Monday, April 25, 2011

Safety Perception Survey beginnings

The Survey had its beginnings in the late 1970’s when Dr. Dan Petersen and Dr. Chuck Bailey teamed to study what really made a difference in safety performance. Their research took place in two parts. The first focus was on what “conventional safety wisdom” said made a difference, i.e., “procedural – engineered,” OSHA regulations and the like. This five year effort showed that “The 12 most commonly used criteria in standard safety program audits are poor measures of program effectiveness.”

Another piece of the first study was input from safety professionals on processes and questions that they thought would make a difference in observable safety performance. As a part of this discovery effort approximately 1500 potential survey questions were distilled down to 73 questions which the study showed to have “a statistically significant response.” The validation approach compared question responses from a poor safety record (high injury rate) organization to those of a good safety record organization. All questions that had no significant statistical difference in response between these two very different safety record organizations were eliminated from the survey. These validated questions were then mapped to 20 safety processes that when existent in a safety culture should consistently give observably better worker safe practices. These observably relevant questions and their 20 “management systems” were then retested in a second phase of the nine year study.

After reviewing the data from the first study a second multi-year “verification study” focused on positive reinforcement of correct safety activities and “the quality of the 20 management systems which have an effect on human behavior relating to safety.” They found that “The most successful safety programs are those which recognize and deal effectively with employee and supervisor behavior and attitudes which affect safety.”

Additionally, the research team began to engage in problem solving efforts around the weak scoring processes that the survey showed to exist. In this phase of the study, question responses from another set of good and poor safety record organizations were once again compared to confirm the validity of high question scores to good safety performance (low injury rate). The end result was a strong statistically valid correlation between these 20 high scoring processes, improvement efforts to low scoring processes, training of supervisors in these improved safety management systems and consequently the percent of observable safe worker behaviors and subsequent lower injury rates. And thus the conclusion that when present at higher percentages, these questions and the associated processes they map to, were statistically valid indicators of the “human factor” and associated worker activities and therefore a culture of better safety performance (lower injury rates). Or as their study conclusions stated “Application of 20 category survey technique developed by this study provides a reliable measure of safety program effectiveness.”
The Doc

Monday, April 18, 2011

Confronting the Brutal Facts: Obstacles to safety excellence

Author and Professor John Kotter wrote an intriguing book on “Leading Change.” In this book, Dr. Kotter presents eight common obstacles that keep organizations from achieving excellence and then discusses what to do to overcome these barriers. But this is a management science book, what relevance can it have to industrial safety? The more I look into achieving global safety culture supremacy, the more I am convinced that excellent business approaches provide us a far better road map than we get from “the usual suspects.” Those “usual suspects” are government regulations and compliance audits (level one tools) and observation programs (level two). There is a whole other world out there that can help our profession in achieving performance excellence. Sadly any business approach to improvement has been neglected for far too long by the majority of our profession. Our safety pros need to delve into and utilize some of the same education and business tools that our promotable production culture counterparts live with on a day-to-day basis. With this in mind here are four of Dr. Kotter’s eight obstacles to achieving excellence:

• What is required to overcome the complacency that so often defeats safety improvement and safety careers?
• Where is the guiding coalition (upper management active participation) that is needed to lead safety excellence initiatives?

• What about the people and physical obstacles that keep derailing the safety initiatives?

• How often does the safety pro deliver the vision, communicate it effectively and generate a safety culture of frequent small wins?

A focus on glasses, gloves and observation check sheets just can’t deliver the kind of performance needed to overcome these common business culture obstacles. As we look to the next 100 years of safety culture improvement we will have to go beyond “the usual suspects” and begin utilizing some of the excellent readily available business practices to help us deliver a zero incident safety culture, both locally and globally.
The brutal facts are that we have plateaued in safety performance with the current decades old safety approaches that have stagnated our safety cultures. Take a look at what Dr. Kotter has to say, confront your organization’s brutal facts and start using modern culture excellence approaches that go beyond the basics that have stalled our safety initiatives.
The Doc

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ruts: Improving our life

Medical studies have shown that even though people who have had heart-bypass surgery are told that they must change their lifestyle or die, about 90% do not change. Typically two years after surgery the patients haven’t altered their lifestyle. It seems that most would rather die than change.

You know this personal stubbornness lives in other parts of our lives as well. And week after week we are given messages that reinforce what is the correct path for us to take:

• Substance and food warnings

• Governmental regulations

• Educational programming

• Personal interaction principles

• Safety standards

And I, for one, tend to stay in my own comfort zone with my “personal, private, low pressure, portable” ideas, beliefs and attitudes.

On occasion, do you feel a twinge to:

• Make a donation to a struggling organization, friend, or family

• Follow the rules

• Caringly reach out to help someone

• Slow down and live a more cautious lifestyle
How do I (you) get out of personal ruts and on to the track that we really should follow?
Think about it. Is there a twinge that you should take on as a personal challenge to get out of your ruts? Why not pick one twinge to work on until it becomes a habit you are happy to live with. I have read that it takes about 21 consecutive days of doing a new task for it to become a habit.
My personal twinge, after breaking my ankle while skiing, deals with slowing down and living a more cautious and caring lifestyle.
Do you have such a twinge? Do you have one that you would like to have? What is it? What should you do about this?
The Doc

Monday, April 4, 2011

Round Trip: Sustaining safety culture excellence

I began to get deeply involved in helping organizations achieve safety culture excellence back in the 1980s. At that point in my career, I was in charge of manufacturing engineering for a Fortune 20 company. One of the facilities experienced a fatality which in turn led to a serious corporate wide safety initiative. Within a week of the tragedy, I was assigned responsibility for the safety of about 10,000 manufacturing employees who worked at 40 plants scattered across America. The organization ran an average recordable rate in the 20’s and had no real safety focus. Production was king as measured by cost, quality and customer service upstream indicators.

After some research we hired a famous safety consultant, Dr. Dan Petersen. For three years Dan and our team lived on the road developing a safety culture excellence model that quickly delivered a corporate wide average recordable rate of about 1.2. We were all very happy with a safety accountability culture that worked well across the entire nation.
And then everyone went back to their “normal day job.” After all, we were convinced we had achieved “mission accomplished” and I left the company for other, greener pastures, so to speak. Some years later, after presenting the success story at a safety conference, the current safety manager for the organization stopped me to discuss his current reality. It turns out that five years after we all celebrated how good we were, the whole organization was back at a 20 recordable rate. The new safety culture stuck for a short while after the resources were reallocated to the ever dominant production culture and then collapsed.
My lesson from this: you must never declare victory. The relentless pursuit of zero has to be relentless. If we back off, the second law of thermodynamics effect seems to take over and the whole system degrades. And you know this is exactly what our production culture counterparts have learned. We all must keep the push for excellence alive. To quote Yoda; “There is no try, only do.” We must stay engaged.
The Doc

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