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Workplace Solutions

Safety program management

“Globalization” has been the driving force of the continuing re-invention of virtually every discipline found in business. How do the many issues of globalization affect safety program management?

January 30, 2014

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Responding is John Montigny, vice president and general manager, electrical safety, Americas, Honeywell Safety Products, Smithfield, RI.

The continuing boom in global trade in recent decades has increased the already substantial challenges that safety managers face – at a time when the recession and its continuing aftershocks have put a limit on the staffing of many safety departments. For multinational companies, this can be particularly problematic because they must harmonize safety training in potentially scores of countries.

Globalization presents safety training barriers such as language, cultural and safety regulation differences, along with the need to reach facilities in remote locations.

Online safety training is one answer. Some third-party safety training companies offer videos in multiple translations. Others offer recordkeeping software to track training attendance across facilities worldwide. Online courses can reach virtually any remote locale while also harmonizing the materials and information. This helps to ensure all employees of a multinational company receive the same training regardless of location.

Many global companies, such as those in construction, mining, oil and gas, and chemical processing, are implementing behavior-based safety programs worldwide. Language and cultural differences are not proving to be insurmountable obstacles, particularly if the behavior-based safety is taught by expert third-party consultants or trained BBS experts on staff.

In addition, companies are looking to adopt globally consistent standards and practices around worker safety. These standards often go above and beyond regulatory requirements of the countries they operate in and are reflective of a consistent commitment to best-in-class safety programs and placing the worker – all workers – first in the safety equation.

Meanwhile, watch for regulatory pressures to continue to mount worldwide. This will increase pressure on safety departments to keep their training up to date and well-documented. The focus on managing personal protective equipment assets will increase as well, including keeping them regularly maintained and inspected. Emerging economies around the globe are beginning to enforce their regulations more seriously, and we feel this will be a trend that will continue to accelerate well into the future.

Surging industries

New or fast-developing industrial segments – especially involving new construction and maintenance – also create daunting educational challenges. These opportunities can present a “perfect storm” of safety training requirements. Integrated training modules ideally instruct in safe behaviors for heights, confined spaces, high temperatures, respiratory challenges, electrical fire risk and remote location rescue.

To meet these challenges, safety managers need buy-in from the executive suite. Leadership is absolutely critical for a strong culture of safety. Cooperation from employees and significant support from vendors are other culture building blocks. For instance, besides offering high-quality PPE for head-to-toe worker safety, the right supplier can offer comprehensive – and often behavior-based – training for the majority of a safety manager’s requirements. A total safety-solutions approach as opposed to only equipment.

Conclusion

Safety managers are savvy and resourceful. They use a range of safety training tools and strategies to cope with continuing economic constraints, globalization and fast-growing industries. They know they must train smarter, not just longer or harder or more frequently. The result: engaging training that accommodates new workplace conditions, recruits all workers for the safety team, teaches observation and feedback conversations, maximizes hands-on learning, vividly presents the consequences of both compliance and noncompliance, and optimizes use of newer technologies – all valuable steps in building a lasting culture of safety.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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