Failing to plan is planning to fail

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Developing safety and health improvement plans is an important tool in ensuring a focus on the right safety issues is maintained

As part of the drive to eliminate injuries and improve safety standards and performance, safety professionals and managers risk falling into the trap of trying to focus on too many issues at once.

This tendency can be exacerbated immediately after an incident has occurred, when trying to prevent a repeat incident, sometimes at the risk of further disrupting the strategic safety and health plans.

Safety and health improvement plans help to align managers, front-line managers and employees on the important issues that need to be addressed to ensure continuous improvement and adherence of the safety standards, an improved safety culture within the organisation, as well as an improved safety performance.

These safety and health improvement plans should be developed and updated on a rolling basis, rather than annually. That way the plans remain up to date, accurate and relevant.

Once signed off by management, these plans should form the basis for the safety and health programme going forward.

In certain circumstances, it is understandable and appropriate that incidents, which occur during the year (specific to a company, or the industry in general), give rise to additional items being added to the plan. This should, however, be the exception rather than the rule, and is often indicative of the seriousness of the incident or issue at hand.

It is important that the company and its management team remains aligned on the agreed plan, that they contribute to the completion of the action items by their due dates, and remain focused on the desired intention of the safety and health plan.

Management should try not to focus on too much at once. Instead, the main concerns should be identified, with regard to the safety culture of the organisation, as well as the top five or ten risks specific to the site. Thereafter, with appropriate employee engagement, the management team will be well placed to develop suitable action plans that address the issues effectively.

When developing action plans to address the top risks (as part of safety and health improvement plans), management should consider the hierarchy of controls to identify suitable controls that will eliminate, substitute, or at least engineer, the risks out effectively. Only if none of these options are possible, should robust controls and procedures be developed to reduce the risks to an acceptable level.  

It makes sense to do more with less. Don’t try to focus on too much at once … without doubt there is greater impact when addressing fewer action items more thoroughly, than when addressing many action plans without closing out all items.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, so develop sound improvement plans and ensure all persons are aligned in achieving the agreed milestones. This will go a long way towards achieving the desired safety culture, standards and performance.

Brian Darlington is the group head of safety and health for the Mondi Group, based in Vienna, Austria. He has filled the role since 2012 and is responsible for safety and health in more than 30 countries. Brian started working at Iscor before joining Mondi in 1987, working in Gauteng. In 2000 he transferred to the Kraft Division in Richards Bay. During 2005, Brian transferred to Europe, taking up the position of business unit SHE manager, responsible for SHE in paper mills in Austria, Hungary, Israel, Slovakia, Poland, South Africa and Russia, as well as forests operations in South Africa and Russia.

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