Machine safety strategy: Stay the course or change?

Learn the four core behaviors of safety cultures. If a discovered hazard or an unexpected incident is only viewed as a problem, then problems could be distractions instead of enablers for continuous improvement or opportunities previously unseen.


SafetyMatters!Effective safety cultures in industry often have four core behaviors they use to solve problems. The return on investment (ROI) from this process might help your organization identify machine safety issues previously overlooked and possibly help expand the business in the long run.

When might these be helpful? Is a discovered hazard or an unexpected incident only viewed as a problem? Problems could be distractions instead of enablers for continuous improvement or opportunities previously unseen.

Here are the four core behaviors in effective safety cultures:

1. Open and transparent communications – communication is fundamental to organizational development and problem solving. Only after all voices can be heard and all points of view are expressed can a team collectively determine a viable path forward for a sustainable mitigation solution. Without an open communication organizational environment many people are generally uncomfortable sharing what they think and voicing possible solutions.

2. Silo-free participation – maintaining open communications depends on a boundary-less organizational style where a focus on cross-functional collaboration can drive problem solving and eliminate silo-fostered hidden agendas. Silo-free environments typically promote team players with cross-collaborative solving spirits for a common good. It becomes less about silo politicking and more about finding sustainable hazard mitigation solutions.

3. Open-minded expression – fostering an open-minded organization helps to facilitate the development of silo-free environments and transparent communication. If you’re bogged down by closed-minded folks, effective problem solving becomes a longer road to travel. Open-minded expression is more likely to convert a problem into a new opportunity. Perhaps they see beyond the obvious details before them and get on with the business of innovation and hazard mitigation.

4. And, a foundational strategy – it’s long been accepted that without a strategy, change is merely substituting a different solution, not facilitating an evolution. In my opinion, rather than dissecting a problem, often a more effective approach is to identify the strategy for change embedded in the problem itself.

So you ask, what’s this got to do with machine safety? 

Just because we have updated standards and new options for machine safety solutions today, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to simply rip out the old solutions and install the new safety automation solutions without a strategy. Having a machine safety strategy implies that an organization has evaluated its old or current safety solutions versus the potential new safety automation solutions along with the organizational safety culture. Only then might it be appropriate to evolve to updated machine safety solutions as an embraced strategy. Otherwise, there could be unanticipated consequences from substituting a different solution without a strategy.

What are your thoughts? Has this presented you with any new perspectives? Do you have some specific topic or interest that we could cover in future blog posts? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below. 

Related articles:

Machine Safety – in the US, when is it mandatory to use two mechanical safety switches on an access door?

ASSE - Professional Safety Journal- Near-Miss Reporting, May 2013

Machine Safety – in the US, Domestic versus International Standards!

Inside Machines: Does adopting ISO 13849-1:2006 change the U.S. model for compliance and enforcement?

Machine Safety – does OSHA reference consensus standards for compliance?

Machine Safety – designing a safe machine begins with Risk Assessment!


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