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Safety: It’s not a program, it’s a culture


Working in safety and risk mitigation for more than 25 years, Oscar Rodriguez, Safety Manager for MKD Electric, has seen almost everything you can imagine on the job in terms of employee mistakes and accidental injuries. As Rodriguez likes to say, we’re all human. We make mistakes.

“Almost every workplace accident or injury is a repetitive task that someone knew the risk of and just missed something along the way. We know how to prevent some of these issues, but our minds aren’t equipped to be on all the time.”

To mitigate this issue, Rodriguez attributes his success to one thing – making safety a culture, not a program. When each employee is working cohesively as a unit, you can limit mistakes by using the concept of ‘safety in numbers.’ And, when your team members buy-in to the culture, it dramatically helps us lower workplace injuries by a wide margin.

As it stands, MKD Electric currently holds an impressive Experience Modification Rate (EMR) of 0.62 and Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) of zero. They’ve also never received an OSHA violation since their founding more than 25 years ago, which is testament to their ongoing safety culture that continues to exceed industry standard.

With ample experience in-hand, Rodriguez advises others on how MKD’s reached such resolute success and how others can learn from their safety operation through a few key areas.

  • Team Building through Transparency – Embrace your teams mistakes, understand how mistakes happen and use it for the entire group to get better from. Nobody benefits from using someone as a negative example. It is about recognizing mistakes positively, being proactive to finding solutions, not reactive to stop detrimental behavior. For MKD, it’s weekly safety calls and daily toolbox talks to chat through mistakes, accidents and near-misses each and every week. Rodriguez reminds, “during these discussions, it’s important to keep these positive in nature. Encourage people to share and learn. Your message will be more well received than reprimanding teammates for overlooking something. We get better as a team, not by singling people out.”
  • Continued Learning – Continuing to review safety protocols, issues we had on the job, and real-life examples are all opportunities to keep the team engaged and learning all the time. Continued learning exercises don’t have to be a webinar or a presentation. Use on-the-job instances to keep teaching, questioning why things were done and encouraging the team to point out areas of improvement. When the team is able to make an impact to the organization’s success through activities that keep everyone learning, the overall culture benefits.
  • Checklists and Tools – Teams leveraging checklists stand to benefit most on the job. During Oscar’s time in aviation, checklists were the gold standard to performing adequate safety reviews before, during and after flights. He’s taken this approach to every job, making sure we have a fail safe to ensure we’re checking and rechecking safety all the time. It never quits. Having a checklist ensures at the very least, we checked everything we could in our power at the time.

Other best practices to use are simple in nature and help identify jobsite safety hazards before, during and after they develop.

One Rodriquez really stands by is the “20-20-20” method. Which refers to team members checking their surroundings every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, within 20 feet of a work area.

“By sharing this procedure, we’re ensuring all our team members are using their eyes to identify hazards consistently for ourselves and for others. This plays into our overall team culture. When we’re all working together, using our resources as a team, we’re able to ensure a stronger safety culture, not just a program that stops and starts,” said Rodriguez.

One other thing Rodriguez and the MKD team likes to preach is their mantra, “Nothing we do is worth getting hurt.”

This message is shared from every executive all the way down to part time labor help. When organizational buy-in is apparent to everyone from the top down, we see much higher acceptance rates of safety protocols and procedures, which benefits everyone.

“It takes a whole team effort to ensure we’re keeping our employees safe on the job. There’s a million things going on each and everyday at work and in our personal lives. It can create instances where we overlook things individually,” Rodriguez reminds us.

“Culture has lasting power. Something individual programs don’t. Use that to your advantage.”

MKD Electric is a national leading industrial electrical contractor located west of Chicago, IL. For more than 25 years, MKD has built, installed and maintained systems for their clients in a variety of sectors.

For more information, visit MKDElectric.com/safety.

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