Safe production as an assessment lens

safety worker

By Brie DeLisi

As an organizational leader, you might be interested in understanding the current state of the safety program for any number of reasons, whether it be to address incidents or injury rates, comply with regulations or company requirements, or because you’ve determined that a strong safety program is necessary.

How does your organization assess safety?



Most companies conduct first, second and third-party inspections and regular audits, as required by federal and state regulations. These inspections and audits generally involve validating compliance with written programs and regulations: confirming all chemical containers are labeled within hazard communication requirements; forklifts and other PIVs are inspected daily by the operator; hazardous confined space entries are permitted appropriately; all employees are trained regularly; machine guarding in place; risk assessments capture all job hazards; and the list goes on. Safety compliance audits and inspections are vital to ensure a company is working within the letter of the law and protecting their employees, however it will only get an organization so far in injury reduction efforts.

As many as 80 - 90% of injuries are due to human error including fatigue, pressure, stress, distractions, lack of skills or knowledge, or simply due to making a choice to perform unsafe work i. Does your organization’s safety audit or inspection capture an individual’s psychological processes and dig into why employees choose certain actions?

Taking a comprehensive approach to understand the current state of safety



There is a growing trend of companies conducting assessments through a lens of Safe Production. Production and safety rarely see eye-to-eye in most industrial environments; the two functions end up in competition with one another for resources and support. However, more mature safety cultures understand that these two terms belong together, and the combination creates a synergistic effect that benefits employees and the bottom line. Here at Propulo, we’ve developed an assessment process to help organizations understand the current state of safe production and provide custom improvement recommendations based on cultural maturity.

Benefits to a lens of Safe Production



When safety is ingrained in the work employees perform and they understand that it is an organizational priority, employees will make decisions to support safe working behaviors ii. Since the majority of injuries are due to the human error component (80-90%), this shift in mindset is likely to result in a significant reduction of workplace injuries. There are a number of directly correlated cost savings to reduced workplace injuries that support efficient and effective production, including a reduction in workers compensation costs, full-resource support, reduced stop-work scenarios, reduced resources for accident investigation and a reduced need to change processes for safety iii. An incredibly valuable and commonly overlooked indirect benefit to supporting a culture of safe production is that employees who are empowered to work safely, and therefore feel personally valued by their company, will also feel empowered to support operational continuous improvement including quality and production iv. As an excellent example, Alcoa CEO Paul O’Neill increased annual net income 5x over his 13-year tenure and he did that solely by shifting the organization to a safety-oriented culture v.

Key components of Safe Production



The key to this concept is that safety and production are equally valued by every single employee, starting with company leadership. Safe production does not exist without leadership driving the cultural shift. An organization can begin to understand the current state of safe production by conducting a comprehensive assessment of communications, procedures, leadership and employee engagement, and various aspects of the environment.

At Propulo, we work hand-in-hand with organizations that want to increase safety culture maturity through a lens of safe production. If your business is interested in assessing the current state of safe production and raising the level of cultural maturity, we’d love to discuss our innovative ‘People Meet Process’ approach, and how we might be able to help you.


i Koen, Susan L. (2015). Safety Leadership: Neuroscience and human error reduction. Safety and Health Magazine. Retrieved from National Safety Council: https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/13159-safety-leadership-neuroscience-and-human-error-reduction
ii Becker P, M. J. (2004). The Impacts of Health and Safety Education: Comparison of Worker Activities Before and After Training. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 46:63–67.
iii Department of Labor. (n.d.). Business Case for Safety and Health. Retrieved from Occupational Safety and Health Administration: https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/products/topics/businesscase/costs.html
iv SE Seibert, S. S. (2004). Taking empowerment to the next level: A multiple-level model of empowerment, performance, and satisfaction. Academy of Management Journal , 47 (3), 332-349
v Duhigg, C. (2012). Power of Habit. United States: Random House Trade Paperbacks