Increasing Production Performance Through Safety

Ten years ago, Randy DeVaul wrote several articles for the Safety At Work magazine, a precursor to this blog.  His US perspectives were enlightening and he has agreed to contribute occasionally to the SafetyAtWorkBlog.  Below is an article he originally wrote in 2004.

iStock_000020571826_ExtraSmallAs safety professionals, we have all worked at “selling” safety to upper management through budget and fiscal expenditures, worker compensation costs, and other financial approaches.  Meanwhile, our “sell” to production managers has been based on compliance issues with OSHA/MSHA standards.  We have set ourselves up for an uphill battle between production and safety.

Though we missed the boat earlier to integrate safety and production together, the timing now could not be better.  Helping our managers see the integrated picture between safety and production should be our focus with less emphasis on compliance.  Think about it – getting people to do something “because OSHA (or MSHA) says so” is not very motivating.  Helping to see how safe performance also impacts production numbers, employee morale, absenteeism, and productivity schedules in addition to personal quality of life has a much greater effect.

In safety, we are all familiar with getting to the “root cause” of injuries when we conduct incident investigations.  To engineers, root cause analysis methods are used to identify and resolve engineering problems.  To maintenance staff, root cause analysis troubleshoots systems and is a readily accepted practice to resolving problems.  The quality department uses similar methods to identify and correct product quality issues.

Why is this method so widely used?  It works!  But somehow, we failed to recognize this effective tool as a bridge between safety and the production process.  Performance Safety principles involve every employee at every level and are broken into three basic and easily performed steps:  conducting workplace examinations, task/hazard analysis, and individual/team observations and feedback.

These three functions alone cross into all aspects of performance – the processes, the procedures, and the employee practices.  It involves every person at every level to identify, recognize, and eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards by getting to the root cause.  Managers recognize that these techniques improve their numbers.  Safety is looked upon as a value, not a necessary evil expenditure.

It is our job to find ways to integrate safety into the production process.  Performance Safety principles and techniques help us (safety professionals) learn more about the processes to make us more effective while helping our managers see the value in safety.

I recoil every time I hear a company say that safety is its number one priority, because I know priorities change with circumstances.  A value is maintained, regardless of the circumstances.  Safety is a value equal to production numbers, quality issues, etc..  Performance Safety brings the safety process to the table on equal ground.  If we want to improve in safety, our managers must value it.  Performance Safety does that.  The tool is here, the interest is here, and the timing is here.  Let’s do it!

Randy DeVaul, Sc.D., M.A., has 35 years of safety and emergency response experience.  He is the author of Performance Safety: A Practical Approach and Performance Safety: Lessons For Life.  He is an internationally published freelance writer in safety, health, and environmental subjects and an invited presenter at national and regional conferences.  For comment or more information, contact DeVaul at

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories business, executives, Leadership, OHS, productivity, risk, safety, safety culture, Uncategorized

2 thoughts on “Increasing Production Performance Through Safety”

  1. The immediate value addition through safety principles/safe production is not visible to production managers as it is visible from quality, or even maintenance. Poor quality leads to rejects, time overrun and bad name. Breakdowns will lead to non-availability and again time overrun, etc.
    Whereas, the impact of not following safety is not apparent so quickly.
    For any major accident to take place leading to shutdown or involvement of regulatory bodies to order suspension of work, it takes a long time and thus value addition by safety is not recognized. Even if something happens, as Mr Trevor Kletz said, \’corporate memory is short\’ and repetition of accidents/incidents take place at regular intervals.
    It is stated in INSAG-15 that there are three stages to have good safety culture and they are, i) legal compliance, ii) self regulations and iii) becoming a role model by regular review of our safety systems. And most of the organizations are in first stage still and thus requiring regulator\’s interference.
    The challenge to every safety professional is making the production managers and top management to recognize value addition by safety like quality and preventive maintenance.
    In many organizations, safety department finds it difficult to understand failure of even quality group to implement safety in their work area though both are in the same boat.
    Getting shutdown from production managers for preventive maintenance is also an issue faced by maintenance department. Sometimes, even in case breakdown maintenance, pressure will be on maintenance crew to make the machine/equipment ready to meet immediate requirement of production schedules and they may not wait for complete rectification of the problems. But, doing maintenance by safety procedures is not palatable to maintenance crew. Safety professionals are challenged by quality and maintenance like production crew with regards to implementation of safety in their area of work.This reveals that every functional group takes only their work to their mind giving less importance to others.
    Recently, in a seminar, a top executive suggested that job rotation to all departments including maintenance, quality, safety, etc followed with production will make the production managers and top management to realize importance of all aspects in safe production. And, I feel this may work.

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