Have you got your continuous improvement plan for safety for 2019?

Be it workplace safety or in any field, having a continuous improvement plan is crucial to ensure well-calibrated progress. Drive for continuous improvement is one of the major reasons for the success of top businesses. Continuous improvement is an essential part of a good health and safety culture. So, do you have a continuous improvement plan for 2019?

What is a continuous improvement plan for occupational health and safety

A continuous improvement plan for occupational health and safety (OHS) is one that:

  • Identifies areas for improvement in a company’s health and safety program.
  • It does so on a consistent basis year-on-year.

Generally, companies aiming for continuous improvement tend to perform a safety compliance review, also known as a gap analysis. This is an audit of a company’s program. It tells them where they are with regards to safety compliance and where they need to be.

When a third-party consultant does your gap analysis, it becomes a strong due diligence document in the authorities’ eyes. This is largely because it will free of personal prejudices and opinion within the organization. More importantly, it shows the authorities that you are working regularly to achieve continuous improvement by:

  • Identifying potential gaps in your program.
  • Finding ways to fill them based on the recommendations provided by the expert consultant.

Why is it important to have a continuous improvement plan?

A continuous improvement plan is nothing but a well-defined process. One that you have identified as a company to ensure you consistently improve your program. It is an integral part of the process for building a safety culture.

A continuous improvement plan has two-pronged benefits in terms of your approach towards workplace safety. Let’s look at the figure below:

A continuous improvement plan helps you adopt a more focused approach to mitigating risks. It allows you to take a proactive as well as reactive approach to mitigating risks as shown in the figure above. It tells you what’s working well for you and what needs improvement.

Proactive and reactive approach

Let’s assume your OHS stats show you that last year you have had many hand injuries. This year, as part of your continuous improvement plan, you can identify the possible reasons for the trend reflected by your OHS stats, through a thorough brainstorming with your employees. This way, you can work towards having a clear action plan to rectify the risk of hand injuries. Thus, you would have adopted a more strategic and focused approach towards workplace safety.

This is an example of a reactive approach.

Let’ look at a proactive approach

Similarly, if while reviewing your program you identified certain areas in your program, which you need to improve. These include:

  • Introducing new types of tools and equipment that allow your employees to work safer, faster, and with more efficiency
  • This is an example of proactive approach to continuous improvement.

In simple words, a continuous improvement plan allows you to narrow down on key risks identified through OHS stats. Thus, you can have specific plans to tackle each individual risk. The biggest advantages of having a continuous improvement plan include:

  • Ensuring your health and safety program is on track.
  • Helping you stay in compliance.

Continuous improvement is an essential part of building a safety culture. A continuous improvement plan helps you show your commitment towards workplace safety to your employees. This will go a long way in helping you progress smoothly and efficiently with regards to developing, implementing, tracking, and maintaining your health and safety program.

How OHS stats can help you in drawing up your continuous improvement plan?

Simply having OHS stats are not good enough for creating a continuous improvement plan. You need to clearly identify the OHS stats that you will require and the reasons for having them. As a senior manager, it is not only crucial for you to understand how you are measuring your safety initiatives, but it is also vital to know why you are measuring them. As a senior manager, you need to have a clear picture on what it that the stats are going to get you. This could include but is not restricted to things such as improving workplace safety, increasing productivity, or ensuring cost efficiency.

Once you know the what your stats needs to tell you, you need to work towards having a clear process in place to review those stats with all the relevant workplace parties. Here is a good process that you can follow:

Identify relevant statistics

First and foremost, as a senior manager, you need to identify all the relevant activities that impact safety within your organization. These can include accidents, near misses, corrective actions, first aid logs, and review of checklists. Next, you need identify what stats you will require to measure them, why those stats, and what do you expect from those stats.

Once you have identified your relevant stats, and have started collecting them, you start working on identifying trends that your stats would reflect. From the trends, you can identify the reasons for the trends by brainstorming ideas with all your relevant workplace parties. This will lead you into coming up with an action plan for continuous improvement. This way, you will more often than not choose trends that will help you in identifying areas for continuous improvement rather than those trends, which don’t mean anything or cannot lead you to continuous improvement.

Create and communicate your action plan for continuous improvement

As a senior manager, trends are the just the beginning. Once you have them, brainstormed with your team to find out reasons for having them, have identified your action plan for continuous improvement, you need to implement and communicate your action plan to everyone. For instance, trends showed lots of cuts last year. This year, let’s say you are implementing a new policy for gloves or change in procedures for locates due to too many line breaks, you need to communicate it to everyone and get them to acknowledge it as well.

Track progress of your action plan  

This is a major hurdle for most businesses. As a senior manager, you identify the OHS trends, draft an action plan, but everyone gets busy with other core business activities, and the process falls flat on its face. Consequently, you end up ignoring tracking the progress of the action plan. This step is equally, if not, more important than any other step in the process.

In fact, only if you keep a watch on how your plan is progressing and communicate the progress to all relevant workplace parties, you will be able to achieve continuous improvement. Else, it will be all talk, no action, which is definitely not what you want as a senior manager, especially with regards to workplace safety.

Tracking the progress of your action plan for continuous plan is crucial to know whether your implementation is working effectively. This will help you make the necessary amendments to your original action plan on-the-go, if required, after discussing it with all the relevant workplace parties.

Conduct a fresh review of your implementation to check implementation efficiency

Now that you have a process in place for trend analysis, and are regularly tracking the progress of your action plan, it is the ideal time to conduct a fresh review of the trends identified in step 1 in light of the progress you have made through your continuous improvement plan.

This will help you have a clearer perspective of whether the trends identified earlier are changing due to your continuous improvement plan. This way, you can ensure that the plan is on track or whether you need to make any further amendments to your plan.

What are the disadvantages of not having a continuous improvement plan?

We have seen the benefits of having a plan. Let’s now look at the disadvantages of not having a plan.

You can start assuming things about your program

In the absence of a continuous improvement plan, as a senior manager, you tend to make assumptions about your health & safety program. These may not be correct all the time, and may affect your workplace safety in the long-term.

If everything looks fine superficially, you may not see the need for improvement 

Many senior managers get into a false sense of security when they see there have been ‘Zero’ injuries for a year. As a senior manager, it is crucial for you to understand that ‘Zero’ injuries need not necessarily mean your program is great. You might just have been lucky. Don’t go for superficial strength because if your foundations are week, the whole program could fall, when you could have easily corrected certain issues through a continuous improvement plan.

Even the best health and safety program of a really big company also has scope for continuous improvement. That’s a crucial point that you must understand as a senior manager.

Continuous improvement plan is definitely required if you are pursuing COR™ in Ontario

If you are pursuing COR™ in Ontario, element 19 requires you to do a ‘Management Review’, which is no different from a continuous improvement plan. The element requires the management team to do a comprehensive review of your current program, come up with areas of continuous improvement, and address them through a continuous improvement plan.

Why do you need to do it at the beginning of the year?

There can be no better time than the beginning of the year for starting your continuous improvement plan. Everyone in your team is fresh from the holidays at the start of the year with their minds re-energized.

Beginning of the year is a great time to get all your employees together to discuss your continuous improvement plan. You can set your year-end goals for safety and KPIs to measure your goals. Further, you can make corrections and amendments to your continuous improvement plan on-the-go by tracking the progress right through the year. This gives you the best chance to achieve your year-end safety goals.

Time is of the essence when drawing up a continuous improvement plan. That is precisely why you need to start doing it at the beginning of the year, allowing yourself a good 10-12 months to achieve your goals. Starting of the year is a good time to do this simply because it allows you to align, if required, re-align your employees to your safety goals, and your plans to achieve them.

Further, fresh minds at the start of the year allow for healthy brainstorming of ideas. This can help you in the decision-making process pertaining to your continuous improvement plan while engaging every key member in your team in the process.

How can technology help you in making, implementing, and tracking your continuous improvement plan?

Technology can be of great help for you to make, implement, and track your continuous improvement plan. The first question you must ask yourself is how to maintain your OHS stats? Do you use an online system? You can maintain OHS stats the way that best suits your business. That said, you need to also look at the effectiveness of the method you follow.

An online system will help you:

  • Manage your OHS information.
  • Track accidents and incidents.
  • Assign action items as a to-do list.
  • Monitor the progress on the action items.

How technology helps in communication of plan?

Most importantly, it will help you plan, communicate, implement, and track the progress of your continuous improvement plan. An online system can help you collect and present OHS stats in a seamless, user-friendly, and effective manner. This will facilitate quick analysis. For instance, let’s look at the two charts below. An online system has auto created them through pre-populated data fed into it:

The above figure shows the OHS stats based on the body part affected. The stat that must straight away get your attention is the lower back injuries, which stands at 25 and is marked in red. As a senior manager, given the higher number of lower back injuries, you can plan create policies and procedures for safe ways for lifting objects, bending techniques, and other SOPs that can bring down the number of lower back injuries. This is a reactive approach for continuous improvement.

OHS trends can make a big difference to your continuous improvement plan. That is precisely the reason why you should get the human element out of it and get the technological part into it. Accurate data provided at the right time can prove very handy for you to improve your safety program. As a senior manager, easy and effective online tools that will give you a clear idea of the incidences of injuries, and help you in drawing up a corrective action plan for continuous improvement while assisting you track its progress will any day be more beneficial than doing it manually.

Moral of the story

As a senior manager, you have the responsibility of growing your business, scaling up your products/services, and increasing your profitability. However, one of the biggest responsibilities you have is to take care of the safety of all your workers. It’s your legal, moral, and ethical responsibility as a senior manager. One of the best and most efficient ways managing workplace safety is through creating and implementing a continuous improvement plan. It’s awesome if you have a team that takes care of it. However, you will be a surprised at the contribution a third eye can make to your health and safety program to help you BE in compliance and STAY in compliance.

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