PSMS is not just another program you purchase, read, and place on the shelf until next year. It is a culture of safety and accountability that begins with leaders and managers and works all the way down to employees and contractors. PSMS is not a regulatory requirement that you check off your list as complete either. It is something you do voluntarily because you believe in it – because it’s the right thing to do.
Buy-in from leadership and management is the first step toward ensuring that your PSMS program gets off the ground and progresses forward. But, what will motivate leaders and managers to buy in to this cultural change? After all, it’s not a specific regulatory requirement.
Leadership and Management Commitment is the first element of a PSMS, so let’s begin with identifying the three key players that can make that element successful. These key players are your top-level managers, middle managers, and employees. Each of these groups has a crucial role in demonstrating commitment to a Pipeline Safety Management System.
Now, let’s examine those roles as they apply to cultivating a safety culture that believes in PSMS.
Top-Level Management, also known as your C-Suite, refers to your Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, etc. These officials play a crucial part in leading the company towards its vision. If your vision is to minimize or reduce pipeline incidents caused by human error (which, incidentally, is a regulatory requirement of the Final Operator Qualification Rule), then what are you doing today to lead your company towards this vision?
Top-level leadership should demonstrate support for this commitment, establish goals and measurable objectives, and make communication, risk reduction, and continuous improvements that align with your organization’s vision.
But why do you do this? Your “why” is the answer that will help you to create a culture where your employee’s beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes reflect a voluntary desire to follow a continuous improvement process to be safer and to be better. These drivers can have a very direct impact on a company’s bottom line, public perception, and employee engagement.
So, what is the responsibility of middle management in the PSMS Program? Middle management consists of your managers, supervisors, and foremen. These individuals do more than just point out the safety posters and labels in the workplace. They ensure that the plans, policies, and procedures in place are being followed. They execute day-to-day work activities and establish performance measures for the personnel responsible for PSMS elements. They also conduct regular reviews of progress and nurture the safety culture.
Middle management follows the lead of top-level management. Together, they set the example for employees in the workplace. If either key player takes short-cuts, disregards safety, or accepts deviation from policies and regulations, employees will learn to be complacent; likewise, if key players demonstrate safety and set clear outcomes and expectations for their workforce, employees will learn to do the right thing because they, too, believe in the organization’s vision.
The third key player, equally important as the other two, is the employee. If a safety culture is cultivated in an organization, it will be easier for employees to embrace Pipeline Safety Management Systems. To promote engagement, companies should ensure that employees have a voice within the organization. Doing this will empower employees to willingly desire to identify and report risks, suggest potential improvements, and act to prevent or minimize incidents. Establishing a safety culture can help engage employees, and engaged employees become safe employees. If your employees are disengaged, or if you are seeing a high percentage of incidents, ask your employees how things would change for families and friends if they, or one of their co-workers, were severely injured, disabled or killed because of short-cutting safety measures. Sometimes, facing brutal potential realities can help an organization make positive changes and introduce a new safety culture where employees are fully vested in their work. Employees, too, must feel an emotional connection to safety culture. It is up to upper leadership and management to empower employees to feel engaged in embracing PSMS.
For a PSMS program to be successful, it takes a collaborative approach. No one key player can pull the weight when it comes to cultivating a successful PSMS program. From the CEO to the field hand, everyone must buy into the idea that safety is the top priority, and everyone must contribute.
What are the first steps in approaching the implementation of a Pipeline Safety Management System?
If the leaders of a company can commit, then everyone in the company will benefit.