Electrical safety in the workplace is not as clear cut as many would like. It would be easier if boxes could be checked and safety would be achieved. However, a detailed step-by-step checklist is not possible. Although the basic concept of not being exposed to an electrical hazard is the crux of electrical safety, the organization, management, and employee have a substantial impact on achieving that goal. There are signs throughout the system that may point to problems needing to be addressed to bring things back in line.
The organization should review a program or process if personal ownership has taken a back seat to numerous, inefficient, or cumbersome processes. Another problem indicator at the organization level could be that no one is assigned ownership for high risk tasks. It is not uncommon for a risky behavior to become the norm (standard operating procedure) when a bad outcome does not occur for the situation. It is also not a good sign for the organization when a program or procedure is developed then put on the shelf as a job well done. Electrical safety is a continual process.
Those in a supervisory role affect the safety culture of a business. A supervisor who is not on-site may not be aware of conditions affecting safety or of the attitude of employees. This can also lead to the supervisor being unaware of how employees perceive the risks associated with assigned tasks and how those risks are managed. Completion of a task without an adverse outcome, when undue risk is taken, tends become the basis for continuing current practices. The supervisor may use this flawed performance indicator as justification for existing risk management strategies. Lastly, another sign of weakness at the supervisory level is when delegation is lacking. Personal ownership goes a long way in maintaining a safety culture.
An employee is at risk during the course of a normal workday and as such their performance is critical to an organization’s safety culture. This is also the level where human performance issues are prevalent. Employees start considering their work activities as routine after time on the job. They may self-impose production pressures when no quota is conveyed by the organization. An employee may make risky judgments without taking the time to fully understand the situation in order to meet an unwarranted production goal. Some employees may take pride in their ability to work through or with levels of risk that could have been mitigated or eliminated. Such actions without an adverse outcome become the basis for continuing that practice. Employees may not communicate the risks associated with their assigned task effectively up the company. They may assume that the next level of supervision knows or understands the risk involved. Worse than this, employees may assume that are insufficient resources to manage the risk. Lastly, another indicator of a safety culture weakness is that problem reporting is not transparent. This leads to employees who are not willing to report a high-risk condition.
There are many more indicators that an organization’s safety culture is not as solid as perceived. Oversight of the organization’s culture is necessary in order to positively affect safety. All organizational levels must be proactively involved with establishing and maintaining an electrical safety program. Otherwise, indicators such as I have pointed out could be a starting point for an incident investigator.
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