As safety management systems have evolved over the years, it’s very easy for employees to develop the mindset that they’re no longer trusted to do the job themselves. Many jobs require the approval of multiple supervisors before the first wrench can even be turned. When you add in the various worksite audits and follow up reports throughout the day, it’s understandable that some employees may feel like they’re being baby sat. This characterization couldn’t be any further from the truth.
One thing we’ve found through our interactions with large organizations and their employees is stressing the importance of verification to ensure the safety of all employees. We all trust one another to do the job right, but when it comes to adding an additional layer of safety to the job, trust (in and of itself) is not a barrier. This is why safety verification is so important.
Let’s look at a quick example. Imagine you and a coworker are tasked with changing out the transmission on a helicopter. You each had a specific function to perform; one of you was responsible for bolting the transmission to the body of the aircraft and driveshaft of the engine, while the other was responsible for attaching the helicopter blades to the transmission (for simplicity’s sake will pretend this is a two person job).
As an added twist, imagine each of you would participate in the “test flight” after the job was complete.
You each trust each other to perform the job safely, but the trust doesn’t actually add any additional safety barriers to the job. On the other hand, if you physically inspect each other’s work (compare torque values to OEM manuals, etc.) you are proactively looking out for each other’s safety. There is the possibility that you may catch something that your coworker didn’t. This is the power of verification and why we shouldn’t feel upset because someone isn’t taking our actions at our word.
There are many great examples of how verification can improve safety in the workplace over simply trusting someone. As long as our safety management systems are reasonable and don’t become muddled in redundancy, we can all benefit greatly from verifying each other’s work. It’s not about trusting someone; it’s about confirming that they won’t get hurt.