Companies must be careful to ensure that productivity improvements do not come at the expense of workplace safety. Asking employees to do more could cause them to take shortcuts that lead to accidents. Safety and productivity can work together to benefit the business, and companies should consider both simultaneously.
In the past, companies viewed workplace safety and productivity as competing with each other. Increased safety measures were perceived as hurting efficiency. The opposite is proving to be true. Safety actually keeps the workplace running because accidents can lead to shutdowns and loss of productivity.
Accordingly, the workplace culture should become one where safety is valued and encouraged. Too often, workers believe that management values productivity over safety, and they may cut corners. Businesses must teach their employees that the two goals are not in conflict with each other. Then, employees will not feel pressured to overlook safety.
A culture fostering safety begins in training and continues every day that employees are on the job. Companies send a strong message when they begin to stress safety on day one. Workers know what the company values by how it spends money. As a result, safety principles become ingrained in workers in everything that they do on the job. If new productivity measures are introduced, employees will have the building blocks in place to safely implement them. This safety training should happen at all levels, including the uppermost management.
Workers will take their cue based on what they hear from management. First-line supervisors and upper management must continuously remind employees of the importance of safety, even when they are implementing new productivity measures. They must communicate that efficiency does not trump safety.
Management should also seek worker feedback. They may not know that a new productivity measure is dangerous and that employees feel endangered. After all, it is the workers who are on the ground working on the new processes. Management must interact with and encourage workers to share opinions. Then, they must incorporate that feedback and make changes if necessary. Employees should be encouraged to share their views without any fear of retaliation. In fact, they should be incentivized to share safety information.
Without accountability, the stress and pressure of increased productivity goals could increase errors. Technology can provide management with real-time data that reports on employees’ safety compliance. This should be a part of any productivity program. Productivity can also include apps that record information and alert management to any critical issues. A few simple measures can reduce the risk of a disabling injury that new processes may pose.
Automation is a way to safely improve efficiency. Workers could manually perform dangerous tasks, putting them at risk and slowing operations. Companies can invest in equipment that efficiently performs some of these dangerous tasks.
The workplace should look to use robotics and artificial intelligence as their next great improvements. The more manual tasks they take out of employees’ hands, the more they reduce the risk of accidents. Workplaces should move away from human involvement as part of their productivity initiatives. Otherwise, they are putting their workers more in harm’s way.
Safety is not the enemy of productivity. Any move towards efficiency can be counterproductive if the company ignores safety considerations. It is possible to improve both safety and productivity at the same time.