Monday, October 5, 2015

Hormesis – the right prescription for Safety

We need a strategy. We need to know the real pain points. We need input and opinions. On almost every corner, we are enticed, corralled or strong-armed in to providing data points for others to strategize an improvement plan for our lives.  In small doses, surveys are beneficial to gauge people’s interests & perceptions. But at some point they become counterproductive. In the medical world, Hormesis is the effect in which a positive result comes from exposure to small doses of a potential toxin. In large quantities, they can be lethal. A quick Google search on ‘Consumer Surveys’ nets 9.7 million results. They are everywhere.

Over the years, I’ve had my share of safety professional conversations about meaningful surveys, how & when to implement and the perceived value to participants. I won’t debate the quantity of surveys at which you get diminishing returns. However, as we pursue the Hormesis affect, we want to avoid Rhabdomyolysis. Although I’m not a doctor (initials M.D.), I do like the dichotomy of these two words. In layman terms, Rhaddomyolysis is the release of a kidney-damaging protein following over-stimulation of a muscle.

To ensure you’re getting truth from the workforce on safety matters, here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to deploy a survey and ultimately administer a prescription:
  • How does management currently demonstrate visible commitment to safety as a value within the organization?
  • In what measurable ways are front line employees engaged in safety processes?
  • Name specific activities supervisors do on a regular basis to emphasize the importance of safety?
  • Currently how does your organization measure the presence of safety vs. the absence of incidents?

After conducting countless surveys & employee interviews, these are cultural issues I see come up again and again. A safety survey is really nothing more than data points unless management is authentically prepared to address these questions ahead of time. And engaging with the workforce on solving these issues will ultimately determine your level of success. We all know culture change takes time to be fully integrated into day to day business. So when should we take the next survey you ask? Experience shows deploying a benchmark survey to gauge perceptions is best served at a minimum 18-24 month after your baseline survey.

So keep the Hormesis flowing but avoid the toxic levels and be prepared to act on the results. As my pharmacist father use to tell me “it’s more than just counting pills, it’s understanding the purpose and the goal.”

Mark Dowsett

Account Manager – Caterpillar Safety Services

Monday, July 13, 2015

Money Matters – Principles that work everywhere, including Safety

This blog is written by a guest author, Mark Dowsett. Mark is an Account Manager for Caterpillar Safety Services with extensive experience building relationships with customers on their safety culture improvement journey.

Those of us who have raised, or are raising children end up needing to have a conversation with our kids about money realities.  Such a conversation will likely go very deep if we are to ensure an understanding that leads to viable, responsible action. This includes sharing our own personal finances. Recently one of my children received the dreaded Overdraft notice and its $35 charge. This kind of trigger event needs to be a wakeup call for whoever it occurs to whether they are young or old.  It also needs to remind  professionals / parents about the importance of equipping ‘our flock’ with the ongoing training, execution and follow up which helps to ensure success in whatever activity / value needs to be learned.
This particular trigger event caused me to cover a host of items that could help our child manage their own finances. Our deep dive included things like; reviewing the cell phone bill, sharing my own credit card statement, acquiring their personal credit report, making sure to conceal the key pad when entering the passcode at the ATM, understanding pricing at the store ($3.99 vs. $4.00), understanding automobile insurance policies, budgeting and the list goes on and on. My goal is to equip them to take personal accountability to succeed, stay engaged on this topic and avoid paying (or me paying) unnecessary penalties in the short and long term. In the end, each of us, whether mentor or student, has a personal responsibility and accountability to do our own part.
And it struck me that a personal responsibility, accountability and maturity to live a culture of correct with respect to an individual’s finances is not really any different from how we should approach safety. It’s called Accountability and the same four key characteristics apply:
  • Define: Explain in simple terms your expectations and what measures will be applied to demonstrate learning, progress and excellence. Ensure any necessary training clearly maps to the defined value added expectations.
  • Train: Engage with others using tools which allow them to apply what they need to learn in a practice setting whenever possible (a video that delivers ‘check in the box’ training doesn’t count).
  • Measure: Check progress on defined expectations. This goes beyond observation and focuses on defined activities which lead to value added downstream results.  Asking open-ended questions is a process that always seems to work well (i.e., “Tell me about…?”)
  • Recognize: Deep down we all appreciate a little genuine recognition. When people complete tasks as defined, we need to take the extra minute to acknowledge their efforts.
I have witnessed firsthand as senior management demonstrates an authentic and visible approach to safety as a value and how this improves the overall safety culture.  This same authentic, visible feedback session works with our family finance issues.  In fact the same accountability model crosses any number of processes when working with family, or employees, or acquaintances who want to improve their performance no matter what the process. If we don’t follow this process, we are leaving it up to each person’s guess of what constitutes correct actions and responsibilities for important processes that affect our lives and theirs – does it matter?  You bet it does!

- Mark Dowsett, Caterpillar Safety Services

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ambassador – The safety pro at work

Business cards are an interesting and strange part of the global culture.  In the Far East business cards are carefully transferred from one person to another and likewise carefully analyzed to gain insight into the person before any business conversation begins.  In the West the business card is often tossed haphazardly onto a desk or table, then summarily dismissed as a business conversation gets into full swing.  I imagine many of us have business card collections that have hundreds of names, associated titles, pictures, languages and logos that we have collected over the years.

Are there any that attract your attention other than those with which you’ve developed a strong relationship? I have one that stood out to me; its title is simply “Ambassador.” And that brings to mind what an ambassador is:
·         A person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity
·         An important person who carefully and professionally represents their employer organization
·         An individual who develops strong relationships with their organization’s personnel
·         An individual who develops strong relationships with important people outside their organization; those people who can make a difference in improving the ambassador’s organization
·         A person who tries to improve another organization’s performance
I am sure you can add a few more characteristics of a good ambassador.  That said how can we in the safety profession be good ambassadors to the people of the world around us?

The Doc

Monday, June 29, 2015

Einstein – Solving difficult safety problems

Our profession is one that has us facing a seemingly never ending stream of problems which affect human lives.  Many of these are “fly swatter” issues that require fixing a broken component, clearing a work area, etc.  These level one issues are necessary daily chores which require some time and effort, but not all that much.  The real troubling issues are deeper and usually have a risk component which requires a solution way beyond the quick-fix mentality.  Albert Einstein said, “If you had one hour to solve a problem.  You should spend 55 minutes identifying what the real problem was and 5 minutes working on the solution.”
Most of our customers (both internal and external) start off on this problem discovery-to-solution journey by having their hourly, supervision and salaried personnel complete our safety perception survey.  The resultant data from this in-depth diagnostic point to any number of specific safety culture issues that exist at every level of the organization.  The data is utilized in our Six Levels of Safety model which has hourly and salaried employees doing deep dive analysis and problem solving within a Rapid Improvement Workshop (RIW).  This RIW team focuses on the safety culture / problem issues that exist within the organization.  We often find that many of these issues have been hidden in the background or tolerated for years, but have never benefitted from a solution approach that requires more intensity than what a fly swatter model can deliver.
These RIWs utilize a structured, consistent, creative problem solving approach that gets to the real root causes.  The proposed solutions are passed through our Six Criteria of Safety Excellence model which helps deliver true value added safety accountabilities at all levels of the organization.  This in depth safety culture diagnostic-to-solution approach has helped the 120,000+ Caterpillar employees in more than 400 manufacturing facilities across the globe continually reduce the company recordable injury rate (now at less than 0.70).  In our safety culture; fly swatter solutions occur daily, as well as in-depth analysis-to-solution initiatives which help solve difficult safety process and culture issues.  “Either-or” does not work in the long term; there is a need for both as we relentlessly pursue a zero incident process, which in turn, helps deliver excellent safety culture performance around the globe.
The Doc

Monday, June 22, 2015

Safety Cop – Improving safety culture and performance

As I work with organizations worldwide, a common complaint is that the safety resources frequently act more like safety cops than like safety developers / engineers.  In other words, they go out into the workplace looking only for what is wrong.  When they find a victim who is violating some safety rule the safety resource swoops in, stops the operation, writes up the infraction and then disappears from the scene seemingly happy to have punished another “criminal safety perpetrator.”  Is this the real purpose / value for safety resources?  We all surely hope not.  But how can we change and improve the safety cop model which has existed for decades? 
In search of an answer, I referenced the cultural policing behind quality control and food safety; two areas in which I have first-hand experience. 
The quality control model started very similarly to that of safety control; quality defects were ruining production and cost performance.  People (quality inspectors) were trained in what the common defects were and then went out into the field to find these issues, stop production once they were found, write up a Corrective Action Request, then go back to the office and wait for production personnel to fix the issue.  It quickly became apparent this approach did not really solve the quality issues.  The International Organization for Standardization developed quality standards and then trained quality resources / officers how to both audit quality and participate in developing solutions.  Their consistent approach deals with lead auditors interviewing front-line employees to find out their knowledge about quality standards and how they are trained.  The next step is inspectors determining how employees and their leadership are engaged in continuous quality improvement activities which help error-proof flawed upstream processes that are delivering downstream defects / errors.  A company’s “quality police” (inspectors) are then expected to participate in continuous improvement team activities which both detect and resolve the quality issues.  A ‘find it’ mentality is not good enough.  The inspection resource must also participate in the ‘fix it’ activities so another ‘found it’ traffic ticket will not have to be written.
In food safety an independent third party auditor is hired to provide an independent evaluation and verification of food safety in the manufacturing facilities.  Additionally, government field inspectors are tasked with independent evaluation and policing of food safety standards in the marketplace.  The non-governmental third party auditor has responsibility for evaluating manufacturing food related safety and food related sanitation.  Additionally, this auditor must perform food related training of front line personnel – supervision – management in doing what it takes to eliminate critical food related errors which can lead to personal injury and death once their products reach the marketplace.
The point of this discussion?  In order for our safety resource to be really effective in eliminating injuries from occurring they must not only write tickets but also:
·         Be an expert in training how to do safety correctly

·         Use their expertise while actively participating in root cause solutions which deliver engineering and accountability fixes
Just like in quality and food safety our safety resources / inspectors must be an active part of a zero incident culture that does what it takes to prevent each and every occurrence from ever happening again! 

The Doc 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Excellence in Safety – The Caterpillar Journey

Caterpillar is a large global company and has made safety its most important responsibility. As Caterpillar’s Chairman said, “Safety is the very first thing we’re going to worry about.  Your health and well being come first – period.  None of the other goals matter if, in the process of achieving them, people are injured.” 
Caterpillar employs some 130,000 people in more than 400 facilities around the world. This global footprint is spread across more than 180 countries and includes countless cultures. In 2003, the Caterpillar global Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) was 6.22; way too high for the leadership values and so the board of directors set the year 2020 RIF goal at 0.6.  A strong push with level one (reacting to regulation condition type of issues) and level two (reacting to observable weaknesses) tools was launched worldwide.  This effort brought the RIF down to 1.17 by 2009 and then to 1.02 in 2012.  As a result of this strategy, there has been a global reduction of more than 58,000 recordable injuries from 2003 to 2014.  However, the RIF plateau (2009 – 2012) at about 1.0 was particularly frustrating to corporate and local leadership, especially considering the next step down to a RIF of 0.6 represents another approximately 4,000 avoidable serious injuries.
In 2010 the decision was made to begin an in-depth safety culture strategy which would go beyond using RIF (and its related, dated tools approach) as the predominant safety indicator.  The objective for this initiative is to transform the organization from one that measures undesirable injuries to one that relentlessly pursues a safety culture which lives the presence of safety.  This sea change focus moved to what cannot be visibly seen; safety culture.  The 2010 strategic shift had Caterpillar purchasing CoreMedia, a globally recognized safety culture company, then carefully testing and integrating its safety culture models and methods at facility and dealer locations.  As a result the RIF plateau has experienced a break through; for the first three months of 2015 our continually improving RIF is now at 0.64.  As you visit our Caterpillar web site you can find details of this journey to date and share in the learnings from Caterpillar’s strategy for moving from a reactive to a proactive safety culture worldwide.  Additionally, you can also gain a personal understanding of where safety accountability fits within cultural improvement. 
The Doc

Monday, June 8, 2015

Vigilance – Getting to Safety Excellence

A part of our profession is the desire for safety excellence on and off-the-job.  Are we ever good enough?  In times past, a good organization would measure their performance in millions of work hour segments without a lost time injury, also known as lost time incident rate. I think we have all experienced the green sign at the worksite or office site that tracks days since the last lost time injury.  Times have changed to where the best of the best don’t even track severity numbers, but rather watch a downstream indicator like medical rate.  Whereas the worst of the worst can’t seem to get into this era of lesser severity rate indicators or even think of the next step that is upon us right now; leading indicator excellence.  What are members across our organization doing proactively to eliminate the possibility of injury and how does our indicator dashboard track these responsibilities, efforts and accountabilities?
This ever improving scenario brings to mind something my Papa once told me, “Son, watch where you are going, but remember where you have been.”  Each of us has some memories to be proud of and others we wish we had never been so wrong to have tried.  As you look to the future to improve your organization’s safety culture, as well as your personal / family safety, consider the following:  you will move along a progression line that takes you from thought to action, which makes a positive difference to vigilance that delivers sustainability of excellence.  As you are on this journey from action to vigilance, take into account the positive and negative learnings from where you have been.  And stay in the game of improvement no matter which metrics you use.  In the grand scheme of things, status quo complacency only leads to getting worse.
The Doc 

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