It's Never too Late to be Safe

The New Year is often a time when people reset their goals, start fresh, begin a new chapter, or take any number of other actions to start over. We call it "resetting the counters."

By Carl and Deb Potter

The New Year is often a time when people reset their goals, start fresh, begin a new chapter, or take any number of other actions to start over. We call it "resetting the counters." Many organizations make the New Year a time to set forth company-wide safety goals. Some companies set a goal of "X" incidents, signifying a reduction in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reportable injuries over the previous year. Others set goals of "zero injuries" or "zero incidents." These goals are great to motivate people to work safe, yet sometimes the goals seem too lofty for employees.

A Personal Goal for Safety

Another way to approach safety goals is to ask employees to set their own personal target. Within their workgroup, employees can share their personal targets for zero-injury days, for conducting pre-job briefings or inspections, attending safety meetings, or any other targets that apply to your company. Consider this-most employees are going to target zero injuries for every workday. And, regardless of the number of employees in the organization, the approach will work.

A team of employees can share their individual goals and develop a team aggregate goal. This will help them be accountable to one another and look out for each other. The key is to keep the goals personal and to have the employees set the goals themselves. Your organization may have a specific focus area to reduce injuries; you may, for instance, be striving to reduce hand injuries or slips, trips and falls. If so, engage individual employees and work groups by asking them to develop personal goals for these areas of emphasis. You may be surprised by the results.

Promoting Success

As you consider the goal that you, other individuals and work teams set, determine what it will take to be successful. If your goal is to perform a pre-job briefing for each job, what will you need to accomplish that goal? Maybe you need to take steps to ensure a pre-job checklist or form is readily accessible and easy to use. Perhaps you or others need training on how to conduct the briefings. If your goal is to make each job injury-free, you may need to work to understand the common hazards associated with each task and how to control them. Take time when you set your goal to understand what might get in the way of success and what you can do to overcome the barrier. In addition, take time to understand what you are already doing that will give you the momentum to succeed.

The Best Goal of All

The very best safety goal a person or work team can adopt is "Nobody Gets Hurt." This goal can be the target for every year, every day and every job. It's a goal that you might want to use for yourself or suggest to your team. When you think about it, the goal can help you look out for yourself and others and is a way to encourage others to look out for you. And, this goal can be set any time of the year. You don't have to wait for a new year to roll around. There is no better time than now to set this goal as your own.

About the authors: Carl Potter is a board-certified safety professional (CSP) and is a certified management consultant (CMC). His body of work includes the development of the Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop and authorship of seven books, including the best-seller, Who is Responsible for Safety? He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and corporate safety-focused events. Carl may be contacted at Deb Potter, PhD, is a certified management consultant (CMC) and specializes in safety management consulting for high-risk industries. As the author of Zero! Responsible Safety Management by Design, she works with leaders at all levels of organizations to develop zero-injury cultures. She is on faculty in the School of Advanced Studies at the University of Phoenix. Deb may be contacted at

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