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Machine Safety Culture: Compliance versus cooperation driven

Employee safety compliance is a blend of hard physical restraints or barriers and a desire to follow a set of safety behaviors. But, compliance is interpreted by most as meeting the bare minimums. And, if employees don’t choose to accept or behave in the role “another” has found for them, they don’t have to play it. If so, how does a company develop or expand a safety culture to become best in class?

November 30, 2011


JB Titus, CFSEEmployee safety compliance is a blend of hard physical restraints or barriers and a desire to follow a set of safety behaviors. But, compliance is interpreted by most as meeting the bare minimums. And, if employees don’t choose to accept or behave in the role “another” has found for them, they don’t have to play it. If so, how does a company develop or expand a safety culture to become “best in class”?

Safety matters logo. 

Let’s look a little deeper at compliance versus cooperation. Compliance often means refusing to exercise our own power to choose because safety regulations, safety standards, or safety policies provide those appropriate measures. These directives are intended to issue both specific and general measures such that when followed, machine safety compliance can be realized. Most often within companies there will be a hand full of machine safety experts and they collectively possess the safety “know-how” for complete compliance. These safety experts are then responsible to establish the broad spectrum of safety culture activities and responsibilities to achieve safety compliance. The employees, in my opinion, are then asked to accept and behave in the role the “safety experts” have developed for them. When this process works, safety compliance can be achieved which means that these companies have met the bare minimums.

What more needs to be accomplished for “Best in Class”?

In my opinion, the safety culture of companies that achieve “Best in Class” are those companies that have developed a sense of organizational cooperation. Organizational cooperation means using our power together with others to achieve more than any of us can alone. Safety “know how” becomes systemic throughout the organization and this means top to bottom and bottom to top. I have found that when everyone within a company is looking for improvements in machine safety their collective power raises the bar above mere safety compliance. When this happens, employee moral improves and so does productivity and profits.

An historic case example is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Several construction employees had fallen to their deaths in the Golden Gate Straits so the chief engineer, Joseph B. Strauss, commissioned a net to be installed under the full span and ten feet wider on both sides. “Safety First” was adopted organizationally from top to bottom for all construction employees, moral dramatically improved, and the construction project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. 

Picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, a prime example of compliance and cooperation working together. 

This example shows dramatically how “cooperation” means more than mere “compliance”.

What is your opinion?

Your comments or suggestion are always welcome so please let us know your thoughts. Submit your ideas, experiences, and challenges on this subject in the comments section below. Click on the following text if you don't see a comments box, then scroll down: Machine Safety Culture: Compliance versus cooperation driven.  

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Contact: www.jbtitus.com for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.



For more than 30 years, J.B. Titus has advised a wide range of clients on machine functional safety solutions, including Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, General Motors, Disney, Rockwell Automation, Bridgestone Firestone, and Samsung Heavy Industries. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Oklahoma University in industrial management and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University in marketing and finance. He is a professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers and is OSHA-certified in machine guarding. Titus is also TUV-certified as a Functional Safety Expert and serves on several American National Standards Institute, National Fire Protection Association, and National Electrical Manufacturers Association national safety and health standards committees. Reach him at jb(at)jbtitus.com and via www.jbtitus.com.