Monday, April 20, 2015

Pebbles – Safety annoyances

We all have disappointments in life.  Often these are also distractions that take our mind and focus off the important things we need to do on and off the job.  Recently my son called me when he received the annual review after his first year with a new organization; he only got a “meets expectations” instead of the “exceeds expectations” he had hoped for, which caused his personal mindset to be in the pits. .  We had a long series of discussions over the next couple of days as I shared some similar and non similar events which had affected my outlook over the years.  In each case, these disappointing circumstances turned out to be minor setbacks and annoyances that did not make any real difference in what I was doing in the near term.  They were like pebbles in my shoe.  That is except when I allowed the pebbles in my shoe to become boulders in my path as I became mentally unglued, reacting as if they were a big deal.  On rare occasions, I made career altering decisions, which delivered some painful realities I soon regretted.  I should have taken the pebble out of my shoe and continued to focus on what was truly important, rather than letting this moment in time distraction become such a big deal. 

Every job I have ever had has come with some small aggravating details I’d rather not be bothered with.  And yet each organization has these non value added pebbles that must be lived with.  As they arrive at my moment in time, the correct thing for me to do is to stop, remove the pebble, and then get on with life.  Complaining may give me a momentary mentally satisfying emotional release, but coming unglued over these annoyances only makes it worse, not better. 

As safety pros, we all get to do some required tasks which just seem to be a big waste of time.  When in reality, they are just a little waste of time in the bigger scheme of things that we are being called to do.  So I have learned to “just get over it” rather than making short term reactive decisions that sink my long term ability to accomplish what is truly important.  Are you being bothered with some pebbles in your shoe you need to pluck and chuck and then get on with what makes a difference in the lives of those we are called to serve and save?

The Doc   

Monday, April 13, 2015

Six sigma calculations – value added safety statistics

The concept of using error rates for safety in a six sigma methodology has interest to the continuous improvement community.  Interest yes, but functionality not so much.  The six sigma approach started in the quality statistics realm as a means to measure first pass yield where sigma is the standard deviation measurement from a normal value.  In the quality world, reducing the deviation from a standard (desired) value is a measure of quality improvement of the normal or desired value. 

·         One sigma a value of 68.5% first pass perfect quality yield

·         Two sigma – 98.5%

·         Three sigma – 99.7%

·         Four sigma – 99.97%

·         Five sigma – 99.997%

·         Six sigma – 99.9997% perfect or approximately three parts per million error rate

At the beginning of the quality revolution there was a significant effort to get to three sigma performance, or three defects out of each 1000 items produced.  As more emphasis was placed on perfection, many organizations realized how difficult it was to be perfect with all the subcomponents in an assembly especially as each error has a multiplier effect on the final product quality level. 

So what about six sigma injury levels? 

·         Our North American statistics are based on 200,000 hours, or 100 years of labor (100 people each working a year).  If this is extrapolated to a million hours (500 labor years) six sigma performance would be three total lost or decreased output hours for that amount of time.  Here the focus is on what is not desired (injuries), is totally reactive and gives no input as to what can be done to reduce injuries.  This kind of six sigma safety indicator is difficult to measure or tabulate and even if it can be done consistently, still delivers no information that can improve injury performance.

·         The focus on lagging indicators gets even more difficult as an organization’s injury rate improves (lessens).  There are fewer and fewer errors (hours of injuries) to count and the concept of diminishing returns quickly suggests changing focusing to leading indicators like safety accountabilities, which help to prevent injuries.  There are literally thousands of possibilities for leading indicator activities (those associated with upstream processes that deliver downstream results).  This kind of leading activity can be measured, reinforced and tabulated in safety dashboard indicators, which actually make a positive difference in the quest to reduce injuries.  As these leading activities become ingrained in the organization’s safety culture, new safety accountabilities can be added to refresh and renew the relentless efforts needed to eliminate injuries in the workplace.  The bottom line; move away from injury rate measurements and focus on what it takes to help reduce injury rates (safety accountabilities across the organizations personnel). 

The Doc   

Monday, April 6, 2015

Heraclitus – Tomorrow’s safety challenges

Recently, I was working with a mining organization that spiked employee interest as a way to improve the required compliance training that seems endless and repetitive.  They use safety trivia, such as a football game analogy where each team gets a few yards for answering safety questions over the course of the class.  The first team to 100 yards receives bragging rights and a token prize.  To add a challenge, each team can have one “Hail Mary” pass worth 35 yards if they get the correct answer to a difficult question.  They asked me the question, “Where and when were explosives first used in mining?”  Hungary in 1627 was a pass out of my reach, but I stumped them and they dropped my pass with “What do the initials “H. W.” stand for in H.W. Heinrich’s name?”* 

Or how about “What advice did the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus say that can guide us in safety?”  Heraclitus is known for (ok known obscurely for) “You can’t step twice in the same river.”  This raised a big “Huh?” out of the crowd and we got down to being serious about his meaning that ‘everything changes’ so we must be engaged in improving what we do to reduce injuries.  The same ol’ same ol’ just isn’t effective in the long run.  If there is to be improvement, we will be forced to balance today’s reality with tomorrow’s culture. 

Safety is serious work for this particular customer as their Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) of 0.45 in a very dangerous industry is still not good enough for them to stop considering tomorrow’s safety culture reality challenges. The mining industry is well known for potential dangers and it crosses many global cultures, which is why the mining industry is always on the lookout for how to improve and overcome the challenges of its safety “river.” How are you doing considering the new rivers your safety reality will require you to step into in the present and in the future? 

*Herbert Wagner

The Doc     

Monday, March 30, 2015

Change – Safety stagnation

There are sayings in many languages about the difficulty of changing our long established habits and ways of doing things.  In English, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In French, “Ce n’est pas à un vieux singe qu’ on apprend à faire la grimace.”  (You can’t teach an old monkey how to pull a funny face).  In Spanish, “El loro viejo no aprende a hablar.”  (An old parrot can’t learn to speak).  No matter where we live, there seems to be a significant physical and psychological inertia that inhibits we humans from doing anything other than what we somehow have learned to do since we were raised from childhood.  This leads to another English expression you all have heard, “The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” 

As safety professionals, if we followed this cultural inevitability malaise we would still be back in the circa 1911 start of our profession re-experiencing the likes of the Triangle Shirt Waist factory multiple fatality tragedy.  The focus of the safety profession must be a continual improvement that relentlessly ekes our way to a safety culture of correct.  We work to eliminate: fatalities, then lost time injuries, then medical incidents, then personal risk evaluation failures, then…..

My Papa used to quote a famous author whose scenario had a mother asking her sons, “What don’t you have to do? You don’t have to solve all the world’s problems.  Just a few, there are plenty to go around.  What do you have to do?  Always do the right thing.”  Let us continue to resist the insanity of safety (and personal) status quo and keep engaging in doing the right things.

The Doc

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fatigue Series - Wrap Up

Wrapping up the FRMS….or not.

Over the last several weeks, we have run a whirlwind tour through the basic framework of a Fatigue Risk Management System.  If you have kept pace week to week, you should be all done.  Just kidding.  But hopefully you have begun to formulate some ideas on getting started or have even taken the first steps into engaging leadership on the concept.  For those of you who may have already done some work on different phases, you may be working on integrating those parts into a more concise system.

As a wrap-up until next time, I will leave you with a few key ideas:

Beware of the silver bullet (especially if you’re a Lycanthrope….Google it for more info).  The silver bullet can come in many different forms but it is usually a good idea at the heart.  Sometimes it is technology.  Sometimes it is a process.  Whatever it is, don’t think that any one fatigue countermeasure eliminates your risk for fatigue and distraction on its own.  More and more, I’m finding that within each layer of protection, more than one countermeasure is needed to optimize the mitigation of fatigue.  And even then, no single layer of protection can stand alone, no matter how comprehensively it is implemented.  As an example, implementing even a wide range of fatigue mitigating technologies will yield lower returns if the culture into which it is implemented is negative. 

Don’t use an axe when you need a scalpel.  Sometimes we believe that if we just blanket our workforce with massive amounts of information, some of it will sink in or at least be received by those who need it.  While in theory this is true, it can also dilute the message.  Take care to craft your communications and target your solutions to those individuals or groups that will benefit most from it. 

Hare vs. Tortoise.   As you begin to implement your FRMS, keep in mind that this is a marathon.  While you will expect to see progress in the short term, sustaining it takes perseverance, integrated systems and dedication.  Also be aware of overwhelming people with new programs, information and systems.  We are still humans (except for those Lycanthropes.  Did you Google it yet?) and need time to ingest and digest new things.  This also means that a regular drip of information is important for long term retention and sustainability.

Check your work.  Again.  I have beat this drum in previous posts and I’m doing it again….you must check your progress.  You have no way of knowing whether the work you are doing is having an impact if you don’t reassess after a countermeasure is implemented.  Even if this check is a cursory review of data or a short survey, you will gain insight into the effectiveness of the work you are doing.  I’d prefer a more in depth analysis, but sometimes this isn’t always possible.   If you have set up your FRMS properly, you should already have identified the metrics for success.

For those of you who did keep pace through all the posts and jumped to work right away and think you’re done, you might want to go back and have a deeper dive….If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email.

Sleep well,

Todd D.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fatigue Series - CHECK

Check, please.

At this point in the process, you have put in a significant amount of time and resources into your FRMS and are probably ready to sit back and let it roll.  You may have had some challenges, but I’m sure you have also received immediate positive feedback on many of your countermeasure implementations.  Now comes one of the most often forgotten stages of your FRMS; the continuous improvement “Check” phase.

Do you remember anything particularly annoying about math teachers from your childhood?  Personally, aside from preferences about style and personal characteristics, the one thing I remember that was pounded into me from early on was the phrase “check your work.”  After every math worksheet, the final stage was the “Check” phase.  This served me pretty well all the way through high school, university and today.  Why do I need to check my work?  Of course there is the obvious answer: to make sure I have done it correctly and gotten the correct answer.  A not so obvious reason is because it allows me to also see where I have made mistakes, which is a subtle difference, but an important one.  We can learn from the mistakes and misfires.

In the FRMS, we do the Check to identify whether or not our countermeasures have been effective and to what degree.  This helps us understand and justify the time and effort we put into it.  Once you have done the check, don’t be afraid to share the information.  In fact, I highly recommend you share the information with your entire site.  Communicating this information keeps people interested in the work as well as puts out a reminder that this is not a flash in the pan or flavor of the month.   Rather, it is something that is becoming engrained into the regular operation and culture of the site.

Like our math, we also do the Check in our FRMS to identify where we may have had less than stellar results.  At this point, we re-enter the FRMS wheel to identify why we did not accomplish what we intended and begin to re-assess where we are still having challenges and how we might approach solving them. 

On the topic of timing for your Check phase, you don’t have to wait a certain period of time before conducting your Check.  For one thing, you may have multiple roll outs during your implementation.  If, for example, you conduct some initial training and education on fatigue, you don’t need to wait until you have implemented your other countermeasures before checking the effectiveness of the training.  In fact, you may have multiple Checks for each countermeasure.  Using the training countermeasure as an example, you might conduct an immediate Check following the training to determine perceived value of the program and any immediate feedback.  Then have a 6 month Check to see if the concepts are being used and how you may be able to reinforce them. 

While your Check phase should include a comprehensive analysis and review of operational, HR and other hard data, don’t leave out the subjective information you can gather as well.  The subjective data might assist you in developing countermeasures that have a real and immediate impact for your employees. 

And the FRMS wheel keeps rolling….

Todd D.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fatigue Series - IMPLEMENT

Let’s Go!  Implement

We have spent a significant amount of time in the FRMS already and some of you may be feeling like we haven’t actually DONE anything yet.  I understand completely.  But I also know from past experience that without a solid, comprehensive and well planned program, we often end up running around putting bandages on things, putting out fires or just plain shutting things down.  With all of our initial work to Engage, Assess, Define and Develop largely done, we now turn our focus on rolling out our layers of protection. 

A key area of the Implementation phase is the communication to all stakeholders.  This includes employees, supervisors, managers and executives.  The content may be different but it is a necessary part of the implementation roll out.  Communication helps set the stage as well as get feedback on potential resistance that may need to be addressed.  This also goes a long way in creating and improving the safety and fatigue management culture.  Be sure to share specific timelines, expectations and outcomes as well as provide avenues for input.  This starts to be very important and helpful for our Check phase which will follow our Implementation.

You will also benefit from these communications as they will form part of the data you use to determine the effectiveness of your countermeasures and possible improvements.  And remember that you will need real and honest input from participants in the countermeasures.  If they feel that they can be honest in their responses and data, you will get the truth about the effectiveness of your layers of protection.

One thing I want to mention here is that as we work through the beginning stages of the FRMS, we may identify some areas where we can have immediate successes in mitigating fatigue.  One example may be related to fatigue technology that was implemented as part of the Assess stage.  There is nothing wrong with keeping these technologies running as we work on the rest of our FRMS.  However, a word of caution: don’t take any successes from this and assume you are done.  If you have conducted a comprehensive Assess phase, you will have identified multiple sources and impacts of fatigue.  These need to be properly worked through as well.  But you can build off potential success from quick hitting implementations throughout the entire FRMS.  As another example, you may identify that you need to provide training specifically for supervisors on managing fatigue in themselves and their reports.  As long as you have gone through the process of identifying the materials, communications, timing, etc., there is no reason to wait until you have completed the Develop phase for the other layers of protection.

So, as you implement, don’t forget to capture the feedback.  I hope and believe you will start to see how you are improving the lives of all involved.

Todd D.

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