Monday, June 29, 2009

It's all a-happening in San Antonio

If you're in San Antonio for ASSE's Safety '09 PDC, definitely stop by CoreMedia booth #2117. And don't forget to ask about Todd Britten's safety-culture presentations. He's speaking twice, on Tuesday and Wednesday on two different topics:

Tues. at 3:00 | Session 662
Continuous Improvement Teams that Change Safety Cultures

Wed. at 11:00 | Session 738
Safety Accountability System that Eliminates Injuries

Oh, and get a FREE t-shirt. And this t-shirt is not just a t-shirt. This t-shirt promises to be the best-designed t-shirt EVER in the history of ASSE conferences. No, really. While you're getting freebies, introduce yourself to Shannon, Gray, Todd, and Shel.

More important: have a great, safe trip.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Stay Out of Areas You Don't Belong

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned the thrill-seeker who glamorizes the excitement of finding danger on the rails, atop cranes, in vacant buildings, etc. Today, I bring you the other side. Warning. There's nothing nice about this video.

Find more videos like this on Online Safety Community

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Safety Involvement = Engaged Employees

Engagement occurs when employees are: (1) fully present and physically committed; (2) emotionally energized and forming meaningful connections to customers and co-workers; (3) believing their work has value; and (4) truly focused on their task and their role.

Engagement has been linked to customer satisfaction, employee retention, productivity and bottom-line profitability ... and, yes, sustaining a culture of safety excellence.

If you're not sure how engaged and satisfied your employees are, ask. Whether or not I'm making a shameless plug, I still need to pose the question of the day: Have you conducted a Safety Perception Survey yet?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Deltalina and her Famous Finger Wag

You've probably seen the Delta flight-safety video by now, but whether you're tired of it or not, its buzz is real. Yes, people are watching -- lots and lots of them -- but probably not for the best of reasons (e.g., "Is her face plastic?" or "That's not the kind of flight attendant on my trips."). Whatever. Delta's Kathryn Lee is a veteran attendant, a 2009 safety-video celebrity, and Delta is getting lots of attention because of it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garnering Internal Support: Tip #12

What’s the best way to go about explaining the importance of culture?
This isn’t the 1950s any more. Keep defining the importance of a company culture as the new currency for attracting and retaining empowered employees. “Is it a good place to work?” “Do they care about their employees?” “Am I going to learn something while working around enlightened people who recognize the importance of moving forward?” The point is the company culture makes a difference because it impacts productivity, the work ethic, lifestyle, communication . . . overall performance. The culture is the distinctive personality of the organization. If it's a distinct, vibrant culture, you get a mystique which can even created a halo effect around the brand. The culture determines what people do and how energetically they contribute to problem solving, innovation, safety, customer service, productivity, and quality. A company with a well-developed culture outperforms those that don’t. Because a company's culture affects everything in it — including profits — culture is the real bottom line. My point? An organization can't do enough to evolve its culture. Making safety an integral part of the organization's mission and values is not only certain to further the corporate culture, but its impact has a way of preserving and protecting lives.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Before you Assess your Safety Culture

Safety perception surveys are not created equal. If you simply want to find out what employees think, save your money. You're better off spending time with the people you were thinking about interviewing, listening to them. It costs you nothing and the payoff can be huge.

An employee perception survey needs to be part of a greater plan to initiate some sort of change process. In other words: if the results from a poll are merely "interesting" or even "fascinating," then it's a sign you're: (A) Not asking the right questions; (B) Not quite sure what you plan to do with the data; or (C) Both.

Here's something to noodle on before pondering a survey, particularly a survey that's meant to help foster a involvement and a safety-culture transformation: First, before getting a bid from a vendor, know exactly what you want to accomplish after the vendor packs up and leaves. And get answers to the following:

1. How can I use the data?

2. What will the data tell me?

3. Is this a "safety culture" survey or a survey conducted with "safety questions"?

4. What precedents "Safety Perception Survey" precedents are out there? Successes?

5. Am I going to end up with more questions than before I conduct the survey?

6. If we get a "safety culture reading," how will it compare to other companies?

7. Let’s say we get the results. Then what?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Watching for Everything

A creative reminder that accidents happen because of the unexpected and the things we're most unlikely to anticipate.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guerrilla Art with Safety Barrels

Thrill-seeking photographer (and artist) Joseph Carnevale has become somewhat of a celebrity after he chopped up three stolen orange-and-white traffic barrels from a construction site to create a massive sculpture of a roadside monster thumbing for a ride. Although the work is a great example of guerrilla street art, Raleigh, N.C., police saw it as vandalism and reason enough for a formal misdemeanor. The 22-year-old history major was booked and released in the county jail. That's the gist of the story.

Part of my interest was the "official" reaction of Hamlett Associates, the construction company contracted for the road work; they owned the barrels, and -- like the local community -- shared an appreciation for the drive-by art installation.

So, yes: there's something to be said for drawing attention to the otherwise unsexy world of traffic barrels. And, be real, who can't see the appeal in the pure expression of an inspired and compelled artist? Art is what makes us human.

Here's an excerpt I lifted from the A.P. story:
"We've had a fair amount of vandalism, but never anyone turn it into art," says Hamlett Associates President Steven Hussey. "I actually thought it was pretty neat."

Hussey also said the value of the publicity his company has received is well above the $365 cost of the traffic barrels used by Carnevale.

"It's been positive publicity for us," Hussey said. "If we'd known he'd do that good of a work, we'd have given him the barrels."

Carnevale said he's weighing Hussey's offer to reconstruct a barrel monster at the company's offices in Climax, N.C., possibly for pay. The Raleigh police spokesperson said the charges won't be dropped, despite the company's stance.
Also, I urge you to check out Carnevale's blog, aptly called No Promise of Safety. It's earnest. With no loss of irony, his posts dramatically and beautifully capture danger zones where people put their lives at risk every day. On one hand, Carnevale thumbs his nose at the rules via his rush for adrenaline. On the other, I sense an unspoken appreciation and respect for why boundaries are set in the first place. If he didn't know better, he wouldn't have much of a blog, would he? My greatest concern -- aside from Carnevale's wellbeing -- is that he spawns a tide of copycats and a ripple of serious incidents. Meantime, there's no reason why safety professionals can't recognize his platform as a way to draw attention to the very real dangers of speed, heights and the many reasons why certain spaces and equipment are off limits to the untrained public-at-large.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

CoreMedia ZIP™ Process

When it comes to describing the depth and breadth of our consulting services and the CoreMedia ZIP Process, our website is a little behind the times. Not to make excuses, but the biggest reason is that our online presence is managed and maintained by the same internal team that supports CoreMedia clients with instructional materials and communications. On one hand, we take pride in being able to deliver resources on the fly. On the other, our clients always come first. Therefore: what you see on our public site often fails to get the attention it deserves. No excuses, of course. I'm just sayin' . . .

I'm also loathe to draw any more attention to the website's "maintenance issue" than I already have, but here it goes anyway: I have this compelling need to describe the CoreMedia ZIP Process, which has emerged as an entirely solid formula to help companies transform their cultures and attain sustainable safety excellence. Even though the ZIP Process has been used by some amazing companies such as Knife River, HOLT CAT, ATCO Electric, Wagner Equipment, Dresser Industries, and a few more, I suspect too few people outside our immediate community know how simple and effective it is. So, I give you an abridged -- or blog-appropriate -- description of the CoreMedia ZIP Process.
ZIP is Zero-Incident Performance
If you’re familiar with the maxim about teaching a person to fish in order to eat for a lifetime, you’ll have no trouble understanding how the CoreMedia ZIP Process is helping a growing number of companies establish cultures of sustainable safety excellence.

It pretty much works like this: you supply the people and CoreMedia helps facilitate the dissatisfaction with the status quo. As soon as leaders throughout the organization begin to recognize and believe why working safely is no less important than meeting production goals, the ZIP Process helps shape a strategy and tap into your most powerful catalyst of all: involvement.

The Five Steps to Implement Change
1. Engage Leadership
2. Assess the Culture
3. Build the Plan
4. Implement the Plan
5. Check the Process

Meanwhile, CoreMedia supports every phase of the process and every activity -- your Culture Change Initiative -- along the way. Need newsletter content? No problem. Want a custom communications campaign with posters and events? Simple. CoreMedia is ready to assist rolling out your campaign with media and messaging to heighten awareness, set expectations, and celebrate the wins.

Once the strategy is cast and milestones are determined, your internally-led teams can choose between accelerated hyper-focused Kaizen events or periodic coaching throughout the year. What’s certain is that you’ll be fully equipped to connect your vision with persistent, measurable outcomes . . . for sustainable safety excellence.
There you have it: The CoreMedia ZIP Process -- hugely impactful since 2007, more visible on our website soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Reporting is as important as correcting, yes?

How often have you heard this one: “Correcting an unsafe situation is more important than filling out a form.” It's logical and hard to argue. Yet . . . what if we said that correcting and reporting go together? That is, they need each other. Or that they're equal but different.

We all make value and priority decisions all the time; the challenge is to drive home the impact of sharing and tracking -- reporting -- all the possible hazards as soon as they're spotted. At all times. By everyone.

I’m not sure you can over-state the amazing benefit that comes with knowing hazards and risks are being talked about and documented and pooled and accessed on an ongoing basis. Near miss reports not only elevate awareness and foster involvement (thereby eliminating risk and complacency), but they also create a history of information designed to prevent related recurrences that could lead to harm.

An aside that really isn't an aside: near misses are good. They're gifts to be cherished and celebrated and rejoiced over. Healthy safety cultures hunger for them.

My layperson's scenario goes like this: a worker sees that the shield on a power tool is hanging by a thread. Craftsman #1 just replaces it and calls it good. Craftsman #2 replaces the guard and also reports it right away. Craftsman #1 simply addressed the guard as an isolated incident and left the rest of the plant in the dark. Craftsman #1 benefits (as well as the people who use the same power tool) but then what?

Craftsman #2 brings it home. Craftsman #2 understands he has a responsibility, which leaves no room for deciding when or if to fill out a report. Craftsman #2 realizes that -- even though he took care of the guard itself -- the real value in a report is its longterm benefit. It's one more avenue for fellow craftsmen to be alerted of the potential problem with the guard. And maintenance will get an added bit of insight so they know what to look for, and procurement is going to stop re-ordering the same damn model that tends to lead to flapping guards.

So, yes: Correction is important, but so is reporting the hazard/near miss. Equal but different.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Clichés for the times

By now, we've all been affected by the economic implosion. It's not unusual to lower a few expectations about a lot of things we once took for granted, safety included, i.e., If morale is suffering, how can we expect to sustain a high level of safety performance? I can't offer any magic pill or silver bullet or offer any sugary aphorisms, but I can revisit a few adages that stand the test of time, one of which is, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

I know. It's easier said (or written) than done, but you can't argue that we tend to learn more during bad times than during easy ones . . . and what doesn't destroy us makes us stronger . . . as well as a few more pearls of excellence:

Turn complaints into goals.

Focus on the company, not yourself.

The mossy rock stands still.

Don't give up.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Garnering Internal Support: Tip #11

So, what's your advice for implementing culture change without full management support?
Without upper-management support early in the process, your changes aren’t going to be the unilateral "campaign" variety. You first need to find early adopters or opinion leaders among senior management who are on your side. You have to be proactive and get a champion that will allow you to pilot different models and different ways of implementing training. In a sense, you’re planting the seeds of a revolution. Focus on the areas that are within your control. For safety managers, it’s training. Focus on the right training and do it well. Knowledge is power. Greater understanding leads to more thinking, which fosters new ideas. Before you know it, you’ll have champions at the supervisor level who will be further along to spread the word about the real meaning of leadership: that is, we can all be our CEOs of safety. And, yes, modeling the right behaviors includes a free pass to speak up, call a person out, regardless of how high the perpetrator sits on the org chart.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another word about Near Misses

A vital part of eliminating incidents and injuries in the work place is recognizing and evaluating the cause of every close call and near miss. A near miss system that's transparent and embraced by all . . . well, that's huge.

An effective approach to get the most out of near miss incidents includes awareness of the event itself and an eagerness to speak up, report on — and learn from — close calls and unsafe conditions.

Make no mistake: the world’s safest companies and most advanced safety cultures have something in common: everyone appears to understand and believe in the importance of reporting all unsafe working conditions, unsafe acts and habits, malfunctioning equipment, and improper use of machinery. To be sure, top-performing employers also happen to champion the idea that a near miss or no-loss incident is in the eyes of the beholder. That is, any situation you believe to be unsafe, by definition, is a near miss. Your perception or “gut feeling” of a potentially dangerous situation is more than enough for you to halt work and call out a near miss.

The more willing all of us are in voicing our concerns, the more likely we’ll be looking out for one another. We’ll also be more apt to take the initiative to pursue improvements and make corrective actions.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Jobsite learns from near topple

“If we think worries and concerns don’t follow us to work, we’re fooling ourselves,” said a foreman I interviewed recently. “One of the things I realized after witnessing a potential disaster is that -- no matter how troubled the economy or unstable things might seem -- I have a responsibility to take care of the here and now. If I can’t do my part to ensure that everyone gets home in one piece, then I’m making things worse.”

That statement says it all.

The man I interviewed described his epiphany during an otherwise uneventful day at a construction site at a college campus. As project manager -- we'll call him Smith -- assumed the best when the driver delivering a 480-watt generator navigated through a narrow and unimproved alley to get into position for staging.

About a dozen workers from four different subcontractors were busily tending to their respective tasks. The various crews included a duo working at about 20 feet above the ground from inside the basket of an extended manlift.

“That was the beginning of the problem,” said Smith. “The heavy equipment rigger had every intention to get in and out with as little disruption as possible. It’s so easy to think that way -- let’s just stay out of everyone’s way and just get it done.”

Smith and the others in the vicinity described how the truck driver -- a subcontractor -- attempted to get his rig in place. The driver inched forward before becoming entangled by a partially buried metal beam. As the driver goosed the accelerator, he unintentionally caused the unearthed metal to snag the manlift.

“When the trailer hit the metal beam on the ground, the men inside the basket nearly lost their balance,” Smith said. “Everything happened all at once: the entire manlift shook and could’ve toppled.”

Yells from everyone on the scene -- who happened to be watching -- alerted the driver to stop and work halted immediately. If the driver had forced his way farther, Smith believed, there was a strong likelihood of toppling the boom. Witnesses of the no-loss event were shaken by the “what ifs.” In short order, Smith was on the phone with the EH&S Manager who was able to arrive within 30 minutes.

The EH&S guy -- I'll call Rodriguez -- interviewed all the witnesses, gathered relevant facts, and helped facilitate the lessons learned.

“Naturally, there was a lot of frustration and tension at the site,” Rodriguez said. In the end, however, it appeared that everyone recognized what needed to be done. Rodriquez took the bold move by emphasizing that everyone had an opportunity, a gift: No one was harmed and everyone was able to identify contributing factors and come away with some very sobering lessons -- lessons that would hopefully prevent something similar from happening again.

By the end of the day, Smith and Rodriguez identified two lapses in procedure: first, the contractor didn’t have the proper rigging credentials on file. Second, there was no pre-plan communication for the staging (which would’ve called for at least two spotters to keep the driver in check).

As a matter of process (from what I understand), it’s required that the general contractor or site superintendent be notified about the planned delivery, and staging and rigging operation. Every crew member in the vicinity -- regardless of their employer -- needs to understand the steps involved and their role.

At the heart of a safe jobsite is a commitment to communicate and to explain a step-by-step pre-plan, a coordinated effort to have the right spotters in position, and if needed, work stoppage.

“When it comes to our safety, there’s no such thing as wasting anyone’s time,” said Rodriguez. “For someone to think or say that it’s a ‘hassle’ or ‘not worth the time’ is a nonstarter. If the communication is meant to get everyone on the same page and eliminate as many risks as possible, then I can’t think of time better spent.”

The obvious irony, Rodrigues told me, is that a pre-plan and tailboard meeting would’ve only taken less than thirty minutes, as opposed to halting all work for the rest of the afternoon. Not only did the near tragedy equate to postponing 80 hours of production time for the combined crews, but the generator delivery had to be scheduled for a different day.

Smith said it was a wakeup call that could’ve easily resulted in a life-changing tragedy.

“In a lot ways it was a gift,” Smith said. “And that’s pretty much what Rodriguez said to everyone at the site. I came away very humbled.”

Rodriguez emphasized that what could’ve spiraled into one big blame game and finger pointing session, was a willingness to make sure there would never be a next time.”
He pointed out that near miss reports have had a huge impact on the company’s safety performance. Learning from no-loss events is essential to continuous improvement; by tracking near misses, they've been able to recognize how errors, deficiencies, and failures are instrumental in arriving at corrective actions.

Rodriguez and Smith also wanted to remind people to find ways to set aside personal concerns before starting work or moving onto a different task. Questions -- Where is my focused attention right now and where should it be? Am I committed to working safely and asking others to work safely? What are all the different ways an injury or incident could occur? -- are helpful for getting into the right mindset. “These questions have particular relevance in the moment,” Smith said.

Rodriguez agrees: “We’re facing one of the most daunting economic downturns in at least a generation. Rather than ignore the realities of being human, we simply need to keep perspective by shifting our focus on the present and get perspective by asking ourselves, What is within my control at this moment?

Friday, June 5, 2009

What do employees care about?

Gallup did a study on what employees care about. The findings can be boiled down this way:

1. Do I like being here?

2. Do I know what's expected of me?

3. Am I appreciated for what I do and how I contribute?

4. Will I be able to grow and develop for the longterm?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Garnering Internal Support: Tip #10

What's the best approach for safety-improvement tactics?
Borrow the Business 101 playbook. For garnering support from upper management, the safety department can make a presentation about the “high cost of mediocre safety.” Call it HCMS if you like, but the point is to demonstrate to upper management the full implications of weak safety, which touches everything and everyone. That said, don't stop letting your handpicked champions know that not all initiatives depend on the resources and support approved by management. Identify a "champion" (or more than one): Enlist leaders in the organization with the will, courage, and ability to effect change. These leaders should not get discouraged easily, should have the respect and attention of company managers, and relate well to your mission. If you identify more than one champion, you may want to assign each one a best practice to support. Or you can ask them to support specific tasks, such as use-case-based requirements gathering, which demands collaboration.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Garnering Internal Support: Tip #9

Aside from the CEO, the management team doesn’t really seem to “get it” either. Suggestions?
Stay focused on the areas that you can control. And keep reminding yourself (and others) that your role is to marshal an effective plan to elevate risk awareness and impact behaviors in order to eliminate safety incidents. It's non-negotiable. If the person who oversees operations can't quite figure out why his visible support is necessary, he will. He can't do his job to the fullest without everyone else on board and neither can you. If you haven't already made your case for why a strong safety culture ensures an environment where people do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do 9whether it's for incident prevention or quality control), it's time. And if you’re still getting resistance (or being ignored), ask yourself if you're doing everything possible to improve the Near Miss System . . . or, just as good, take on your Supervisor Training to spawn the culture-savvy supervisors -- create an army of supervisors who get it. The point is that you may have to start with a small ripple, but -- no matter where you start -- overcoming the status quo requires heavy lifting.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

CEO writes to his Management Team

Every president and CEO I've worked for has -- at one time or another -- asked me to craft an email message. It's my job to blend the right message with the right tenor and voice. This time it was a client who needed to communicate to his management team why it was important that they set aside a full day to understand why the company was about to transform its safety culture. Below is a draft. I share in the spirit of, um, sharing. I hope it's helpful.
Management Team,
In our mission to establish a culture of sustainable safety excellence, I’m asking each of you to set aside Thursday, June 25, to take part in a Zero-Incident Performance Roundtable, a facilitated work session designed specially for management teams.

As many of you know, we’ve enlisted the expertise of CoreMedia, a Portland-based safety culture agency, whose consultants and their supporting staff come highly recommended by companies such as Caterpillar, Knife River, Holt CAT, Atkinson Construction, Dresser Industries, Navistar, and so on. Their approach is simple: help companies create cultures of involvement. It’s the old “teach a person to fish so he can eat for a lifetime” concept. Because nothing is more important than protecting life and limb, our involvement is essential to making this succeed.

The Roundtable promises to be a mix of the CoreMedia consultant understanding how we work, what we’re up against, and facilitating an exchange of ideas about how to hit the ground running.

At the conclusion of the work session, we should have a greater perspective on how and why heightened safety awareness demands the same level of urgency as quality control and scheduling and completion goals. The same “leading indicators” apply, which means we’re about to see how investing in safety excellence benefits our entire work culture, and why safety impacts our overall business performance. Outcomes include:

1. Reaching a clear understanding of management’s role and commitment.

2. Agreeing on perceived strengths and weakness of the current safety culture.

3. Agreeing to next steps for why, when, and how to implement change.

4. Learning about the Six Criteria for Safety Excellence, the discipline of leadership and the imperative of leading indicators.

Gaining an overview of the Zero-Incident Performance Process to initiate and establish internally-led strategy implementation.

A healthy and vibrant safety culture means having jobsites that embrace (and recognize) good behaviors because it’s the right thing to do (rather than because a foreman is watching). Getting from Point A to Point B demands a genuine shift in attitudes and behaviors and authentic leadership from all levels. Without establishing safety as a mission critical component at the top, it’s nearly impossible to gain traction or overcome the status quo. A shift in our safety culture starts with each of us. Not only do we have a responsibility to walk the talk, but it’s also vital that we all get behind the mission.

Ultimately, my hope is that ACME Mfg will have the tools to create an atmosphere that champions speaking up and listening up and to recognize when our workers speak out about their safety concerns or have ideas on how to eliminate risk and complacency. A culture of involvement is vital; it affects so much whether it’s how we treat our clients, prospects, vendors, and one another. Involvement and initiative have a way of ensuring that every moment and decision matters.

By the end of the six hours, we will have defined the necessary components to plan for a company-wide culture-change initiative. Included in the process is the plan to conduct a Safety Perception Survey, which asks everyone — managers, foremen and employees — to respond to 99 yes-no questions that map to 21 statistically validated safety-culture categories. The greater the rate of participation, the better the outcome. We’ll talk more about the culture assessment and its timetable at our work session.

To be successful, we need to continue to work together. And if I had to choose our proudest attribute, it’s being surrounded by the number of people who truly believe how much better off we are as a team than as individuals. Thank you. I appreciate it.

Mark your calendar for June 25. I look forward to having you take part.

Mr. Prez
The letter is too long, I know. If I have my say, it'll be lopped by half. I promise.

Monday, June 1, 2009

When Safety is a Core Value

When safety is a core value, you believe that all injuries are preventable. When safety is a corporate value, companies strive for safety perfection. Companies that strive for perfection are committed to attaining zero incidents and they work to manage business operations to make it so: it's the essence of a culture of sustainable safety excellence.

It's kind of simple. A company's commitment to everyone's wellbeing is reflected in its decisions about everything, from capital improvements and hiring the right personnel, to structuring for efficiencies and supporting employees to get their work done on time. A company that walks the talk not only inscribes safety best practices into its mission statement; it also designs every task of every job so that it can be performed with as little risk-exposure as possible. And will continue to revisit, assess, train, measure, reward. It's as if their actions are saying, "Our jobs and the company's success depends on the wellbeing of one another."

So, the question is whether the organization is confident in its process to review the performance of workers, managers and supervisors. And if a process exists, is it on par with what's expected from production, scheduling, cost containment, and customer-client retention? Are we talking about our legendary customer service in the same breath as legendary safety excellence?

The question is what actions are being taken to reward desired safety performance and to keep getting better?

Does your company have the same level of performance processes in place to review supervisor performance around well defined safety duties? If so, great! You get it. Chances are, you're rewarding the desired performance during reviews, bonuses, promotions, etc. Doing so establishes safety as a critical piece in what the company values.

If it all sounds inappropriate for protecting life and limb -- or one more unnecessary nuisance to fuel the meritocracy -- fine, but remember this: what gets measured gets done.

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