Identifying Gaps Between Policy & Practice: How Safety Walk-Arounds Promote a Culture of Prevention
Protocols and policies are only as strong as the consistency with which they are applied. Implementing regular walk-arounds by managers and leadership—and making sure those walk-arounds include frank and open discussion with front-line staff—is one of the most important ways to make sure that protocols are actually embedded in the day-to-day reality of your operations.
The following steps will help ensure that your walk-arounds are as effective as possible in reinforcing a culture of prevention.
- Review past inspection reports, injury and workers compensation records—and then focus your walk-around on areas where hazards have been identified and/or previous remedy measures have been implemented.
- Talk to front-line staff, managers and supervisors about any safety concerns they may have or feedback they may offer.
- If you have a safety committee, meet with them prior to your first walk-around.
- Consider taking the same hazard identification safety trainings that workers, managers or the safety committee have been asked to take.
- Lead by example: If appropriate, make sure that you have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available that staff would be required to wear during the course of doing their jobs. Make sure you know how to properly use and clean the PPE.
- Limit the size of your group, bringing along key team members responsible for safety protocols—but not making the group so large as to stifle communication with staff.
- Look for easily observable hazards first, such as tripping hazards; blocked exits; frayed or exposed wiring; tree branches; poor housekeeping practices or cluttered sports equipment rooms.
- Talk to front-line staff about any issues or near misses they may have had. Ask them about any difficulties or obstacles to implementing proper safety protocols. Use open-ended questions such as:
- Who is responsible for your job safety?
- What is your greatest workplace safety concern?
- What is the most hazardous part of your job? Why?
- How would you report an injury or near miss?
- Pay particular attention to new staff—not only will they have “fresh eyes” for specific hazards, but you will be able to assess how effectively on-boarding and training has been carried out or offer additional feedback from their past workplace safety experience.
- Keep an eye out for hazards specific to running a youth-serving community organization. Staff may be aware of the risk of lifting heavy boxes, for example, but lifting lively or unruly children may be even more hazardous. Similarly, toys, play or fitness equipment can present unique tripping hazards.
- Look for and talk about simple solutions while you are on the walk-around—not only does this ensure “quick wins”, but it encourages staff to proactively look for solutions of their own.
- Prior to completing the walk-around, list any hazards that have been identified and prioritize them according to the severity of potential injuries.
- It’s important to follow up quickly after a walk-around with a clear, concise and timely safety action plan.
- If implementing solutions is going to take time, include information on interim measures to keep staff safe.
- Share your plan with managers and front-line staff, and encourage them to provide feedback. Post periodic updates as issues are addressed or new information is uncovered.