Andy Warhol And Nonprofit Workplace Safety

October 2, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Workplace safety is a managerial task that is easy to overlook. It is seldom top-of-mind until an accident happens. It is difficult to monitor and often dry to think about and map out. Perhaps the answer is to take an artist’s approach.

    During his presentation, “What Andy Warhol Taught Me About Workplace Safety” during the 2017 Nonprofit Risk Summit in Philadelphia, Pa., Michael Gurtler, managing partner and senior consultant at Safe-Wise Consulting, walked through what nonprofit managers might learn from the eccentric artist. Primary topics included:

  • Interpret old problems in different ways. Warhol’s most famous painting was a soup can popular in millions of American homes. How can that same mindset be used to evaluate workplace risk? Keep in mind principle goals including keeping workers on the job and productive, employee morale, and fiscal prudence such as achieving a low modification rating — a factor in worker’s compensation premiums. With these goals in mind, don’t necessarily focus on completely preventing harm as that is likely impossible, but instead find prominent areas in which harm can easily be reduced;
  • Start with a blank slate. Like Warhol with a new canvas, structure your workplace risk assessment for success ahead of time. That starts with buy-in from the top down, upper-level management frequently uninvolved in workplace safety procedures. Engage staff and volunteers from there to form a safety committee. A safety committee might track trends in workplace accidents, conduct building walkthroughs to evaluate prominent areas of risk, and organize emergency drills; and,
  • Find your muse. One fairly direct way of going about doing that is to walk a mile in an employee’s shoes to understand their environment, practices, and equipment. Rickety ladders, too short for some of the purposes they are used for, is a common example of an accident waiting to happen. Another might be chemical exposure. Staff at a community organization with a pool might, for instance, work with large quantities of chemicals. Using gloves, goggles, and aprons is thus necessary to ensure safety. Understand how your staff members go about their jobs to identify correctable risky behaviors.