When we teach our Certified Safety Manager course, we discuss the issue of taking what you learn in a class such as this and transferring it to the actual workplace.  This is not easy to accomplish. We leave the course brimming with new ideas, embracing the challenge to develop and implement required safety programs and create a dynamic safety culture. However, all-too-often, we tend not to take what we have learned in these courses and apply it to our work establishment.  We quickly go back to our routine – sometimes this includes reactive instead of proactive safety – and our goals for continuous improvement are never realized.

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Developing SMART goals is critical to managing your safety program performance. Each year you should ask management as well as your employees (e.g., production, safety committee members) to set goals for the upcoming year/evaluation period. A SMART goal is defined as one that is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant (sometimes replaced with Realistic or Results-based)
  • Timebound

Following is a definition of each of the SMART goal criteria:

  • Specific: Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you are going to do. Specific is the What, Why, and How of the SMART model.
    • Example: By December 31, 2018, ACME Co. will develop a fall protection plan which reduces falls in our workplace by ___% (whatever you consider achievable) as falls constitute the majority of our workplace hazards. Included in this plan will be work orders to fix slip/trip/fall hazards, purchasing new equipment and training on fall hazards at our facility. This answers the What, Why and How of this goal.
  • Measurable: Goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal. Usually, the entire goal statement is a measure for the project, but there are usually several short-term or smaller measurements built into the goal.
    • Example: By August 1, 2018, repair the 15 identified potholes in our walkways (or stairwells, or scaffolds, or ladders, or whatever other physical hazards you have identified at your facility).
    • Example: By October 1, 2018, standardize all fall protection equipment and drill anchor bolts into areas that we have determined need permanent tie-off points.
  • Achievable: Goals should be achievable; they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough so that you can achieve them. You must possess the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the goal. You can meet most any goal when you plan your steps wisely and establish a timeframe that allows you to carry out those steps. As you carry out the steps, you can achieve goals that may have seemed impossible when you started. On the other hand, if a goal is impossible to achieve, you may not even try to accomplish it. Achievable goals motivate employees. Impossible goals demotivate them.
    • Example: This is a follow-up from Example One. Setting a goal for reducing the rate of fall incidents by 100% is probably not realistic.  Set the goal to 50%, as an example, and if you hit or exceed the target, then you re-evaluate the following year and continue to reduce the injuries.  This is all part of the continuous improvement cycle (Plan/Do/Check/Act) that we have discussed in previous articles.
  • Relevant: Make sure a goal is practical in terms of how applicable it is to a workplace, scope of desired change, and timeframes – or management or employees may not try to achieve them.
    • Example: The relevance of attacking slip/trip/fall hazards in your facility if it is the #1 cause of injuries is obvious. Make certain that the goal is realistic as well. To determine if the goal is realistic, ask: Is the goal possible to achieve? What forces help or hinder accomplishment? Be specific with your questions:
      • Has management allocated a budget to buy new fall protection equipment?
      • Are there enough maintenance personnel to complete the various safety work orders as it pertains to falls in the workplace?
      • Are you on a production deadline that will interfere with retraining employees in a timely manner?

These are the types of questions that will need to be answered to decide whether your goal is relevant and realistic or not.

  • Time-bound: Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal. Without such tension, the goal is unlikely to produce a relevant outcome. Set long-term and short-term goals; review frequently and modify your plan if it is not producing the desired results.

The concept of writing SMART goals is very important for accomplishing individual goals, (safety team members) as well as plant-specific and ultimately, corporate-wide goals. It is also critical for ensuring good communication between you and the production team (Plant Manager, Quality, Maintenance) so there are no surprises during annual evaluations. In fact, these goals should be visited monthly to determine if you, as a team, are on track to meet or exceed the goal and to change the course accordingly. For more information on SMART goals, attend one of our CSM Courses found here.

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About the Author

Eric Gislason

Eric Gislason is the CEO and Executive Director of NASP. He is also one of the principal trainers, specializing in OSHA compliance and development of workplace safety culture. Eric has over 33 years of experience in the EHS field, having trained individuals from across the spectrum on OSHA/EPA compliance including manufacturing, oil and gas, construction, warehousing, healthcare, and retail.
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