Don’t Let Documentation Be Your Weakest Link

posted in: BRSA Member News | 0

Documentation. Documentation. Documentation. We all know it is needed but it so often falls through the cracks. Documentation details, left undone, can be a serious weakness and a place of liability exposure in the event of a safety incident.
You may have an excellent form and process that you utilize for your safety inspections and housekeeping audits. Are you documenting the follow up, the actions taken to remedy the issues and problems that you find? Oftentimes we document our findings, but we don’t take the time to clearly document the measures taken to fix and correct. A safety auditor may find an issue on the checklist and just immediately fix it, but it’s there on the form saying it was a housekeeping problem. And as far as the documentation shows, there’s no indication of correction.
You may conduct regular drills for evacuation and shelter in place to prepare your employees for potential emergencies. Are you documenting the events and learning from them? Many times organizations will fill out the form, but the form isn’t asking questions concerning the follow up. A safety team member may record that the drill took 15 minutes to complete and several employees were observed pausing at their lockers to get their jackets. Where is the documentation of training to reinforce with employees to get out and not take the time to retrieve personal items before exiting the building?
You may have a good accident investigation form that you use to send in your first report of injury, but are you documenting the follow up actions to prevent that injury from occurring again? There is a tendency to focus just on the one employee involved in the accident, but better practice would be to review the situation for all employees that could learn from the incident. Are you conducting follow up training for all employees who could have the same type of accident exposure and documenting the training as a part of the accident investigation?
You may enjoy a workplace with a strong safety culture, but do your policies/procedures accurately reflect your expectations and are they keeping you in compliance with OSHA regulations?
You may regularly train employees and talk about safety at the beginning of all staff meetings, but is it recorded in your meeting notes?
You may regularly talk with employees and work with them to achieve ergonomic improvements and create reasonable accommodations. But are your conversations and solutions implemented and properly documented?
We often rely on the individual supervisor or manager to be diligent in record keeping, but when the complaint is filed oftentimes there is only the individual’s memory and their story that they had addressed the issue or concern. Without the documentation, it can put you in a tough spot.
We all feel overwhelmed by paperwork, but documentation is key. And sometimes just one document isn’t really getting the full job done. Think about root cause analysis tools, photographs, training documentation, records of conversation, accident and drill reports, housekeeping audits, etc. Documentation helps to record the details while they are fresh. Good processes will ensure that you’re taking the right steps to record all of the proactive measures you are taking – and the reactive ones - that now position you for a safer work environment. Review your documents – are they asking the right questions? Review your processes – is the follow up documentation a requirement? Look at it from an auditor’s perspective – does the documentation tell the full story of the efforts you’ve been putting into keeping your employees safe?
Documentation. Documentation. Documentation.
Lara Hoke
BRSA Board Member
Owner/Consultant, Leadership Foundations