Thursday, April 30, 2009

PPE luv

Here's a one-minute reminder that one of our best friends includes a thoughtful plan and a little compassion. And hugs. Here's a couple of Norwegian politi who spent an afternoon making a difference.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Advisory: Stay Proactive

A letter composed for a client this morning:
While the swine flu is a serious concern, we all have a responsibility to stay focused on the preventive measures that are within the scope of our control. The same persistence and strategy used to elevate and sustain our safety culture can be applied to fight the flu: it’s up to each one of us to be informed and work toward eliminating its risk to ourselves, our loved ones and the greater community at-large.

My first bit of advice is to contact me or a supervisor with any concerns. If you or anyone in your household is suffering from flu-like symptoms, take urgent steps to get diagnosed and treated by a medical health professional. If, in fact, you or a family member is suffering from high fever, breathing difficulty, severe nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, it’s not only a responsibility to get the care you need, but it’s also imperative that you stay home. Call a supervisor, but do not report to work. Remember, the threat is too serious not to speak up about your fears and/or to ensure that a swine-flu sufferer is quarantined.

Keep in mind that good hygiene tips apply to everyone, year-round, regardless of a flu threat. If the following measures aren’t already part of your routine, consider forming a new set of “good habits.”

Swine flu is capable of spreading from person-to-person, which means your No. 1 preventive measure is hand washing. There’s no substitute for frequent hand washing with soap and hot water (minimum of 15 seconds) followed by thorough drying. If access to running water is limited, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers is an adequate substitute.

Cover your sneezes and coughs and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Even clean hands can transport microbes, so why give germs an elevator ride? Influenza viruses are often spread when a person touches surfaces that are contaminated with bacteria. Be aware of how germs can pass to your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Keep your work space clean, particularly in areas where food is being prepared, eaten or disposed. Wipe down surfaces with ammonia-based products to ensure bacteria are kept to a minimum.

Finally, nothing beats practicing good health habits, which includes an end to smoking, getting enough rest, having regular exercises and being physically active. Managing stress also helps, while drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutrient-rich foods.

Again, thank you for making safety part of everything you do. If there’s ever been an example to how our health, safety and overall wellbeing applies to each one of us — whether we’re on the job or off — the latest swine flu concern offers a serious reminder. Please stay safe and do the right thing.

To your health,
Ron Pardo

For more information about the swine flu, see the U.S. Center for Disease Control website: http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SIPDE is akin to a Pre-task Analysis

As part of a purveyor of safety-culture services, it's somehow fitting -- or slightly ironic -- that I work around a high percentage of people who arrive to work on two wheels every day. Between motorcylces, scooters and bicycles, it's safe to say that we encounter more risks than garden-variety automobile drivers ... commuters who may have less of a need for SIPDE.

For the unitiated, SIPDE is a technique that develops the requisite parts of the observation task, elegantly breaking the approach into smaller parts. Observation of the environment that a rider travels through is the only method available that allows proactive management of risk. So, um, what is this SIPDE?

“S” is for scan. A rider is constantly looking out through the fog of his own mental processes. Alertness is the key to search, which pertains to an active scan of the entire environment. All of the senses can be used to perceive what is occurring around you, but the primary consideration here will be for visual cue’s as to what will happen next.

“I” is for Identify. You have scanned your environment, your mirrors, you have an eye out twelve seconds ahead, and three seconds ahead of you is a car about to turn out of a driveway into your lane. The job of the rider is to identify other road users, pedestrians, debris, animals, and anything else capable of affecting your two wheels. Just about everything. The rider mentally classifies the hazards in the environment by how much risk they pose, and attempts to figure out what is going to happen next.

“P” is for predict. Here's where the rider weighs all of the evidence around you, past experiences, and gut feelings. You searched your environment for factors of risk, identified those factors, and now you have to predict where they will be in the immediate future so you won’t be there. That car about to pull out into the street earlier is either going to get in you way or not. Your job is to predict the possible choices of what could happen by asking “What if?” Predict the worst case scenario, and what will happen so you can guard against that occurring. After predicting what could happen, should choose a specific skill or technique to implement a strategy.

“D” is for decide. Decide what to do. You have predicted the negative effect of impacting the rear bumper of a blind driver about to pull out in front of you, and now you need to implement a strategy that will change that outcome. Your choices may be a basic technique such as swerve, brake, or lane-change.

“E” is for execute. You've identified a hazard, and decided what to do about it . . . now you have to apply the right action. In other words, execute the skill, or strategy you've decided to use.

Motorcyclists(and scooterists) who recognize the risks are the first to point out how the mental portion of riding is greater than the physical side, and mental strategies offer a guideline the mind can use to identify vulnerable situations, predict what will occur if untreated, and execute a strategy to increase our knowledge.

The better understanding of the principles of observation, the more effective we are at managing our risk.

As a communications instructor once told me, “We hear, see, and feel all of the time. It's only when we listen, look, and touch that we actually perceive our environment.” Those words are very true when dealing with how we observe the traffic around us. Observation is an active participation skill derived from practice, and the understanding of how the skill works.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Safety Change Leads Customer Service

A few years ago, we used to only talk about how the formula to initiate safety-culture change can be applied to productivity, delivery and customer service. Well, todays, it's more than talk. It's happening.

Amazing things are possible when the president gets vocal about something and shows support and action for a plan that marshals involvement up and down the company, and sets the stage for internally-led teams to establish and focus on leading indicators. You get the point: when it comes to any kind of operational -- company-wide -- change, anything can happen as soon as you have upper level management support and involvement and marching orders. I won't belabor it anymore than necessary. Instead, I bring you an example of a letter I just composed for a client that has, yes, decided to apply its very successful "safety culture change formula" to improve . . . customer service.

The (nameless) company was once considered "bottom rung" among its peer dealers and is now considered the league's Top Safety Performer. For its safety turn-around, they were informally anointed the big-dealer-on-campus at last year's all-gatherers conference -- for good reason: in the span of only two years, the company's safety performance rose from #15 (out of 18) in lost-time and days-away numbers to #1. CoreMedia is in no position to take the credit, of course, but we've been privileged enough to be working with the dealer at every step of the way. I'm proud of that. Now that they've created sustainable work environments where complacency isn't acceptable and speaking up is expected . . . customer service is next.

This latest change initiative is about to be announced to all 3,000 employees in May; below is a draft of the letter.

Note: I've replaced the name of the client with Vandalay, a nod to Seinfeld's George Castanza and his made-up company. Names may be fiction, but the people involved are definitely not.
Dear [Employee],
I’m pleased to announce Vandalay’s customer service improvement initiative called LET’S PARTNER UP! — a campaign to elevate how we interact and engage with customers and prospects. The goal? Focus on creating a positive Vandalay “experience” with everyone we greet, meet and serve.

Join me in making every customer service encounter a mission-critical part of doing business, where our actions and attitudes are associated with friendliness, commitment and gratitude. There’s no better way to build the Vandalay brand than to recognize everyone as a partner.

Thanks in large part to Ignatius O'Reilly and his seven-member project team, Vandalay is on track to begin inviting company-wide volunteers to take the next steps. By June, we will form at least three internally-led teams to help communicate and set up peer-to-peer training activities. So far, our plan focuses on customer-service skills, whether we’re representing Vandalay in person, by phone, or via email . . . across Gettysburg, Longview, Laredo and anywhere we may be. We’re looking to be customer advocates by making every interaction count!

If this continuous improvement approach sounds familiar — good! It’s the same model that helped catapult safety as a core value and create an organization-wide cultural shift. If we learned anything with SAFETY MATTERS!, it’s an appreciation for the persistence needed to establish genuine change. Like safety, customer service can’t afford any starts and stops. With your hard work and involvement, we’ll be able to make LET’S PARTNER UP! a systemic part of Vandalay’s DNA. By focusing on our actions, the benefits of customer loyalty are sure to follow.

With the way the economy is going, there’s no better time to make a difference. Stay tuned for more information about how you can get involved. Meantime, keep doing the right thing every time.

Thank you. I appreciate all your hard work in making Vandalay a leader!

Sincerely,
Ned Billschpick
President & CEO

Thursday, April 23, 2009

To pick just one: Employee Participation

Great safety performance doesn't magically happen because of any one factor, but if Dan Petersen had to choose a single most influential lodestone from his Six Criteria for Safety Excellence, I'd bet he'd pick "the presence of high employee particication."

Why? Because it's impossible to effectively "do safety to people." And, well, you can't accomplish excellence in safety without participation of the people who do the work.

I suspect there are plenty of myths getting in the way of helping our fellow humans get home in one piece, so let's put to bed false causational links. Safety doesn't just happen; it comes as a result of intelligent planning, thoughtful activity, skillful execution, constant measurement and continual adjustment.

And don't give me credit for my logic (if that's what it is). Props go to Dan Petersen who fought hard to get his message out ... not to mention the thousands of safety-culture champions everywhere who get it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Safety Fail #1

I trust this photo was staged for maximum funny, er, shock value. Whatever the case, it's a reminder that it's impossible to legislate against stupidity. Hmmm, but maybe there is a way to reward pale pear-shaped men to keep their shirts on.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pedestrian Safety Engineering

If I've learned anything working around EH&S professionals and all-around safety champions: once you get it, seeking ways to eliminate risk isn't something you can turn off and on, whether you're on the clock or taking off your work shoes. You either get it or you don't, which is one of the reasons why I bring to you a very cool innovation that helps pedestrians in Seattle and San Francisco (among a few other cities) safely cross a high-traffic roadway.

I give you the foot-activated pad that lights up the crosswalk. Step on the colored strip before you enter the crosswalk and you immediately activate blinking lights that line the crosswalk. As soon as drivers stop, it should be safe to begin your adventure. As Streetfilms Host Clarence Eckerson describes it: "It's like being an airplane coming in for a landing. Frankly, it's very empowering."



The goodness of safety applies to our every-day walk-about surroundings, day and night. It's the way to interact in the world. You don't have to be a transportation engineer to figure this out: a culture of safety is a culture that seeks ways to protect life and limb . . . wherever you are.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Indicators of Impending Doom

"If I have seen a little further, it is by
standing on the shoulders of Giants."


It's a great expression that dates back to the twelfth century, which Isaac Newton (1643-1727) made even more famous 500 years later. Newton, apparently, was compelled to keep it real. In a letter to a contemporary, he wanted to make it clear that his own contributions to modern science were possible because of all the discovery, learning and understanding that came before him, with a well placed nod to René Descartes (1596-1650).

When I think of Dan Petersen's Six Criteria for Safety Excellence, I also think of how Petersen credits Edwin Zebroski, Ph.D. -- considered the 20th Century's leading authority of nuclear breeder reactors. Zebroski's research identified the common attributes of four horrible man-made disasters: Piper Alpha fire, Bhopal, Chernobyl and the Challenger Shuttle; he found 11 contributing factors common to all four incidents. They included:
1. Systemic confusion about who was responsible for what.
2. Mindset that success was routine, everything was “A-OK.”
3. Belief that regulatory compliance was sufficient to ensure safety. (If we’re following procedures, we’re safe.)
4. Low tolerance for dissent and differences of opinion. Whistle-blowers were discouraged.
5. Inability to learn from past mistakes or potential near misses.
6. Lessons learned weren't utilized.
7. Safety was subordinate to productivity.
8. Deficient emergency preparedness and training.
9. Design/operating efficiencies allowed despite known risks.
10. Risk management techniques were available but not used.
11. Poorly defined responsibilities, authority, and accountability.

Zebroski is to Petersen what Descartes is to Newton. Petersen zeroed in on what would be the nexus for his Six Criteria for Safety Excellence. In the world of establishing a vibrant safety culture, The Six Criteria -- which deserves its own post for another day -- is often referred to as the closest thing there is to a "silver bullet." The Six Criteria provide the factors necessary to ensure your safety performance is sustainable.Do this and you will succeed. Sure, we have Petersen to thank. But let's also not forget Zebroski.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Never Just a Video Company

Yesterday I characterized Katy Crane as a maestro. Well, it's true, but instead of being visible up front, she's more often working tirelessly behind the scenes, ensuring our products and tools resonate in the best of ways. She keeps our i’s dotted and t’s crossed and her actions are a constant reminder to do it right or not at all. If we're going to inspire people to discover, learn and “get it,” then -- I can hear her say -- we also need to seek out different points of view. And listen to what people are up against. Her ability to absorb people's “issues” is a great gift.

Katy is a former R.N. who served for years as a caregiver in trauma centers and burn units; she helped found CoreMedia with her husband Doug in 1979. As a still-nascent entity, CoreMedia emerged from Creative Media Development, Inc. (CMD), an advertising and multimedia company here in Portland. CoreMedia’s first “training program” was Basic Life Support (BLS) -- a CPR instruction kit produced in slide-tape format -- yes, a slideshow. BLS ultimately led to CoreMedia’s inaugural video training program, Job Safety Analysis.

From the long-time clients I get to hear from, Katy was always a guiding force, relentless with her original vision, which amounts to (my words) creating solutions to keep people out of trauma centers and burn units. It's a gratifying mission.

Typically, CoreMedia products were the result of adapting client objectives into instructional kits. By 1990, CoreMedia found itself forming partnerships with some of the world’s best EH&S thought leaders and brought in director Jim Johnson and writer Larry Brooks to develop timeless training videos (with instructional support materials) that told stories and captured the "how-to's" of accountability-based safety.

One of the best known alliances involved the late Dan Petersen, Ed.D., who helped launch the world’s first safety culture leadership training product and established CoreMedia as a relevant force whenever "sustainable safety excellence" was part of the conversation. Dan Petersen’s Safety Management Series, Challenge of Change and Safety Accountability are often considered the standard for “leading indicator” safety improvement . . . and CoreMedia deserves credit for “productizing” his concepts to help organizations hit the ground running.

In 2001, Katy’s son Tim took the reins, continued the evolution. The CoreMedia of today is a full service “safety culture improvement” agency with a roster of CSPs fully versed in empowering employees, mentoring supervisors, and coaching continuous improvement teams that move companies to rethink safety. I credit Tim for surrounding himself with the right people with the right expertise; he's formed a crack team skilled at marshaling executive-level support, elevating risk awareness, eliminating complacency, and applying accountabilities. When it comes to painting a vision for sustainable safety excellence (and systemic change), Tim's got it.

With Katy never far away, I suspect CoreMedia clients are getting the best of both worlds: two generations united and exuberant in their passion for zero-incident performance. And I suppose I can mention their kindness and wonderful spirit, but you know what? The best part of this story is the untold number of workers who're better off because of a mother and her son.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Compelling Case for How We Lead

Here's an abridged clip of CoreMedia's How We Lead video, which presents a compelling -- if not poignant -- look at how people are affected by (and committed to doing something about) the very-real dangers of the workplace. A special thanks to the people of Atkinson Construction, particularly Environmental Health & Safety Director David Watts for allowing us the opportunity to execute the vision.



The full video, well suited for orientations, tailgate meetings, committee ice breakers and safety moments, runs about 15 minutes.

Without diminishing the real stars of the program -- the safety champions who shared their stories -- I want to give credit to the talented team that made the video happen: Katy Crane -- one of CoreMedia's original founders -- served as maestro; she not only found the right people to talk to, she got them to open up in front of the camera. Not an easy task. Despite the many perspectives, Katy has an ability to bring together all kinds of points of view while weaving together a clear, impactful, fluid narrative. If the future of training is to foster self-discovery and transfer knowledge through first-hand experience, then How We Lead is ahead of its time. The program has a way of touching people in the most visceral way. Let's just say I've seen gruff men weep.

So, while Katy conducted the interviews, Sam Martin got the shots and rolled the camera; he painstakingly culled through hours of video, edited them for continuity, and -- thanks, Sam -- composed an original score. He's a talent, no question, if only because he makes it look so damn easy. As a combined force, CoreMedia molded a congruent narrative to establish a model that's been customized for clients such as Skanska USA (more than one division) and Knife River (among others). Now we're finding copycats on YouTube. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, CoreMedia is most definitely finding a lot of reasons to feel good about itself.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Culture of Pad Thai Wednesday

I know what you're thinking. Why isn't it "Won Ton Wednesday" or "Hamburger Hump Day" or some such? Well, we like Thai food here at the plant and there's no better time than on Wednesday at noon. It's a custom that sprung from a desire to do something together to break up the work-a-week. And it has become, ahem, a near-tactile part of our culture. Every Wednesday, everyone here at the CoreMedia Safety Culture Factory has the option to email me with his or her lunch order. Around noon, we gather around the conference room like cavemen (and cavewomen) to fire and partake as one happy unit. If a culture is "the way people interact and relate to what they value," then it's no stretch to say Pad Thai Wednesday is an intrinsic piece of how we roll.

There are healthy cultures, dysfunctional cultures, quirky cultures, cult-like cultures (where no one can disagree). An organization's culture is the ethos or personality of how people operate. It's an organism. It has a heartbeat. It lives, breathes, evolves. And how employees characterize their culture is probably how they talk about it when they're away from work, in the safety of their family culture.

A safety culture is what we do every day to keep ourselves and others safe; it's driven by shared beliefs, values, and behaviors that we use to “cope” and interact with one another and our jobs. Whatever the condition of the safety culture, the routine way of doing things tends to get transmitted from person to person, which can work for and against us.

A major part of a healthy safety culture is sharing a heightened awareness of risk and being willing to speak out. Not only are employees able to reduce the number and severity of incidents and injuries, but the safety system is creating an environment with far-reaching benefits: heightened morale of the day-to-day work environment, increased productivity and profitability, decreased medical costs, fewer workers’ comp payouts, reduced loss ratio and premiums, less downtime and property waste, and more. You get the idea.

What does all of this Safety Culture Talk have to do with The Culture of Pad Thai Wednesday? I'm not so sure, but it's definitely the way it is around here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Let's not get lulled by laurels

An email appeared in my browser yesterday. It was an "all-company" congratulations message forwarded from a client. Our contact was sharing in the fruits of a few years worth of culture change and the investment and hard work that went with it. The company achieved zero lost-time incidents for Q1 of '09. It was unprecedented and something to celebrate. No question. It is an incredible achievement, especially when you consider that more than 1.6 million production hours were logged without a single lost-time incident. Awesome.

The e-note went on to attribute the improvement to everyone's dedication (my words) . No argument here. In fact, it warms my heart to have clients who get everyone rallied around safety and find reasons to party when inertia is overcome and genuine change takes root. That's big stuff, whether safety is involved or not.

My singular hang up was that I felt the message missed an important opportunity. Something I learned from another client: the ol' gas tank metaphor, which is this: Celebrating results of a safety-culture journey is like filling up at the gas station; it's nice to have a full tank of gas, but “a sustainable culture of safety excellence” means there will always be a need for more fuel. Celebrating benchmarks is great, but it's dangerous for any company to get lulled into thinking the job is ever done.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Inaugural Address

It's not easy for an organization to start a culture-change initiative, but you know what? A growing number of companies are making a long-term commitment to make a difference. Stay tuned. We'll learn a few things together. I come to you as a helpful (and hopeful) agent of change. I live in Portland, Ore., where I work with some of the best minds in the world of safety. Not only have I witnessed how organizations achieve safety excellence by focusing on preventive measures -- or leading indicator accountabilities -- but I've also gained a tremendous amount of satisfaction knowing that we're affecting lives. Sustainable safety excellence boils down to empowered and involved employees, a force that starts at the top. More on that for another day. For now, thanks for reading. To say I welcome your inquiry and interest is an understatement.

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