Creating a safety program is never complete, there is never an end or finish line you will ever reach. It is a continuous improvement process.
And the best safety programs in the world did not get there overnight. It was years of small and incremental improvements that they continue to make.
You might be thinking that there is so much to do, or that you can’t think about specific improvements to be made because the list is just too long.
But the truth is, continuous improvement programs should always be in place. So using this process is like developing a habit, and it will sustain your program’s future growth and improvement.
THE KEY IS INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS
Small measurable improvements over time. And that is the goal.
You don’t eat an elephant in one bite, and you can’t build a safety program all at once, either.
By focusing your efforts on small steps, you make sure:
- Forward moving progress is always being made
- You are not rushing, and your team is putting out good quality work
- You are increasing
efficiencyand effectiveness of your safety program
- You get behavior changes for the long term
- You learn from each small step and can make changes as needed
THE CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT PROCESS CYCLE
The CIP process involves creating focus areas or items that you will work on above and beyond the typical day to day operations. You will always have
Because it is extra, limit continuous improvement to 3-5 projects at a time. If you try to do more than that, you will be spreading yourself and your team too thin, and the results will not be as good.
The safety continuous improvement process needs to involve the management team and not just safety alone. Much of what we do in safety is dependent on every other department. It does you no good to develop a plan without their input. You run the risk of never getting it off the ground.
STEP 1: BRAINSTORM PROJECTS
What you work on to improve your safety program should be based on trending data; both proactive and reactive data. See our article on Successful Trend Analysis for tips on doing this.
Everyone should bring ideas to the table as to what to work on or what they want to improve. The goal should be at least 12-15 ideas.
Then the management team discusses and decides what 3-5 to work on.
This is not a safety decision alone. As a member of management, safety has a vote, but it should be a team decision.
Doing it this way helps you get support for the project. When safety chooses a plan on their own and just asks for approval, the management team may say yes, but they will not be as invested in the idea.
When management is involved in choosing what projects to work on, they become a stakeholder in the project’s success. This correlates to increased support for the project.
STEP 2: WELL WRITTEN GOAL AND DEADLINE
Once you have decided on the 3-5 improvements you want to make, write them out as S.M.A.R.T. goals with a deadline. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound.
The deadline you choose should be between 90 days and a year max depending on the complexity of the project. A shorter timeframe has more advantages than a longer one.
If you have a big 5 or 10-year goal, break it up into smaller mini-goals. Short-term goals are easier to stay focused on and allow you to celebrate the small incremental steps.
STEP 3: ACTION PLAN YOUR PROJECT
We have a great podcast episode on Action Planning along with a free download of an action plan template, an incredible continuous improvement process tool.
Basically, as a team, you are going to identify the steps to complete the project, assign responsibilities and deadlines. Review your action plans regularly until completion.
STEP 4: RINSE AND REPEAT
When one project is complete, you go back to step one. Even if you still have a few going, always keep the list to 3-5 projects at a time.
You can either review the data again and brainstorm again, or you can look at your list from the last time and pick something new to work on.
Remember – don’t do this in a bubble – your management team needs to be involved in the decision of what to work on.
YEAR OVER YEAR SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS
What is impressive about this process is the compounding effect of year over year safety improvements. Your CIP projects don’t need to be huge. Small advances like 5% improvement in participation are perfect.
Rely on the knowledge that these small steps will eventually get you to the next level.
Safety never ends when you get to zero.
Put this process into action. At your next manager’s meeting where you are reviewing your trending, bring up the idea of identifying 3 projects to work on for the next quarter. Start the process.
Now It’s Your Turn
I want to know what your current continuous improvement projects are. What are you working on? Comment below and tell us about it.
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.