Too often, manufacturers think of safety only in terms of compliance.

Its easy to understand why. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires companies to observe a wealth of rules and regulations designed to keep workers safe and healthy in their workplaces. Fines can be hefty if the federal agency catches a manufacturing company not complying with those regulations, and severe consequences are assured -- to both the manufacturer and employee -- if failure to comply with the regulations leads to grievous injuries or even death.

Nevertheless, safety should not be only about compliance, says lean consultant Robert B. Hafey, president of RBH Consulting and author of Lean Safety: Transforming your Safety Culture with Lean Management. His expertise comes from some 40 years working in manufacturing at companies that include U.S. Steel and Flexco, where he spent part of his tenure as director of lean operations.

Hafey says safety should also be about building a culture that engages the entire workforce in improving workplace safety. However, too often the safety role is put in the hands of one person (human resources manager or EHS director, for example) to push down to the employees.

You have to have compliance, but you can also have a continuous improvement component, Hafey says.