By Elizabeth Eyre and the Mind Tools Team
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Safety in Teams

Fostering a Culture of Safety

© iStockphoto
JanPietruszka

Gambling with team members' safety can lead to trouble.

Imagine this scenario: Your plant is chosen to be part of a new company initiative.

As the supervisor, you're instructed to recruit team members who are willing to work significant overtime to increase production by 25% over the next week. If you achieve this goal, everyone involved will receive a big raise – and the higher production output will become the new benchmark.

Lots of people volunteer, and everyone quickly gets to work. A few days later, however, you begin to notice that your team doesn't look well. They're exhausted, and they're starting to make mistakes. You wonder if you should take some of them off the production line to rest – but you realize that if you do, the team won't reach their goal. You decide to leave them there, assuming that they'll know when to slow down.

The next day, the unthinkable happens. An exhausted worker makes a serious error on one of the machines, and he's seriously injured. Production stops when the machine has to be fixed, and the delay means that the goal won't be reached by anyone.

Have you ever heard about or witnessed situations like this? Have you been part of one yourself? Unfortunately, it's all too common in many industries. Business owners and managers set ambitious goals or practices, but they often don't think enough about the consequences for the team that's actually doing the work.

But this is such an important thing to do. After all, who wants to be responsible – and held responsible – for the death or permanent injury of another human being?

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