No more accidents!
The recent sad news in the media regarding work accidents made me think again current situation. What we could do better in Finnish industry and workplaces to make things better?
In my own industrial career, which has already lasted more than thirty years, I myself have been a person in charge in organizations where serious work accidents have occurred. The worst and saddest accident in my working career happened in 1998. I got to concretely experience what it felt like when one co-worker no longer took the same trip home from work with the rest of us.
That day I decided that in the organizations that I manage, not a single person will ever have a serious accident again.
I understood that there are three major aspects of safety management in which one either succeeds or fails. All these three entities are also influenced by each other.
1. Scope of responsibility areas
In traditional industries, situation has drifted into areas of responsibility that are too massive and difficult to manage. More and more the feeling what is happening in the field has been lost. The common language with the field has become too thin. The old cliché, where the manager makes himself redundant, unfortunately weakens the grip on safety management. Managing safety becomes declaring safety when contact with the field is getting weaker
In completely new and young industries, skill gaps are patched with a larger number of supervisors. In this case the areas of responsibility become too small. The supervisors of the areas of responsibility focus too small areas, which means that it is no longer possible to observe dependencies between processes well enough. If operational responsibility areas become too small the big picture may disappear that can increase accident risk.
Responsibility areas should not be too big or small, but should be decent size.
2. Competence and work management
Each organizational level must manage and know the process and operation of the previous level sufficiently. A common language and understanding of operations and process guarantees that development does not stop. When processes, chain reactions and their possible consequences are understood risk of accidents decreases
Performing work without a sense of work management is can escalate existing risks.
Each member of the organization must have a decent size of responsibility area.
3. Management and control of operations and support functions
Carrying out the work safely is only possible when everything is understood and risks are identified and the dependencies between tasks are taken into account. Then management and monitoring is transparent and in real-time as possible. Unfortunately, things to ensure occupational safety are still partially or not well implemented in workplaces. The paper instructions left on the control room table yesterday are unfortunately already old today.
At workplaces, it is possible to take a huge digital step that improves safety and eliminate the possibility of human error to a minimum. I am also currently working hard to improve safety with digital tools. These tools already exist!
I have tried to follow these three entities in my own work. I must have done something right, because no serious accidents have happened in my organizations since that year -98. It has been closer to three-year zero-accident periods even working in reasonably large organizations.
I trust my colleagues and they trust me.
We develop and care about occupational safety. We have all decided at some point to retire healthy.
- Kare Lappalainen