Ask yourself a question: How is the relationship between your company's safety and maintenance departments? Do they view each other as allies working towards a common goal or as obstacles hampering their respective productivity? The answer to this question is critical as it can distinguish between a safe, efficient, and profitable organization and one that is plagued by costly downtime and poor performance.
The synergy between these two departments is vital for building a strong safety culture and operational efficiency. Therefore, it's worth investing in strategies that foster collaboration and understanding, turning potential friction into a powerful partnership working towards a safer and more productive work environment.
In this blog post, we'll take a look at some tips to help foster a healthy, productive relationship between safety and maintenance workers. Along the way, we'll also look at some reasons why the relationship may be strained in the first place.
Safety Professionals Should Include Maintenance in Some Inspections
Promoting the active involvement of maintenance staff in safety inspections is a strategic step toward fostering a culture of safety. By allowing them to walk through the safety analysis process, they gain vital insights into the potential hazards and understand the reasons behind certain safety measures. The experience equips them with the ability to identify and rectify many safety discrepancies during their regular work routines.
Their critical role in maintaining the facility gives them a unique perspective and familiarity with the workspace. They can leverage this knowledge to spot safety issues, oftentimes before they escalate into serious incidents. Such preventive measures not only maintain a safe working environment but also avert potential disruptions that could result in significant downtime or expenditure.
Collaborating on Solving Problems
Safety professionals and maintenance staff must adopt a collaborative approach to address workplace safety issues effectively. When safety professionals propose solutions, it is not uncommon for maintenance staff to perceive them as unfeasible, given their intimate knowledge of the practicalities of the workspace. Nonetheless, it is crucial for safety professionals not to accept this without further exploration.
They should invite the maintenance staff to explain their viewpoint and share their concerns in detail. At times, the maintenance team may indeed identify genuine obstacles that could hinder the implementation of safety measures. Yet, in many instances, these discussions can help maintenance staff to consider different perspectives and view the situation from a fresher, more innovative angle. This collaborative problem-solving process not only enhances the team's ability to mitigate safety risks but also strengthens the relationship between safety professionals and maintenance staff, fostering a more robust safety culture.
Safety Professionals Need to Keep an Eye On Maintenance
In my experience, an often overlooked aspect of workplace safety is the unique position of maintenance staff. Frequently, these individuals traverse various sections of the workspace, interacting with a multitude of safety protocols while conducting a myriad of tasks. Given the complex nature of their roles and the array of safety procedures they need to adhere to, it's unsurprising that maintenance staff sometimes make honest mistakes.
Often, the urgency of getting production equipment up and running quickly can inadvertently lead to overlooking certain safety protocols. However, it's precisely because of these diverse risks they encounter that the role of safety professionals becomes paramount. Their responsibility is not just to ensure the smooth operation of the workplace, but more importantly, to safeguard the well-being of the maintenance staff, as well as the rest of the workforce.
Therefore, a crucial part of a safety professional's role is to diligently monitor the maintenance staff, ensuring they're adhering to safety rules and mitigating potential hazards. This proactive oversight can help maintain a safe working environment, where both productivity and worker safety are upheld.
Safety Professionals Need to Help Management not Misuse Maintenance Staff
Management can unintentionally misuse maintenance staff to do things most other employees can do. Often, these personnel are required to perform general housekeeping tasks in preparation for equipment repair, tasks that could be accomplished by displaced production workers. This approach is inefficient, as it misallocates skilled labor to perform tasks within the capacity of any worker.
A more rational strategy would be to employ production employees to prepare the broken-down equipment for the arrival of maintenance staff. This not only allows production workers to remain productive during downtime but also facilitates the swift resumption of operation by enabling the maintenance team to focus on their specialized tasks. Such an approach is crucial in optimizing both worker productivity and the efficiency of equipment repair.
Safety professionals play a pivotal role in educating management about the necessary measures to address safety-related issues effectively. It is paramount that the right individuals are assigned to appropriate tasks. Surprisingly, some operations demonstrate a significant lack of efficiency when managing concerns related to safety, particularly in areas of hot work and lockout/tagout tasks.
Indeed, lockout/tagout and hot work tasks often fall squarely in the lap of maintenance staff. These tasks are not only complex but also require strict adherence to safety protocols and regulations to ensure compliance in the field. When maintenance staff are also burdened with basic tasks better suited towards production staff, the process becomes significantly longer. Such inefficiencies can lead to prolonged equipment downtime, decreased productivity, and potentially increased safety risks if maintenance staff are rushing to complete their tasks. It's crucial to ensure that tasks are appropriately delegated to maximize efficiency and maintain safety in the industrial environment.
Safety professionals need to impart this understanding to management so that they appreciate the importance of proper task delegation in these areas. This will help ensure not only the safety of the workers but also the overall operational efficiency of the organization.
Get Maintenance Away from Band-Aid Type Fixes
Another point of tension between maintenance and safety can arise due to the discrepancy between the time invested in the actual job and the time required for safety preparation. It can be challenging to persuade maintenance staff, and even some managers, to spend 15-20 minutes preparing a hot work area in the field when the welding task at hand will only take 3 to 5 minutes.
However, when a safety professional evaluates the situation, one of two things usually becomes apparent. In one scenario, if the job is infrequent, the additional time spent on safety preparation does not significantly impact the maintenance schedule.
Conversely, frequent repetition of the same task prompts a more substantial question: why is the equipment requiring the same type of repair so often? This leads to an evaluation of effective corrective and preventive actions to prevent repetitive repair needs. Thus, the time-consuming safety protocols won't be required as frequently, enhancing overall efficiency and maintaining safety standards.
In driving effective safety-related corrective actions and improvements, it's imperative to actively engage and collaborate with the maintenance team. A culture of open dialogue and mutual respect fosters an environment where individuals feel heard and valued. When safety professionals take the time to understand and acknowledge the pressures and perspectives unique to maintenance staff, they're better equipped to assist in the promotion of efficient, safe work practices.
Such an approach helps to dispel the misconception that safety measures are barriers to progress. Instead, this understanding positions safety professionals as facilitators in devising practical, real-world solutions that prioritize safety without compromising productivity. By integrating maintenance workers into problem-solving discussions, not only is their expertise leveraged, but it also reinforces their commitment to safety, promoting a more harmonious and efficient workplace.
Just as with every worker, it is essential to empower maintenance workers for success. Equipping them with the necessary tools and knowledge to actively identify safety concerns, understand why these issues are significant, and cultivate a problem-solving mindset is crucial. This approach can be achieved by fostering a strong partnership between the safety and maintenance departments. Such synergy not only helps to ensure a safe and compliant work environment but also promotes operational productivity and profitability.
From time to time, unforeseen problems may arise in the workplace. However, having a solid working relationship between safety and maintenance ensures these challenges are promptly addressed and effectively resolved. Maintenance workers can provide first-hand insight into potential safety hazards, while safety professionals can offer guidance on best practices and preventive measures.