Corporate risk management, sustainability, and social responsibility are fundamental aspects of achieving economic objectives for the manufacturing industry. However, these three elements can fall victim to a lack of preparedness and safety measures, jeopardizing corporate economic goals, productivity, and longevity.
Manufacturing managers and corporate executives may not prioritize preparedness and safety based on “what if” scenarios unless regulations require implementation or the company has experienced an eye-opening safety issue.
“It is often the case that the “relationship” is developed when the two parties are forced to the table together as a result of a particular incident, accident, regulatory compliance initiative, or budgetary crisis.” - The Accounting Revolution and the New Sustainability Implications for the OSH Professional
The following suggestions and discussion points can assist manufacturing companies in implementing and sustaining a culture of safety and preparedness.
Because companies are in the business of making a profit, preparedness and safety mitigation budgets may be compromised for other priorities. However, pre-emptive mitigation efforts are crucial to preventing incidents and minimizing costly impacts. The mitigation process, which may include technology, training, or procedural alternative, require implementation of preventative measure before the next incident, crisis situation, or even regulatory inspection.
Companies should provide managers and corporate decision-makers a detailed vulnerability and hazard analyses with concrete financial statistics of their effects. This may garner increased support for the development of mitigated preparedness measures and safety initiatives.
Employees’ participation in health and safety discussions is crucial to achieving their buy-in. This fosters improved relationships and trust between management and team members. This valuable coordination is especially true in organizations where workplace safety has not always been highly valued. Employees should have positions on safety committees or have access to a secure and trusted platform to report hazard and safety concerns without the fear of retribution.
Hazard and threats assessment
An annual safety hazard analysis can identify potential undiscovered threats and vulnerabilities. This analysis can be used to spur mitigation efforts, budget allocations, and necessary preparedness measures. Companies should analyze potential threats and hazards including, but not limited to:
- Historical weather patterns
- Geographical influences
- Security efforts
- Inherent operational and production hazards
- Plant design
- Potential maintenance issues
Scope of awareness and implementation
Overall resilience should be prioritized to mitigate any potential incident. If auditing and implementing preparedness and safety measures are beyond the scope of managers, companies should consider hiring specialized consultants. External resources can often identify and address site-specific needs, improved standard operating procedures, and necessary personnel training.
Properly trained personnel, guidance, documentation, and oversight not only ensure compliance with agency regulations, but add HSE program value, improve operational safety, and contribute to minimizing harmful incidents from occurring. While regulatory requirements are designed to prevent harm and ensure adequate responses are in place to protect employees, companies should not rely on regulatory training requirements and agency inspections to ensure training programs are sufficient. Employee training feedback and objective internal auditing emphasizes corporate safety and can often reveal inadequacies and mitigation opportunities. Corporate leadership must reinforce safety and preparedness values by ensuring that managers have the resources to train their teams.
Maintaining preparedness culture
Whether it be in the form of weekly emails or a video messages, top leadership have numerous communication tools available to help build a culture of safety. Managers who emphasize, embrace, and enact safety measures as part of standard operating procedures will create a work environment that reflects the guiding principles of preparedness. As preparedness measures and best practices are ingrained in operational processes, personnel will be more apt to embrace the culture.
Violating government regulations or breaching employees’ trust can tarnish a manufacturing business’s reputation and impact shareholder and customer value. By analyzing safety threats, reducing risks, and investing in mitigation and preparedness, these companies can secure the foundation for long-term risk management, sustainability, and social responsibility.