the expense of safety. Any organisational strategy should include both production and safety elements. The resulting strategy will then be used to address day to day issues without sacrificing one element at the expense of another.

Having an all-inclusive strategy is just the beginning, communicating it is the next step to ensuring all stakeholders within the organisation are aware of the organisations goals. Often times, organisations have very good procedures on paper, but these are rarely followed by workers as they were simply not involved or adequately trained to comprehend them. With good communication, stakeholders have avenues to give their opinions and this involvement results in buy in at all levels. Furthermore, this creates accountability in that if you know better you are required to do better.

To know where you are headed, you have to know where you are. One can start by asking members of staff, what they perceive to be more important between safety and productivity. Take note of the answers and probe further to understand the various influences on their perceptions.

It is important to note that your organisation is perfectly aligned to give you the performance you currently are getting. To improve this performance we must continually change the factors forming the ideas around productivity and safety.

What’s currently more important in your workplace, Production or Safety? Share your views on the comment section below.

References

Aesop. (1919). The Goose With The Golden Eggs. Retrieved from FABLES OF AESOP: https://fablesofaesop.com/the-goose-with-the-golden-eggs.html

Carson. (2016, November 6). P/PC Balance: How to Be Effective Over the Short & Long-Run. Retrieved from Coach Carson: https://www.coachcarson.com/p-pc-balance/

Mathis, T. L. (2017, May 9). Safety and Performance Excellence: Safety vs. Productivity: If Either Wins, Both Lose. Retrieved from EHS Today: https://www.ehstoday.com/safety-leadership/article/21919012/safety-and-performance-excellence-safety-vs-productivity-if-either-wins-both-lose

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