A proven way to verify and measure the effectiveness of an organization's safety efforts is to conduct field personnel observations. Conducting field personnel observations enables the organization to take a firsthand look at what is going on in the field and record employees' demonstration of their knowledge and ability to work safely. Field personnel observation also sends a message to employees that their company cares about their safety.
What are the Goals of Field Personnel Observations?
There are five goals of field personnel observations:
1. To Assure Compliance With Safety Practices
Through regular supervision and inspections performed regularly, a company ensures that every employee complies with safety-related work practices. A field personnel observation should be performed at least once a year and another after any corrective action has been implemented to ensure everything is running smoothly.
2. To Provide Leading Indicators
Every employee is obliged to document their injuries and illness statistics. These records, known as lagging indicators, identify past trends and help companies measure themselves against similarly sized companies. Overall, however, lagging indicators have limited value to impact the safety culture of an organization.
On the other hand, conducting regular field personnel observations helps gauge the efficacy of a company's safety program to establish if it has been effectively implemented. Field personnel observations can also provide a means to predict and avoid future incidents by identifying and correcting deficiencies on the spot.
3. To Provide a Way to Bond With Employees
Employees will respond to the way they are treated by field observers on the site. By giving positive feedback, such as praise for a job well done, with all the safety measures included, field observers can build good relationships with employees and encourage more of the same behavior.
4. To Determine the Adequacy of Training, Tools, Written Programs, and Equipment
Performing field personnel observations and tracking data can help companies analyze trends to define future safety-related needs, such as training on specific topics, new or revised procedures and policies, and the purchase of new personal protective equipment (PPE), tools, and equipment.
5. To Reinforce the Company's Safety Culture
A surprise visit to the job site is not always taken well by workers, especially at the beginning of a field personnel observation program, but attitudes tend to change over time. If done correctly, most employees will learn to embrace these visits.
Who Performs a Field Personnel Observation?
Safety management personnel facilitates most of the observational programs, but they don't conduct all field observations. Field personnel observations are best performed by operations supervisors or managers, with spot checks from safety managers. This is an excellent opportunity for supervisors to connect with field personnel, note their concerns, and praise them for their safe work practices.
Conducting field personnel observations enables the companies to take a firsthand look at work methods, document employees as they demonstrate their knowledge and ability to work safely, and tell them that the company is looking after their safety.