By Jamie Withers
Safety is one of WAPA's Strategic Enablers, as identified in our Tactical Action Plan. The other enablers are Communication; Inclusion and Diversity; and Partnership and Innovation. They are the four cornerstones that support our foundation of organizational success at WAPA.
Each enabler also has a direct effect on our organizational safety culture.
In the workplace, safety is protection from hazards, injury, illness or death, based on laws enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The influence of safety culture goes far beyond any single employee, manager, crew or department. Safety culture is the result of a collective set of behaviors, standards, values and expectations. These qualities combine to establish an organizational safety culture that benefits everyone involved.
An organization with a healthy safety culture proactively seeks feedback, responds openly to safety issues and engages employees and management to integrate safety into all systems and job activities.
Safety at WAPA is all about communication. This includes discussion of incident prevention during Job Hazard Analysis briefings or tailgate meetings. It also includes educating employees through articles in Closed Circuit and our bimonthly newsletter, Safety Works.
Prevention communication is also rooted in learning from past events by sharing Near-Miss Reports or Learning Summaries with a goal of informing others through shared safety experiences.
Field crews prevent incidents by watching out for each other and communicating hazards, while managers and safety specialists do the same through jobsite observations. Communication is at the center of our safety culture, and it is up to all of us to use it to protect ourselves and others by always keeping the lines of communication open.
Inclusion and Diversity
Including everyone in the discussion about safety is important, because you never know who might one day recognize a hazard that will save you from injury.
Whether it be an apprentice on a jobsite or a coworker in the office, physical and psychological safety for everyone is key to protecting all employees from physical and emotional harm. They also help develop empathy for others.
After almost two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, empathy will be an important element as teleworkers integrate back into the workplace. We will need to be flexible and understanding of each other's challenges and needs, while also acknowledging the talents and value that each of us brings to our work environment.
By doing this, we will build teamwork and partnership with others.
Partnership and Innovation
By being inclusive and empathetic, we open the door to a more positive and safer workplace. It starts with open communication, by listening to others and sharing information that builds trust, collaboration and increased employee engagement.
All of these elements foster innovation, new ideas on how to improve safety systems and an understanding of why safety is important to all of us.
The end results can lead to better decision making, reduction of errors, fewer safety incidents and a stronger safety culture.
A team effort
Building a strong safety culture is a team effort and each of us plays a key role in its success. This includes recognizing our safety responsibilities and accepting that they are essential in protecting ourselves and others.
We have cultivated a strong safety culture at WAPA over the years and deserve to be proud of it at all levels. We also must recognize that there is always room for growth and opportunity for improvement.
As we enter this new year, let's continue to build on our well-established foundation of safety culture and remember that we don't do it because of laws enforced by OSHA; we do it because we value safety, and we all have family, friends and coworkers who count on us to be safe.
Note: The author is WAPA's Safety and Occupational Health director.