Monday, August 20, 2012

Safety Stand Downs – Turning a waste of time into a value added event

To date, through all the years, I have never experienced a safety stand down that ever helped improve safety. Recently, I was having dinner with Gord McDougall, a senior level officer of a large company that has been struggling with safety performance that is just not good enough. Gord decided it was time for a safety stand down, but not because of a trigger safety event like most organizations use as a reason for a safety stand down. Rather, their trends are disturbing to Gord. The safety of the group for which he has responsibility is just not good enough for his principles and values. Well, of course we got into a long, deep conversation, the result of which is the POP statement written below. POP: Purpose of the event – Outcomes that are measureable as a result of doing the stand down – Process by which this effective safety stand down will be accomplished.

·        Make everyone aware that we are not making adequate progress. Our ever occurring safety incident reality is not the kind of performance that will keep us from injuring our people;

·        Our current safety performance is not good enough for our family of employees who work here. A common thread in the incidents, as I review them, is that we are not in the moment and are doing things – taking actions that seem expedient versus what is the right/safest way. Our personal inappropriate actions are not deliberate – nor complacent – just not making “no shortcuts” a top priority. We rationalize and take shortcuts that have become our productivity/safety work culture. We are living a disturbing kind of sloppy, situational awareness culture.   We all must do what it takes to put an end to this dangerous everyday reality;
        I must make you aware that you are responsible and accountable for your own safety, both on and off the job.

·         You have heard my concerns;

·         You realize that productivity is always second to safety;

·         I am very grateful we are submitting near misses that you have been personally involved with. You are facing many of the wrong attributes of our safety reality and doing something both correct and positive about them;

      Over the next week, every site will do a safety stand down and every one of our employees will identify at least one safety hazard/action/policy/procedure we have become complacent about and live with;

·         I ask each of you to personally commit to resolving these issues. All of our branches will capture these items and post them very noticeably on their walls as an action item matrix (it is okay if they are either anonymous or signed). I ask that each of the sites email me its list. In turn, we at corporate will compile a total list – and publish it. I then ask each one of you to discuss the identified issues and commit to addressing and resolving every one as a part of improving your safety reality. Injuries are inexcusable. It is not about $$$$. I don’t care if it takes longer to do the job. My bottom line desire is that no one gets injured;

·         I do care that you each take a personal responsibility to live a personal culture of no shortcuts, no complacency, no injuries on or off the job. I want each of you to earn your safety situational awareness and responsibility ‘merit badge;’

·         Each time a member of the senior leadership team visits a site, we will join you in reviewing and auditing your safety issue list. We will next review/audit our corporate list and we will begin asking each of you about these issues and the new ones you have identified and resolved since this stand down. We must wipe out what we know to not be right.


I approached the Steering committee Continuous Improvement (CI) Recognition team and advised them of the concerns relative to our rising number of incidents and what WE are going to do differently. They are now working on this ‘elephant in the room.’

 I have begun to engage every employee in the company face-to-face by having a “personal one-on-one stand down” with them. So far, I have talked to almost 200 of our 425 people. Purpose, Outcomes, Process:  Purpose and Outcomes are relatively easy. The process piece is not as measurable as I would like. It is based on putting personal accountability within the context of position. In other words, the washbay guy is accountable for himself and others in his work space. The supervisor is accountable for himself, with a personal accountability of his/her direct reports, as well as others in his work space.

To date the feedback and “trailing” results indicate some progress using this approach.

Gord’s write up and safety stand down POP are finally providing input to developing a value-added safety stand down culture:

·       What are the unsatisfactory issues that lead to the need for a safety stand down?

·       What are you (we) going to do differently to eradicate these issues – now and in the future?

·        How are we going to ensure that this is accomplished now and in the future?

·        How are we communicating our commitment and the results that have come from this stand down?

The Doc

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