Supervisor, worker rapport key to IRS successWritten by Guy Chenard 13 October 2009
The supervisor/worker relationship, in this author's opinion, is the most important link in the organizational structure to ensure safety is being addressed in the workplace. A weak relationship at this level can make safety issues more difficult to be resolved due to workers having inadequate direction or expectations.
Problems or issues that are not properly addressed can lead to disgruntled employees. This could result in workers initiating work refusals.
Understanding the internal responsibility system (IRS) is one thing, however, applying this system in your day-to-day work activities presents many challenges.
We all know that the IRS is a system, based on values and principles, which enables everyone in an organization to be directly responsible for health and safety, regardless of their position within their company. Simply put, it is the “people” component of your health and safety managed system.
The IRS can be used to assist the supervisor/worker interface when it comes to identifying and resolving safety issues.
The following four step process can be utilized by the supervisor and workers as a method of addressing safety issues (Figure 1 - click on image for larger view):
Step 1 – Prevention
Good line organization interactions are the building blocks for the prevention of accidents. The manager must have safety programs in place to assist the line organization in achieving their safety goals. Authority must be given to supervisors in order for them to exercise their legal and corporate duties. The manager must communicate safety expectations to the supervisor on a regular basis.
The supervisor, in turn, must ensure that the safety expectations are clearly understood by the workers and that achieving them is possible through proper job safety planning. The supervisor can accomplish this by assigning the tasks to competent workers and to advise them when issues arise during work execution.
The workers should be trained in identifying safety issues through the use of hazard awareness techniques such as energy analysis and job safety analysis.
Energy analysis consists of assessing the different energy sources and the inherent hazards associated with each job. Here are some examples:
• electrical energy = electrocution
• mechanical energy = pinch point, crushing
• thermal energy = burns
Job safety analysis consists of breaking the job steps in sequence, identifying the hazards and addressing the hazards with effective controls or barriers. Here are some examples of barriers:
• isolation (lock out/tag out)
• procedures/work instructions
• personal protective equipment
Using these types of techniques will enable the workers to plan safety into each of their jobs by helping them identify and control the hazards associated with the work.
The workers are then able to assess the work on a daily basis and correct any deficiencies that are within their immediate control without the need for supervisory intervention.
Step 2 – Reporting
Reporting must occur when the workers determine that they cannot address the workplace safety issue by themselves. This could include observing contraventions or conflicts in other work groups.
There are legal requirements in Canada to report to the employer or supervisor any contraventions of safety regulations or the existence of any hazard known by the worker.
Many employers also have corporate requirements obligating workers to report any hazards, unsafe activities and unsafe acts to their supervisor.
The reporting of safety issues can be made formally through a written report but could also be done during the job planning process, at tailboard conferences or at group safety meetings.
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Published in Safety Stories