Monday, September 27, 2010

Hub Caps

What is the purpose of a hub cap? Well... it makes the vehicle look better, but has little to do with performance. It makes you feel good, but other than that really does nothing constructive. 

A cynic in the audience might very well draw some parallels with laws and programs that sound good, but really don’t accomplish anything of lasting value.

We have many programs in safety that seem awfully similar to hub caps: the annual safety poster contest, safety bingo, trash and trinkets incentive systems, etc. Well those were pretty easy, but what about some sacred cow hub caps like Lagging Indicators or Behavior Based Safety? Can you read on if one of these really nifty hub caps is “attacked?”

Observation Programs/Behavior Based Safety/BBS-- While being a better than nothing addition to an outdated regulations only approach, the ever popular “catch and correct” programs that teach line employees to observe and report:
  • Do not deliver zero
  • Tend to abdicate management of safety leadership responsibility
  • Are not easily integrated into other management functions throughout the organization
OK, if implemented as a part of a robust system that includes proper accountabilities and training, they can become an element of the safety toolbox. However, this “level 2” tool is often viewed as:
  • A stumbling block by hourly employees that both react to peer pressure and desire active upper management participation. Checking off forms and tracking (often) questionable data inspires neither the hourly employee nor upper management
  • A quick safety awareness improvement tool that unfortunately also quickly becomes both ineffective and an expensive non-value-added frill
  • A reactive approach that is both foreign to and lacks credibility with executives. No where else in the many decades of operations excellence is such a “check on (rat on) your fellow worker” approach used
Does BBS have some value? Yes, none of us go into the workplace with our eyes closed. 

Should BBS be a tool in the safety performance world? Yes.

 Should BBS be a cornerstone of your organization’s safety efforts? Based on the above, I think not. 

Why not spend your scarce time, involvement and financial resources for safety in developing solutions to safety issues that work better than hub caps?

The Doc

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

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Big 5

Todd Britten is a fellow safety pro and consultant who consistently provides excellent assistance. Recently Todd impressed me with a concept that really makes sense-"The Big 5." Todd was working with an organization’s safety improvement team. The team was struggling with how to effectively engage a workforce with a long history of accepting a weak safety culture. Lights went on in the people’s heads as Todd described his personal Big 5:
  1. Faith: “My number one value is a faith in the Lord. He is my guide, my savior, my Lord. In all things I try to be committed to following His examples and teaching.”
  2. Family: “My wife, my daughter, our siblings and our parents are next in line. I will do whatever it takes of me for them.”
  3.  Health: “I have been blessed with good health, both personally and within my family. It is amazingly easy to take this for granted.”
  4. Job: “I ride for the brand and love what I do. Assisting others to develop and live their own Zero Incident Safety Culture is a daily inspiration that I truly love to engage in.”
  5. Country: “I love the country we live in. The United States is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave. “
Todd’s next comment to the audience was to have them list their own Big 5. This led to some deep, meaningful thoughts and discussions that definitely made a profound impact on those with whom he was working. 

 And then the kicker; “What would happen to your Big 5 if you were to be involved in a serious injury?”

I know that when Todd talked to me about this, I stopped and gave it some real thought. This led me to be even more committed to my personal safety, that of my family and that of those with whom I come in contact

What are your Big 5? 

How about the Big 5 of your family and associates at work, or in your community? 

Can this concept lead to a commitment that will make a difference in yours and others’ personal safety?

The Doc

Monday, September 6, 2010

Wet Pants

A while back I took an assignment to assist an organization in south central Russia. Their desire was to make deep seated and far reaching improvements to their culture, and leadership was well aware of the weaknesses that were keeping performance at a low level.

On-site, day one: I met with my Russian counterpart, Alexey. I had anticipated a series of meetings with various staff members that would focus on determining their root cause issues and then beginning a process for Alexey’s organization to do something about them. The language barrier was extreme yet Alexey had an extremely good simultaneous translator in Anna. Like many of the simultaneous translators, this young lady had been very well trained by the KGB. I was now concerned about the ‘real agenda.’ Fortunately, one of our American team members confided to me alone she had once been a simultaneous translator for the CIA. Thank you Nina. Let the intrigue begin, Comrades!

Alexey tossed out the first ‘hand grenade,’ so to speak, when he explained the plan for day two. “Dr. Williamsen you will be giving a series of three speeches throughout the day. The first will be to leaders in our community. We are in the third largest city in all of Russia. These are very important people to us. Next you will address the academic community from our university. There will be faculty, administration and students who want to hear of your plans to assist us. These are very important people in our efforts to move forward. Toward the end of the day you will be interviewed on national television and what you have to say will be widely broadcast. However, I must warn you of one thing Dr. Williamsen, do not mention the word change. As you know we have had very difficult times in our country and so change has become a very bad word.”

I was shocked in many ways. I had anticipated teamwork in determining the changes they needed to develop and implement, not a series of political maneuverings and denial. I was reminded of what my Papa once told me, “Son the only people who really like change are people with wet pants." (Ok, so papa was quoting Mark Twain, but the message was still clear) 

 I then explained in three different speeches to these “very important people” the necessity of forward planning for gradual change, so they would not be blind sided by events similar to their country’s economic collapse. I told them (in not so many words) to get out of the world of BS and denial and begin planning. This is the only way to avoid a trigger event that will bring on the excruciating, radical, revolutionary change of catastrophe that we all desire to avoid.

My career in assisting organizations to develop meaningful, realistic safety culture change began at a Fortune 20 company that experienced another fatality. This event left all the executives with “wet pants” and the necessity of subsequent radical safety culture changes to their sick production only focused culture. My message to Alexey’s organization is the same as it is to you: Don’t wait for a trigger event to give you wet pants! Take a deep, realistic look into your safety culture and begin a quiet revolution which avoids trigger events that lead to “wet pants” for all.

The Doc

Image Credit: FlexibleLearning

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