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25 July, 2017
Paul O'Neill's amazing story has turned into one of legend. As the new CEO of Alcoa, he blazingly walked into a meeting to address investors shortly after taking over. These investors were expecting to hear things about revenue projections and profit margins, but instead O'Neill went on a rant about worker safety.
He said by focusing on safety at a company level their money problems would disappear. As you can imagine, investors were shocked and scared. Fortunately, net income increased 5X during his time with the company, but more importantly injuries decreased dramatically. Let's look at some of the things companies should implement.
Safety Must Come Above All Else
The first message you must convey is that safety should come before everything else. There must be absolutely no exceptions. Far too many people have died in the last year alone and this could have saved their lives.
You've got to understand telling employees to be safe doesn't mean your output will suffer. In fact, the exact opposite is true. When workers know you actually care about their safety it will give them more confidence and drive.
This can't be something only a select few managers know about. The CEO should go around telling every single employee individually if that is what it will take. Hopefully you have an easier way of getting the message through to them.
Let Employees Speak Their Mind
There should never be any employees within the company who feel like they can't speak out when they notice something dangerous. It's guaranteed at the moment there are people who stay silent because they don't want to cause disruption.
Instead, you should be rewarding them for causing disruption. Do you want to know why? You can have all the health and safety advisers you want, but it's the people who work on something every day who will know how to make equipment and processes safer.
If what they're saying makes sense you should implement the changes immediately. It will encourage other employees to step forward and help you create a safer work environment.
Unnecessary Risks Must Be Banned
Millions of employees take unnecessary risks every week. In some industries it can be extremely dangerous, but someone will try to fix something anyway while it's still running.
Think about what is happening to jobs in this day and age. They're disappearing fast, so people don't want to disappoint you. They could lack knowledge too, plus there are other more concerning factors involved.
Let people know unnecessary risks are banned as from now. Everyone will stop taking these risks if they feel secure enough to cause a little disruption. Managers should congratulate them instead of being angry. You should congratulate your managers.
Managers Must Report Every Accident
We've all seen those accident books at work, but how many people do you actually think use them? How many scrapes and bruises disappear into the abyss because nobody thinks they're serious enough to report?
Those minor injuries can lead to devastating ones, so you must demand your managers record every single accident no matter how severe it is. They should be given some form of punishment for failing to do so.
You'll only notice patterns emerging if everything is documented and it's only your managers who can do anything about it. Once things get recorded you'll automatically notice accidents happening less frequently.
A Life Is More Important Than A Widget
Alcoa reached a point where they were only losing 0.125 work days per one hundred workers. When O'Neill took over it was sitting at 1.86 lost work days, so it shows these kinds of company level safety standards stand the test of time.
You've got to remember Alcoa is a massive aluminum manufacturing company with multiple plants, and molten metal everywhere you turn. It's probably one of the most dangerous environments you can work in.
Most people will be running companies where the likeliest cause of injury is tripping over a loose cable. In theory, you should be able to walk away with even less injuries every year than those running companies in dangerous industries.
The secret lies in the tips we've discussed today. There are other things like painting dangerous objects yellow and putting safety posters up everywhere, but you need to do more if you want to make a real difference.
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