Monday, November 28, 2011

Hacked Into – Recovering from tragedy

Not that long ago, I opened the wrong email and got hacked into. My address book totally disappeared. My file system was corrupted and rendered useless. All those in my contact list received a message that my wife and I were being held hostage in Spain, and they needed to send off $2500 to bail us out. There were a few other uglies too, and it took almost a month to recover. Along the way, I got various notices from friends that ran the gamut from laughter to where to send the money.

About the same time, our son was to receive a masters degree from a university in a state to the south. Shortly before we drove down for this happy event, his area was struck by a tornado that completely destroyed the town in which his best friends neighbored. Those who lived in this town lost everything they had. Suddenly, in perspective, my computer woes went from tragedy to inconvenience. There are so many others who have lost it all in fires, floods, storms and injuries. And they, too, are called upon to rise to the occasion and recover from whatever tragedy has occurred.

This seems to be a part of our human nature, rising to the occasion, whatever it may be for each of us. Along the way, we are called on to do more than live in remorse. As I am called on to recover from whatever the event may be, I am reminded that part of the purpose is to invest in those who are also in need. Our family, our community, our profession all seem to be a part of a greater purpose that requires our engagement in and investment beyond the personal pain caused by things like computer hassles and worse. Rising to the occasion for ourselves and others seems to be a part of the purpose of the process we all get to go through.

The Doc

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sharing – Improving the lives of all whom we encounter

I recently read a story of a family whose garden had six strawberry plants, but only one strawberry was produced. They carefully nurtured the lone strawberry and protected it from birds and other animals. When, at last, harvest day came, the family of four celebrated by slicing the fruit and savoring their bite together. From that event, each came away with a lifelong, personal message that things taste better when shared with others.

As I think back on times of togetherness, meals do indeed taste better when shared with others. Thanksgiving Holiday meals, with family, especially come to mind. Another such shared meal occurs when I return from business travel. At this time, one of the treats I look forward to is the tradition that my wife and I have of eating a welcome home meal together. During this simple celebration, we share what has happened in both of our lives during our time of separation. Truly, things taste better when shared with others.

There is another kind of sharing that we in our profession enjoy; how we have improved the safety culture of those with whom we interact. As I consider the downstream indicators that continue to improve, there is a warm satisfaction derived from sharing the gift of a better life with those we are impacting. Sharing our talents delivers a personal “taste” that is better when we make a positive difference with others.

While living a part of this profession that makes a difference to others, there is at least one other sharing that leaves a personal “taste” that is very satisfying. That “taste” deals with the development of lasting relationships that continue to bear a personal fruit of enjoyment for years to come. Our safety profession gives us a chance to plant the seeds that grow into friendships that don’t wilt or fade away. Rather, they spring to new life at each meeting. However, this kind of enjoyable, lasting fruit requires continual genuine engagement and caring for the realities of others.

How is your relational garden doing? The long lasting enjoyment available to you depends on your farming skills with others.

The Doc

Monday, November 14, 2011

Heinrich the 8th – Safety controversy and safety reality

There seems to be a never ending controversy around the famous 1930s injury pyramid work of Herbert Wagner Heinrich. Once again, a long article has appeared in Professional Safety Magazine ( complaining about the lack of statistical rigor back in 1930. In turn, this recalls memories of a 1960s rock song “Henry the 8th” by Herman’s Hermits; “second verse same as the first….” And so on, ad infinitum.

The issue of the number of near misses/close calls to actual injuries has been revisited many times by the likes of Frank Bird in the 1960s, a UK safety society in the 1990s, and who knows how many others:

• Heinrich, 1930: 300 to 29 to 1
• Bird, I969: 600 to 10 to 1
• HSE Executive Group of the British Government, 1993: 189 no injury events for every 3 days of lost time

Indeed, almost all of us use the same concept every day as we focus on our organization’s downstream indicators. What is an injury rate, other than a reality that for every so many millions of hours of work we can expect a certain rate of near misses, first aides, medicals and lost time injuries? We each have our own injury pyramid reality that we wish would go to zero. And this is the whole crux of the tempest in the teapot that Heinrich started way back in 1930.

My favorite response to all this analytical rhetoric came from the late Dr. Dan Petersen. He was not concerned about counting or debating the various types of incidents. Rather, the real issue was what are we doing to prevent these inexcusable incidents from happening? His research showed that there were about 20 fundamental safety processes that, if people in a safety culture lived very well, were able to prevent incidents from happening. If the people in an organization error proofed these processes and lived a safety culture of practical accountabilities for each improved process, incidents would not occur.

Our Continuous Improvement teamwork on these, and a few other processes, has shown Dan to be right. If our hourly through senior management personnel will live practical daily accountabilities for each error proofed process; minor through serious incidents no longer occur. Safety performance does not improve by counting, or debating, various downstream indicators. Safety performance only improves if we will do appropriate, value added activities that eliminate the possibility of incidents from occurring in the first place.

The Doc

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