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By: Thomas Carson

Hiding Safety Within Business Improvement

In a recent episode of the Sospes safety storytellers podcast, my guest said something that was as sneaky as it was astute.

My conversation was with Peter Susca, who is a Principal for Operational Excellence LLC, which also is known as OpX Safety. Peter said that if a leadership team doesn’t get what you’re trying to convey to them about safety, then don’t try to force it. He added:

Instead of going down the Safety Road, go down the Business Improvement Road. Then, as we improve the business, let’s integrate safety into business improvement, instead of trying to force fit safety as a priority.

What Peter brilliantly realizes is that safety is often about framing.

How we frame something is subtle, yet it can make a massive difference.

If we, as safety professionals solely talk about safety, then it’s possible that our message will fall on deaf ears. Our safety logic—which seems air tight to us—might be ignored. Our safety optimism—which seems like the way forward to us—might be disregarded. Why? It might be because we’re not framing our messages in ways they can be well-received.

Like Peter indicated, if we focus on enhancements our safety team can bring to the business in general, rather than primarily about safety, then we might be more successful at winning the safety hearts and minds of workers.

Here are three examples to help you see what I’m talking about:

  • Instead of framing a training session about equipment installations as being about safety, you could frame it as being about customer satisfaction.
  • Instead of framing a manufacturing decision as being driven by safety compliance, you could frame it as being about helping workers hit their quality goals.
  • Instead of framing a safety investigation of an accident as being about blame or liability, you cold frame it as being about preventing future incidents.

Thanks to Peter Susca for sparking the idea for this article. Be sure to check out our episode:

See our conversation with Peter Susca.

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