3 Keys to Strengthen Safety

3 Keys to Strengthen Safety

Safety is a top priority for any supply chain organization, and communication is paramount to safe operations. Here are three ways that effective communication can mitigate operational risks and strengthen safety across the supply chain.

1. Communication with suppliers and vendors. Safety in the supply chain starts with strong supplier relationships. Often, communication with suppliers centers around an annual or quarterly scorecard, with minimal feedback in between.

To ensure safety in the supply chain, vendor relationships must be open, honest, and transparent every day of the year. Both negative and positive feedback are equally important and should flow freely between the teams. Much like an annual employee performance review, information shared at quarterly business reviews shouldn’t be a surprise, but more of a chance to continue to build upon the relationship that already exists.

These specific steps can help strengthen supplier communication and enhance safety procedures:

  • Move from annual to quarterly discussions with key suppliers; focus on maintaining lasting relationships.
  • Keep open lines of communication across all channels—digital, phone, and in person. In our digital world, some relationship-driven modes of communication are neglected.
  • Work to establish direct communication channels between the teams. Everyone should know who they can reach out to and for what, communication protocols should be established and agreed upon, and so on.
  • Discuss the important metrics and how they will be measured.
  • Establish a non-conformance, corrective action, and preventative action plan so that issues can be addressed in real time.

2. Communication with employees. During and after the pandemic, the industry faced unprecedented change, increasing burnout and employee turnover, and making it more challenging to maintain effective communication. It’s crucial to keep employees involved in safety and work to reduce turnover.

  • Start a safety committee and make safety a team effort.
  • Begin or expand employee wellness programs to prevent burnout.
  • Employ virtual training to enhance onsite/in-person training.
  • Utilize new technologies, including artificial intelligence, to help monitor workplace hazards.
  • View safety as a key component of company culture. Trends and technologies are important, but culture will always win.

3. Communication mechanisms. The supplier-to-customer flow of information and chain-of-custody is critical to supply chain safety. Digital data and documentation integrity are therefore as important as product safety.

For example, for safe transport, we develop data points at every step, starting with transport trailer temperature and seal logs. At receiving, we document lot and batch data, and tie documents electronically to the physical product. We store product in compliance with the Technical Data Sheet and Safety Data Sheet and internal requirements to assure product integrity at every step.

At a worksite, one tried-and-true safety measure is an accident and near-miss reporting plan. It’s important that organizational leaders dedicate time and resources to collecting data and evaluating workplace trends.

The best way to prevent an accident is to understand where challenges have historically come from. Armed with this information, engage employees through Safety Team involvement, provide baseline data, and include them when developing solutions. The most effective communication for safety is both data-informed and people-centered.