Culture of Safety
the facilities department can’t ignore its role in maintaining a safe workplace.
new employee or annual training, and a host of other services.
They can be retained for a single contract or on an ongoing
basis to provide a comprehensive program.
Planning for what you hope never happens
Risk management is the science of identifying potential risks,
assessing their likely occurrence, and developing appropriate
measures (including training) to eliminate, reduce, or mitigate
those risks. It’s important to integrate that process into a continuous loop of surveillance, mitigation, training, and testing
to ensure an effective safety program.
Understand the universe you need to plan for—identify
potential safety risks for each location. Review possible risks in
key categories like technology, system or equipment malfunctions, natural disaster, and the myriad opportunities caused by
the human factor —whether through error or intentional acts
including sabotage, terrorism, and accident.
The next step is to slice the categories into a more granular analysis of each location’s vulnerabilities and the potential
impacts to your people and organization—including a look at
the impacts a safety incident has on production, the investment
community if you’re publicly held, your company reputation
(which will impact your business flow), and your financials.
Always remember that the impact on your employees and
their families must be your first priority—not a media sound
bite. As part of your safety planning, engage management
in the hard core exercise of scenario planning, including the
organization’s support and commitment to employees in the
event of a prolonged shutdown.
in your planning, above. Select the
members of the Emergency Response
Team (ERT) carefully and make sure
your organization invests in their continued training. Make sure
strong relationships are built with the local and county or state
public safety teams —police, fire, and medical emergency professionals —and conduct joint training exercises several times
each year. The coordination of emergency response roles, processes, and procedures between your inside team and the professional responders is critical. Your team needs to understand
jurisdictions, including when incidents are elevated beyond the
local levels, up through and including federal authorities. An
actual emergency situation is no time to sort out command and
control roles. Chaos costs money and sometimes lives.
While controlled envi-
ronments are rife with
materials that have
and require special
ing is a science that
can be controlled. The
safety “wild card” in
a controlled environ-
ment is people. Photo:
An ounce of prevention
Your risk assessment exercise carries a bonus: the opportunity
to reduce, minimize, or eliminate identified risks. Structure
this as a separate effort, with designated mitigation teams.
The value of their work will never be fully quantifiable since
a safety incident avoided can’t be recorded. Keep the mitigation team fully informed of the safety team’s efforts and vice-versa— the groups should work separately but parallel and
fully informed and closely coordinated.
Your SWAT team
Every facility that deals with hazardous materials or processes
needs to have a vibrant first response team in place—equipped
and trained to deal with the potential incidents you outlined
A parting word
Integrating safety into the very backbone of your organization’s culture has to be Job #1. To do it well is an ongoing,
relentless challenge with little perceptible achievement. Pure
engineering projects are much more interesting. But at the end
of the day, ensuring the safety of your employees and the public is a role too important to ignore or marginalize.
Richard Bilodeau’s 30-year career includes plant engineering
positions in clean manufacturing. He has designed, operated,
and supervised the construction of advanced technology facilities and engineered clean manufacturing facilities for lithium-ion batteries, medical devices, electronics, and pharmaceuticals.