Workplace safety should be a top priority for any organization. However, in today’s fast-paced business environment, safety protocols often get left behind in the race to meet deadlines and deliver results. This is where Agile methodologies can play a key role. Agile emphasizes iterate delivery, rapid adaptation to change, team collaboration and continuous improvement. These same principles can also apply to enhancing workplace safety when adopted as a “Safe Agilist” approach. In this post, we will explore 5 ways to leverage safe agilist practices to boost safety awareness and create a preventative safety culture.
Communicate Safety Goals Transparently
A hallmark of Agile management is promoting transparency on team priorities, objectives and progress to key stakeholders. The same philosophy can communicate the importance of safety across the organization.
Leadership should set clear safety goals and targets (e.g. reducing incident rates by a certain percentile over a quarter). These should be visible to everyone through internal communications campaigns, workplace posters, team meetings and more. When priorities are visible, alignment improves at all levels on health and safety.
This transparency sets the tone that safety is integral to delivery, not a sidelined compliance issue. It also builds accountability to improve unsafe conditions, not just report them. Overall, the focus becomes proactive injury prevention above reactive incident response.
Inspect Progress Frequently
The Agile cadences of daily standups, weekly reviews and sprint retrospectives serve as frequent touchpoints to inspect and adapt work. These same rhythms can drive continuous safety improvement when implemented as regular safety inspections and audit reviews.
Safety committees can organize daily 5–10-minute safety stand ups to promptly identify risks like overflowing waste bins, blocked emergency exits, damaged electrical cords etc. Teams can also hold weekly safety reviews to track metrics and lead safety tool box talks on recent incidents and hazards relevant to the work.
These Agile ceremonies provide recurring opportunities to review safety improvement goals and initiatives. They enable rapid iterations and open feedback loops on working conditions, not just output.
Empower Autonomous Safety Teams
Agile teams are structured as empowered units that take ownership of their delivery commitments. Similarly, autonomous safety teams can be created responsible for overseeing health protocols within set perimeters.
These cross-functional safety crews conduct internal audits, develop safety enhancements, control safety equipment inventory and submit ideas to senior management on reducing risks. Freed from top-down control, they leverage process improvement frameworks like Lean and Six Sigma to optimize safety.
When accountable for safety themselves, they proactively assess threats, test controls and pilot better interventions. Their on the ground expertise breeds safety innovation.
Automate Manual Safety Processes
Agile teams rely on test automation, advanced analytics and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to accelerate delivery speeds. The same technology can upgrade manual safety processes prone to human error.
Automated infrared scanners can check for social distancing breaches, computer vision can catch dangerous behaviors, wearables can alert lack of PPE and sensors monitor air quality and noise pollution. When hazard surveillance, safety training, incident reporting and compliance audits are automated, reliability, accuracy and speed improves dramatically.
This prevents safety falling through the cracks while enabling data-backed risk insights to mitigate future accidents through predictive analytics.
Sprint retrospectives are Agile ceremonies facilitating regular reflection on what worked well, what requires improvement and how to upgrade teams’ way of working. Safety retrospectives take the same approach to prevent recurrence of incidents.
Each safety incident should spur a focused retrospection on root causes – human errors, process flaws, technical faults etc. The key questions are – Why did it occur? How can it be prevented in future? What corrective actions must be taken?
This no-blame analysis educates wider staff on safety vulnerabilities while informing policy and equipment investments to address them. When done frequently, retrospective findings get integrated back into operations to boost safety performance.
Workplace safety demands the same conscientious proactivity expected of other business functions today in the technology age. By aligning core agile practices like transparency, inspection, empowerment, automation and retrospection to safety management, organizations can reap similar benefits of responsiveness, reliability and resilience. When made intrinsically safety-conscious, Agile ways of working can prevent the next accident waiting to happen through modern preventative strategies that learn iteratively.