Monday, September 20, 2010

The Five Es of Safety

Way back in the 30s H. W. Heinrich launched another one of his personally observed safety paradigms: the three Es of safety. They go something like:
  • Engineer out the problems first
  • Educate your people as to what they need to do
  • Enforce the rules on all who do not follow them
Well Crud! There is not an engineered solution to every workplace hazard. Yes, I have “called in the engineers” on more than one occasion to address and resolved some pesky issues that puts our people at risk. However, most of the time a better “engineered solution” is found by bringing the members of the workforce together and brainstorming a solution to the issue that is bothering, or potentially harmful to them.

Education of people is also very important, as long as it is interactive. The boring, repetitive stuff that often passes for education is truly counterproductive. The level one regs training is necessary, but often done too poorly to have any really lasting value (other than a check in the box that does little or nothing to protect the employees). Back to engaging the workers; what is it that really needs to be trained to reduce their probability of injury? They become the ones who do the training.

Enforcement...does that mean discipline? Wait…what is discipline? As I was growing up and in need of firm guidance, discipline was often kicked off when my papa told me “You’re in a heap’ a trouble, Boy.” In my adult years, when I have been trained and am responsible for my own actions, discipline is mostly in accordance with the dictionary definition; “Training that develops self control.” So for the most part work place discipline becomes adult correction, and that means personal coaching/engagement, not punitive enforcement.

The next question then becomes: How can the people who are at risk be engaged in effectively engineering, training and disciplining their own safety needs? My typical mantra is: “No outside resources, we solve and train our own issues with our own people.” However, there is often some initial outside resource necessary to train the skills that help us do our own solutioning. From there on we can engage our own people “satisfactorily.”

 What then is a definition of “satisfactorily?” My own practical experience is about 90% of the day-to-day problems can be solved in house by the people who are experiencing the issues. But, as my papa once done told me, “The solutions don’t fall off the tree, boy. You gotta work at them.” You may need to hire someone to initially train your people how to be self sufficient. From then on just help engage/lead your own in house safety pros, i.e., your workforces who need to develop and own solutions to their issues.

The five Es of safety? The other two, as alluded to above, are Employee Engagement. This is what will transform an ineffective 30s safety culture to the high tech world found in a modern day zero incident safety culture.

The Doc

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