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An Imbalance of Worker Responsibility

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Doesn’t Everyone Have A Responsibility To Produce?


Everyone Does Have A Responsibility, But…

To start off, this post focuses on worker responsibility imbalances in production. This is not to imply that production issues are always their fault. Far from it! Rest assured that the plan is to tackle management in a later post.

With that said, there are many roles in a business. Nearly all of them have some responsibility to facilitate productivity. However, there are two roles of interest we’ll look at. They are those who do and those who manage. There can be a blend of both roles in each other. But if you catch a manager regularly operating mobile equipment, you’d probably start scratching your head. Something is probably not right about that situation.

Generally, you’ll have workers operating equipment and/or performing tasks so that a product is made. It’s similar in service industries. It’s just that the product is the service instead of something tangible, like a car or television. The workers don’t just do things any way they like. Management sets the expectations for the work to be done. This can range from ensuring there are enough workers to ordering enough raw materials. There are plenty of other management tasks as well.

There can be a lot to manage depending on the specific process. But isn’t this a safety blog? Well, often yes. And this post will be no different. Problems arise when the two roles are out of balance. Smooth operations usually happen when there is a script and the script is followed. Let’s look at a reason why the imbalance may arise.

Too Many Cooks, Not Enough Servers

Shockingly, there are a significant amount of workers that act like little managers. They have a great work ethic in terms of getting the job done. They look at numbers, drive other workers to perform well, and have a strong production focus. These are great traits, but you probably are thinking I’m going to point out something wrong with this. Well, yes, there can be a great deal wrong with this.

Workers like this often come from a longstanding culture of production first. Everything else comes a distant second to that. If you try to train them in safety, and they think it’s getting in the way of their job, they might ignore it. This is to everyone’s detriment. This can even happen when management is actively and practically driving improved safety culture.

This is bad because ignoring safety training or any safety measures can eventually bite you. It’s essentially rolling the dice on safety. Some processes are very hard teachers when you finally roll snake eyes. Sometimes only one mistake is all it takes to cost a worker dearly.

Additionally, their gambling with safety can greatly impact more than just themselves. If a worker gets hurt or hurts another worker, you have less people to get the job done. If you seriously damage equipment, you may have shot production in the foot.


Failure To Follow The Script

Earlier, I mentioned that there is, or should be, a script. Think of this as an amalgam of the various safety procedures, instructions, and training needed to perform a task safely. Management usually has the responsibility of creating the script to be used in the workplace. The workers are tasked with following it once it’s provided and they are trained on it. Problems happen when workers don’t follow the script.

Why might a worker not follow the script? Workers could think the script doesn’t apply. They could think it isn’t necessary. If you really want to go for broke, add that there are no real consequences for not following the script. Well, there are no real consequences from management depending on the business. The script is sometimes not followed because the workers don’t have what they need. If the script calls for equipment or tools they weren’t provided, how can you expect compliance?

I remember this reason sticking out to me. Sometimes employees don’t follow the script, because they know the script isn’t right. But, they recognize that the situation is dangerous. So they do what they think will work to ensure work is done safely. I like this on some level. The problem is that while many workers are quite intelligent, they often don’t have a background in safety. Furthermore, they often don’t take compliance requirements, such as from OSHA , into account. Lastly, they generally don’t know all the steps needed to ensure practical safety. That could be a bad day all around.


Stick To The Script

Overall, the best thing for workers to do is to stick to the script. Some may resist because they think production has to come first. When management is backing the change in safety culture, they need to remind workers that the production quotas fall to them. The CEO or Vice President of their company isn’t likely to come to a facility to directly fire or discipline a ground level worker for not getting their daily production numbers. They almost always will look at someone like a regional director, a vice president, or a facility manager.

Workers are generally tasked with doing the job per how the company determines it needs to go. Front line and regional management typically represent that direction at a given facility. It’s important for workers to remember their role is to fulfill their job duties per management direction, as efficiently and safely as possible. It isn’t a failing on a worker to not be able to follow a rule or procedure when they weren’t given what they needed to do it successfully.

But What Do You Do If the Script Is Wrong?!

Don’t do the work if you know the script is wrong. That is a major worker responsibility. This is especially true if management encourages workers to let them know about problems they’re facing. It isn’t for workers to take the script into their own hands unless given direct authorization by management. That doesn’t mean workers can’t shape the script! On the contrary. It’s essential to have workers help with the script making process. They often know the practical side of a process far better than some of the script writers.

Workers can’t just not do the work if they find something wrong with the script. This is also the case if workers don’t have the required tools or equipment to follow the script. They must tell management of the issue and why they aren’t able to perform the work.

At that point, management will need to correct the issue. The issue may slow production down. Unfortunately, that’s a possibility with any operation. That’s generally not the worker’s fault. And so the worker will not be the cause of the slow down in production. Getting creative and going around the script are not good. But workers can be valuable at remedying issues by communicating with management and being creative in helping to solve the problem.

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