Rolling out a new safety policy or procedure is a critical process within any organization; it can also be a very sensitive event due to most employees’ natural instincts to resist change. This is especially true within organizations and/or groups that have done things a certain way for an extended period of time.
Fortunately, there are several things leadership can do to ensure the change is successfully implemented.
Vetting: One of the most frustrating things for employees is when new policies or procedures are introduced that have not been fully vetted. For example, one company I worked with tried introducing a new lock-out/tag-out (LOTO) procedure that was significantly different from the previous version. Instead of keeping the locks controlled at a central location, each department was now allowed to maintain their own LOTO log books and lock boxes. While the change did prevent the employees from having to walk “all over the facility” to get the correct signatures and keys, there was no real guidance on how the new process was actually supposed to work. This led to a lot of uncertainty amongst the area supervisors and an eventually erosion of the whole LOTO process. Make sure the new policy is clear in exactly how the new process is supposed to work. If necessary, distribute additional material (manuals, FAQs, presentations, etc.) to help ensure everyone understands what is expected of them going forward. The last thing you want to have happen in your organization is having new policies and procedures being vetted in the field.
Validating: Another important step in rolling out a new policy or procedure within an organization is to communicate exactly why the policy is changing; what are the benefits, etc. In my example of the energy isolation LOTO policy above, not only was the new procedure not explained very well, but there were also concerns of whether or not allowing each department to keep their own energy isolation keys was a “best practice”. The general consensus within the lower levels of the organization was that the new policy was taking a step backwards in regards to managing safety.
Buy-in: Another equally important factor in implementing a new safety policy is getting the support of key team members including the frontline supervisors. Without their support and understanding of the changes, the new policy is almost certainly doomed. I’ve seen too many instances where management has presented new policies and procedures to their teams under the premise that “this is what corporate wants us to do”. This sets a very negative tone for the entire team and it usually ends up feeling like a form of punishment. This is why it’s so important to include as many people as possible in the development, validation, and vetting of new policies and procedures. The more people that have a “stake” in the process, the more likely the process is to succeed. Employees are significantly more likely to follow the new procedure if they see their supervisor demonstrating a passion for the new way.
If an organization feels that a new policy, procedure or directive is important, then it is equally important that the new policy is rolled out properly.