Monday, August 18, 2014

Pura Vida – Your safety legacy

Recently, I was in the Central American country of Costa Rica.  While there I kept hearing the phrase Pura Vida as people greeted one another.  As I discussed this with our host he gave me two translations; the word by word meaning is the pure life.  However, to the local people the real meaning being expressed is akin to “we are living the good life.”  And thus the greeting was really conveying a national belief that these times in our lives in our country are really the good life we are being blessed to experience daily.  I was being treated to their national pride face-to-face as individuals from all walks of life gave me this greeting accompanied by an infectious smile.


And then it struck me that Pura Vida is really core to the safety profession.  What we do on a daily basis is to help our employees, family, customers and guests live a personal careful culture that is always about eliminating the possibility of incidents which can destroy the good life.  However, unlike a catchy happy phrase, our Pura Vida goes deeper into each of us (employees, family, customers, friends, guests) having a personal set of safety accountabilities that when practiced helps deliver a personal Pura Vida.  As safety pros we have a responsibility to use our professional knowledge, skills and experiences to help ourselves and others live a personal safety culture of correct in all that they do on and off the job.


Pura Vida


The Doc    

Monday, August 11, 2014

Juice – How much safety effort is enough?

The technical detail available to members of our profession is incredible.  It also has the potential to be suffocating as the voluminous regulations, ISO policies, procedures, local site requirements, paperwork, basic training, etc. become overwhelming commitments of our time and effort.  With all this focus on reactive and condition-based issues, where is the time for a safety engineering focus that goes beyond traditional safety?  Is there a time when this traditional approach to safety gives a marginal return on investment of our time and efforts that approaches zero?  In short; “The juice is no longer worth the squeeze.”  A performance plateau has been reached that requires another set of tools and techniques to deliver beyond the current status quo.


In the competitive business world, performance plateaus are a common occurrence.  There are numerous books written about new techniques and technologies that, when innovators give them a try, are all about increasing more juice for the amount of squeeze being applied.  And when the next new technique plateaus another innovator does more research into hardware, software and people approaches which deliver a renewed return on the investment; more juice for the new squeeze.


Safety has a parallel that goes back 100 years or so from guarding hardware, through observations, policies, procedures, psychology, automation, etc.  At each technology plateau there is a lull as the next innovator tries and documents the next squeeze that needs to be tried.  All the while the other techniques remain in place as a firm foundation for what must come next if we are to continue the relentless approach to a zero incident safety culture.  Just like in business, in safety we build on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.


The Rapid Improvement Workshop approach that delivers intense, in depth engagement solutions from across the organization is a new and current squeeze which continues to deliver the zero incident culture juice that benefits us all on and off the job.  As in the business world there are leaders, followers and laggards when it comes to trying the new and challenging approaches which will shape our future and will, in turn, become our new normal.  If your traditional squeeze has stopped delivering the juice of ever fewer incidents the Rapid Improvement Workshop technology may very well be the return on investment you can successfully implement next as the never ending squeeze on your time and effort resources continues.  May the juice be with you as you apply the daily force.


The Doc      

Monday, August 4, 2014

Trust – Confirming safety reality

Safety pros have responsibility for a complex and wide range of issues.  There seems to be an endless list of policies, procedures, regulations, conditions, personalities, operations pressures, etc., ad infinitum, (ad nausea?).  There is just way too much detail and immediacy as we try to continually improve the protection of our fellow employees.  This leads to a tacit trusting of all the safety stuff other than what is demanding our immediate attention.


Safety pros are not the only ones who live in this kind of complex, ever more demanding work reality.  Time and again the news reports detail alarming failures from other professions and situations where a group failed to verify what they were trusting in.  I am sure that “TRUST, BUT VERIFY” is a concept most of us have heard more than once.  After all, isn’t this the basis for all the auditing we are tasked with doing? 


However, verifying must go beyond a paperwork process.  It must go into field practice.  Over the years, I have found that new eyes reviewing these policies, procedures and actual work practices make a subtle, but very real difference in proofing what we are doing in our ever changing work reality.  Front-line employee teams trained and tasked with verification have covered me more than once.  When trained and engaged in the protection of themselves, their co-workers and their families, these local subject matter experts add new life, professionalism and intensity to our areas of trust.  These safety trust areas must truly be verified with an intensity which defeats complacency and the dangers of focusing only on the immediate and expedient.


The Doc   

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Vulcan Mind Meld – Achieving a common, excellent safety culture

The basics of safety like PPE, JSA, OSHA, etc. are good fundamentals.  However, achieving true safety excellence must include both the basics and go beyond them.  The old Star Trek adventure series had the ideal solution; a Vulcan Mind Meld that transferred total knowledge from one person to another.  But somehow this fantasy solution is just not available to those of us who have to live and operate in the current world of reality. 


We seem to be more in an Enterprise Resource Planning world where a mile wide and an inch deep is just not good enough.  We must build systems, procedures and practices with intensity; an intensity that deals with error proofing and delivering excellence in all that our machines and people do on a daily basis.  We must develop, prove and live the safety culture which can meld the minds and actions of our people and families into living a culture of correct.  This goes into the hard work of reality and beyond science fiction and hope for the best.


What can achieve this mind meld safety culture?  I think it takes a pit bull mentality with respect to safety; one that is relentless, untiring, totally engaged, focused on just the next thing and all the while doing the basics very well.  I guess this would be called something like a Pit Bull Vulcan Mind Meld safety culture.


The Doc

Monday, July 21, 2014

Petting the tiger – normalizing safety dangers

For years, the Las Vegas tiger show wowed audiences as Siegfried and Roy petted the tigers.  Slowly and lethally the new normal lulled the entertainers into complacency with their truly dangerous pets.  And then one day…….


Are our level one audits delivering a similar complacency as we once again review the same paperwork, the same fire extinguishers, the same training logs, the same…..  What about changing our audits to look for:



  • Deviance in procedures actually being followed to the T

  • Critical risks being reviewed, recalibrated and reinforced

  • Actual employee knowledge being evaluated with one-on-one discussions

  • Training processes that deliver knowledge, skills and attitudes which make a difference in safety performance

  • A living, vibrant safety culture that consistently strives to engage our employees in a relentless pursuit of improvement


Unfortunately, many audit processes unwittingly serve to normalize an ever subtle slow degradation of standards which need to have progressed beyond what was good enough in years past.  This slow normalization of deviances can become like Siegfried and Roy petting a tiger that in the unobserved background is truly a dangerous, somewhat sleepy beast.  This kind of sleepy normalization of deviance is a cultural malaise that eats systems and procedures for breakfast. 


If we are to own the high ground and thereby own the planet for excellence in safety culture normalization of diligence is the answer, not normalization of deviance.  Our safety processes, communications and audits must go beyond petting the tiger of complacency. 


The Doc   

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monsoon – Seasonal safety realities

Global and regional companies experience seasonal peculiarities that can have a definite impact on the employees and their families.  Last month I received a warning notice from a facility cautioning their employees about “Monsoon June.”  The anticipated heavy winds and rains have caused major damage, injuries and deaths during previous monsoon seasons.  Many of our readers have their own regional dangers; brush fires, heat index spikes, subzero temperatures, hunting seasons, home repairs and the like.


Many monsoon seasons ago when I was a part of our country’s armed services, every Friday we mustered to hear about anticipated safety realities for those who were granted a weekend pass off base.  Each week the message was fresh based on weather, anticipated regional activities in our area and what young people who were footloose and off base might expect to encounter while being outside the control of the service regimen.  The Friday after I had a motorcycle – automobile collision I had the opportunity to give the safety briefing based on my personal experience. 


You might consider beginning appropriate, timely off-the-job safety briefings on the days your people are most at risk, i.e., when they are on their own away from the work site.  A number of studies show that most injuries to industrial employees occur while they and their families/friends are off-the-job.


The Doc

Monday, July 7, 2014

Evaporative Acts – Addressing front line safety culture weaknesses

Recently, one of our safety pro acquaintances made a disturbing discovery; his responsibility for improving safety was being hampered by a culture of evaporative acts in the work groups with whom he was to meet.  His approach of engaging in open-ended safety conversations with front line employees had developed trust among many of the people at each of the work sites.  As he did a casual one-on-one with the workers he was surprised to hear that there were two sets of safety rules:



  • When the crew knew a safety vehicle was sighted or when a safety resource was scheduled to do a drive by evaluation, front line employees were stringent about following all the PPE and procedure rules

  • When the crew was not bothered by the safety cop visits, there was a get ‘er done attitude that lacked the correct safety culture


When the safety resources were present the lackluster safety realities almost magically “evaporated” and all the safety correct culture items and attitudes were donned, but only temporally.  The results of this kind of evaporative acts culture include:



  • A false sense of security that inevitably leads to injuries 

  • A  realization that as long as front line supervisory leadership does not take the initiative to address safety issues the safety professional remains trapped in a reactive mode of correcting safety incidents


Another realization he had was the need to provide the strong leadership necessary to improve the front line safety culture.  A current initiative is to develop and live a safety culture that embodies the following:



  • If you see it, you own it

  • Do it safe, do it right all the time

  • Stop, think and act correctly


Are evaporative acts a weakness of your organization’s safety culture? 


The Doc

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