When we think of a production worker, our minds probably automatically go to assembly lines, machinery, and efficiency-driven tasks. Similarly, when we think of a safety professional or a safety pro, the image of hazard identification, OSHA compliance, and safety training probably comes to mind.
These are two different worlds that seem to operate in separate spheres. However, upon closer inspection, we realize that a safety pro is similar to a production worker in important ways. At their cores, both prioritize the same thing: doing the job requirements efficiently and effectively.
The differences come in what specifically a production-oriented job calls for versus what a safety pro's job requires. In this blog post, we will explore how both safety pros and production workers face the press of production as well as how to operate effectively in it.
The Press of Production from a Safety Pro's and Production Worker's Perspective
What Actually is the "Press of Production"?
"The Press of Production" pertains to the relentless drive propelling all workers to fulfill their job responsibilities. This drive primarily originates from executive management, who are motivated to ensure that both middle and front-line management efficiently perform all tasks necessary for the company's profitability.
This abstract force can be likened to a metaphorical whip on the backs of workers or labor-oriented animals, constantly urging them forward. It's this driving force that propels productivity and progress within a business or organization.
Without it, an organization risks stagnation, possibly even failure. The essence of the "Press of Production" is not just about survival, but about thriving in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Indeed, while the "Press of Production" predominantly stems from the higher echelons of an organization, it's imperative to recognize that workers themselves often possess an innate desire to perform their roles effectively. I can personally attest to this drive, a trait primarily instilled in me by my father, and I hypothesize that many readers can resonate with this sentiment. A worker's determination frequently aligns with the metrics emphasized by their company, motivating them to meet and potentially exceed these standards.
While the "Press of Production" can be metaphorically likened to a whip, which may bear negative connotations, let's envisage another analogy. Consider our bodies as a form of taskmaster.
When we experience thirst, we naturally seek out water or another liquid to satiate this urge. Hunger motivates us to seek food. Similarly, the urge to perform well and meet our job requirements can be seen as an internal drive, a self-assigned taskmaster nudging us towards efficiency and productivity. These metaphors are intended to illustrate a driving force rather than a symbol of oppression.
The Production and Sales Perspective
From the perspective of a production worker, the "Press of Production" translates into a constant, relentless race against time and standards. I vividly recall my stint in a fast-food establishment and in manufacturing, where time was the ultimate taskmaster.
A sudden rush of customers or a busload of hungry patrons meant all hands on deck—taking orders, preparing meals, bagging them, and ensuring swift delivery to the eagerly waiting customers. The same applied to the manufacturing line, where the objective was to keep the line fed with essential raw materials to ensure seamless product creation. Often, line operators would ramp up the speed of the line, fostering an environment where more products could be churned out.
There is an interesting parallel to draw here with sales. The production mentality looms large in sales as well, with a relentless drive to sell the product for more than it costs to produce. Salespersons scramble to establish connections with potential clients and make promises to retain existing ones, all in the spirit of selling more.
The pressure to produce quality products quickly and efficiently is mirrored in the urgency to sell. It's a "one, two, punch" symbiosis with production and sales driving towards a common goal - business profitability.
This cycle ensures timely payment for products, thereby ensuring all workers, irrespective of their roles, get paid. The "Press of Production," thus, becomes an intrinsic part of our work ethos, driving us towards efficiency, productivity, and quality.
The Safety Pro's Perspective
In the realm a safety pro operates, metrics of success are quite different from those found in production or sales. They are assessed by how frequently they inspect their managed facilities for potential hazards, assist in resolving these issues, and develop comprehensive safety protocols just to name a few things.
These protocols, including policies, programs, and procedures, are essential in addressing and preventing safety-related incidents. Furthermore, safety pros are instrumental in enhancing equipment design to gravitate towards inherent safety standards.
The "Press of Production" manifests most compellingly when upper management requires a swift response to a critical situation such as an injury or significant property damage. The demand for a timely safety protocol draft, peer-reviewed and approved by the top brass, can be overwhelming.
The pressure intensifies when there's an impending meeting or conference, and presentation content is needed posthaste. In these scenarios, the safety pro's role mirrors that of the production line or salesperson, emphasizing efficiency, quality, and swiftness.
The Problem with the Press of Production
The problem with the "Press of Production" lies in its potential to overshadow the other essential aspects of operational excellence. When an organization is excessively driven by production pressure, speed becomes the primary focus, often at the expense of efficiency, cost management, safety, and quality.
A continuous rush to meet deadlines can lead to hasty decisions, resulting in subpar products, process inefficiencies, or inflated costs. This extreme focus on speed can also lead to a compromise in safety standards, posing risks for personnel and the organization. Therefore, it's critical for organizations to strike a balance, ensuring that the push for production does not compromise the other cornerstones of a successful business operation.
A common misconception in the industry is the notion that speed is paramount to all other factors. This mindset, often ingrained by high-pressure environments or miscommunication from management, can lead to detrimental consequences, as illustrated in a front-end loader case. Here, the rush to increase productivity led not only to safety risks but also to a counterproductive outcome with extra work and decreased actual productivity.
The challenge for safety professionals becomes stark when safety protocols are hastily reviewed and authorized without giving front-line management adequate opportunity to examine them. Oftentimes, it's assumed that upper management alone is capable of evaluating the viability of a solution.
And while upper management tends to be composed of incredibly bright individuals capable of strategic decision-making, their perspective is like that of viewing the world from 35,000 feet above the ground. From that vantage point, they certainly have a panoramic view of the big picture, but the subtle details on the ground can become blurred and indistinct.
If an organization wishes to have a detailed review of safety measures, it is essential to involve those who work at ground zero - the front-line managers and their workers. Their on-the-ground experience and familiarity with minute operations can provide valuable insights that might otherwise be overlooked from a higher vantage point. Thus, it becomes vital to recognize and utilize their expertise to ensure the thorough evaluation and effective implementation of safety protocols.
The key to overcoming such scenarios lies in establishing a balanced perspective that values production speed, but not at the expense of safety and other vital metrics. In the following section, we will discuss strategies to foster this balance, ensuring that employees understand the importance of maintaining safety standards and protecting equipment longevity, alongside meeting production quotas. By redefining 'success' to encompass these multiple metrics, organizations can achieve sustainable growth and operational excellence.
A Healthy, Productive Balance
Sometimes Slow is Fast
I previously mentioned a front-end loader operator who, in his quest for optimal productivity, was initially prioritizing speed over safety. He was working under the impression that the quicker he moved materials to the conveyor, the more productive he would be.
However, this approach led to mishandled loads and unnecessary risks. When I approached him, I asked him to slow down and more carefully control his loads. This required him to squarely approach each load and slowly transport it to the conveyor.
While this method might have seemed slower at first, it reduced the number of errors significantly, so there was no need for time-consuming corrections. The conveyor operator could then smoothly take over, ensuring a seamless transition.
This was a clear demonstration of the principle that sometimes, slow is indeed fast. By taking the time to do the job properly and safely, the operator was able to avoid creating extra work for himself and others, thereby enhancing overall productivity.
Not to mention, this more cautious approach minimized potential damages to the equipment and considerably reduced the risk of accidents involving nearby pedestrians. This case reaffirms the importance of balance between speed and safety, and how the two are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary elements of a successful operation.
Soliciting Feedback from the Front Line
Real-world safety protocols are invariably the responsibility of the facility where the work is being carried out. It is the ground-level personnel who comprehend the intricacies of operations and are privy to the potential hazards that may unfold. This operational awareness is often a viewpoint that a safety pro may not possess.
When we engage front-line management in devising safety strategies, their unique perspective aids in illuminating real-world limitations that may not have been previously considered. These constraints can range from budgetary restrictions to time constraints and even account for possible downtime as safety modifications are implemented.
It's imperative to discern and incorporate their valid concerns while setting aside any superfluous complaints. This process, despite being time-consuming, enhances the efficacy of the safety protocols, minimizes disruption to regular operations, and ensures a safer work environment.
Just as the front-end loader operator found, investing a bit more time in the beginning leads to a smoother, more efficient process in the long run. This approach not only safeguards the staff but also allows the organization to return more swiftly to profit-generating activities. Thus, we see the value of collaboration in maintaining a safe and productive work environment.
While increasing productivity is vital for any organization's growth, it should not compromise the safety and well-being of the workforce. And it shouldn't sacrifice things that make it successful, such as quality.
The relentless pursuit of production targets can often cloud the judgment of workers, diverting their focus away from crucial safety measures. It is during these times that the importance of stepping back, reassessing the situation, and evaluating the potential risks comes to the fore.
Each role within an organization, be it a safety pro or a production worker, shares the common goal of contributing to the overall success of the business. Just as the human body functions efficiently when all its parts work in harmony, an organization thrives when each of its constituents performs their individual tasks effectively while also contributing to the collective goal.
Therein lies the importance of communication across all job functions. Encouraging open communication channels can offer new perspectives and a comprehensive view of the task at hand, thereby facilitating a more efficient approach to work. This collaborative ethos can help in identifying and addressing potential issues before they escalate, thereby minimizing errors, damages, and even injuries.
In conclusion, it is not the disparity but rather the similarity in our jobs that binds us together. By embracing this shared connection, we can ensure a safer, more productive, and more harmonious work environment. The key lies in recognizing the value of each individual's contribution, fostering open communication, and striking a balance between safety, productivity, and all other considerations needed for success.