“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”  I can’t tell you who wrote these words of wisdom but I can tell you why they matter.  If your approach to improving safety in the future includes waiting until you have the ‘perfect plan’ to take action, you’re accomplishing nothing other than increasing your risk – and your workers’ risk – of an injury, fatality, or lawsuit.  In this industry, time and action are critical.  You often have very little of one and probably not doing enough of the other.  Both make a difference between life or death and keeping or losing your business.

So how do you formulate a solid safety plan?  In my own quest to answer this question, I spent an exhausting amount of time reading articles, researching the web, talking to other professionals in the industry, and so on.  What I found was tons of overwhelming, over-generalized information that still left me with my one nagging question unanswered: How, exactly, do we tackle improving safety?

With several years in business process consulting for MNCs under my belt, I realized the answer lies within the question itself.  Everyone knows what they need to improve safety in their operations, but they don’t necessarily know how.

Well, I’m about to break it down for you.  What I would have billed out at hundreds of thousands to a client in the past, I’m about to give you for FREE.  So grab a cup of coffee and read on…

Five steps you can take NOW to achieve safety in the FUTURE.

 

1. Planning. Now.

Remember that your plan doesn’t have to be perfect so stop thinking it has to be and then delaying until it can be.  Dedicate a few minutes after you’re done reading this blog post to jot down a list of your (or your crew’s) top concerns as a first step.

2. Prioritize the list for your business.

Think about the greatest risks to your business (lack of resources/capacity, outdated equipment not up to regulations, untrained workers putting themselves at risk, lack of accountability, lack of visibility, etc.). Then prioritize your list based on what’s most critical to you.  Keep in mind that what’s most important to your business might be different than others in your industry, so prioritize based on what you need and what you know.

3. Rank your list.

This step is critical. One of your top concerns may be prioritized as #1 but realistically may not be achievable – either in the short or long term – based on resources, finances, timing, or other constraints. When working with clients in the past, I would ask them to rank the items on their list based on wants and needs. For example, if one of your most critical safety issues is also a regulation requirement and you’re not in compliance, that item should be ranked high up on your list as a ‘must have’.  Other items that are not currently a regulatory requirement but have the potential to become required, could be ranked as ‘should have’. Lastly, you could use ‘nice to have’ for items that are not mandated but follow best practices.

4. Set your goals, milestones, and timeline.

The ‘how’ and ‘when’ in planning are equally as important as the ‘what’.  Take your prioritized ranked list of concerns and create goals that address them.  Feeling overwhelmed yet?  Don’t.  Remember that “a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow” and essentially, goals = action items.  For example, a top concern may be ineffective training or lack of training.  If you have a significant number of workers needing re-training and time is not a constraint, maybe don’t set a goal to train them all at once.  Instead, set a realistic goal with milestones for training smaller groups sequentially and a timeline leading up to completion of training for all of your workers.  Try being creative in your goal setting.  For example, nurture a ‘train the trainer’ model by incentivizing the first group using gamification tactics to encourage them to help with training the next group.  Obviously, you can always enforce new training policies using fear-based tactics with disciplinary actions for non-compliance, but you’ll find the training moves more quickly and less painfully for everyone if you make it a more interactive and engaging experience.  Alternatively, you can use tools and technology, such as Virtual Reality training, to move groups through training quickly and efficiently.

5. Reprioritize. Re-rank. Rework. 

You’ve put together your carefully crafted, well-thought out plan to improving safety and realize things don’t fit well together or maybe it’s just too darn much.  That’s okay!  Reprioritize, re-rank, rework.  If you need to, go back to steps two through four and make adjustments such as breaking down goals into smaller goals or adjusting timelines.  Tweak your plan until it feels achievable and realistic.  Small incremental changes now will add up to a big impact on your business in the future!