Monday, June 25, 2012

Devil – The details of a safety accountability culture


As a famous cliché reads; the devil is in the details. I often get asked about the details of a viable safety accountability culture. An example of visible executive involvement is personal commitment to safety accountability (S/A), to be involved in a review and discussion of appropriate actions for all significant incidents and near misses. Whereas  the supervisor is responsible to develop the work and safety talents of the hourly workforce, this S/A model has the hourly employees accountable to deliver job skill and job specific safety training. Hourly employees can’t do this unless the supervisor helps in the development of their capabilities.

The Continuous Improvement (CI) team develops the curriculum for both supervisors and hourly workers and helps in training them to be comfortable and proficient in this kind of job related safety culture excellence. And this all leads to another S/A for the middle manager superintendent- 1:1 conversations and open- ended questions with hourly employees and supervisors to have them demonstrate/train the middle manager on the desired skills.

Sounds like Plan, Do, Check, Act? Yep, it is, and we do this at a frequency that reinforces the importance of these safety tasks. The plan has us all living accountabilities, demonstrating commitment by our actions and encouraging active involvement by everyone in our organization. This type of culture does not just fall out of a tree. You have to spend years with your small CI teams developing the details and implementing the systems. At first, there may be some disturbing failures before the” trees” mature enough to consistently yield their fruits of safety excellence. And then, at last, every day you can harvest the fruits of a safety excellence culture by just tending the garden (paying attention to the indicators of excellence and need).  Safety accountability then becomes your culture, just the way you do things around here. But it sure takes some hard work in the devil's details to get to there.

The Doc

Monday, June 18, 2012

Landslides – Life-changing events


As we trekked downhill from the inspiring glacier capped mountains of Peru, we entered the jungle canyons with their torrential rains and raging rivers. Each kilometer of the muddy and mule manure-laced trails brought incredible sights of flora, fauna and … landslides. The combination of rains and glacial runoff was just too much for the steep hillsides to bear. The huge landside scars led to evidence of villages that were affected. Rivers got dammed and redirected and, ultimately, local lives were never the same after the landslide occurred. It was apparent that there were good, bad and ugly consequences of the unavoidable landslides in the lives of the local people.

Each of us also experience landslides that affect our lives, some of them good and others not. And yet we must keep on trudging through the mud, manure, rainstorms and (happily) sunlight that happens to all of us. Think about your landslide realities. Yes, I did get fired by a boss who did not like my management style, and that landslide dammed off a career path I had been pursuing. Another company experienced a fatality and launched the current landslide that has me fully engaged in helping others to develop zero-incident safety cultures worldwide.

How can you make the best of the life-changing landslides that have, and will, occur in your life?

The Doc

Monday, June 11, 2012

“Mula!” – Staying engaged


During our weeklong hiking trek of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, we were constantly being passed by horses and mules. They are the beasts of burden that haul the food, clothing, medical supplies, etc., that, in turn, keep the remote village people supplied with life saving materials. These animals do just fine going downhill, but the uphill climbs at 10-15,000 feet are as taxing on them as they were on me. The animal wranglers inspire these beasts’ uphill struggles by constantly shouting out the word “MULA!” -  a rough translation of which is “Keep moving, horse!”
 
As my wife and I did indeed struggle with the effort required at these altitudes, she laughed when I called out to her, “MULA!”  I also got a sneer in return. And yet we all knew there was no alternative but to keep on putting one foot in front of the other as we trudged through the rain, sleet, mud, horse manure, cold and weariness for the long hours of our seemingly endless trek. Along the way, we did have some incredible sights and exhilarating experiences in this phenomenally beautiful and culturally rich country. The end result experience of the ancient Inca stone city of Machu Picchu was most assuredly worth all the mud, manure and effort!

Safety pros get to experience the mud, manure and weariness that comes along with trying to help our people and companies put an end to the pain, suffering and heartache of injuries. And yet we must keep putting one foot in front of the other while reveling in the enjoyment of the successes we achieve along this seemingly never ending trek. To you, and to me, I shout “MULA!”  The end results are worth our efforts.

The Doc

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A great pig – effective engagement for you and the organization


My papa told a favorite story I heard any number of times. It went something like this:  An old farmer had a pig with a wooden leg. When a stranger to the farm asked why the pig had the wooden leg, the farmer launched into a story about how wonderful this pig was. The pig had saved his family by waking them up one night during a house fire. This same pig had fought off a pack of wild dogs and even went for and fetched help when the farmer was injured out in the fields. “But why the wooden leg?”  His answer: “This pig is so good, you can’t eat it all at once.”

Those who have responsibility for operations and safety in manufacturing facilities usually cannot spare the time to visit all the departments in a day, or every month. At least, I never could when having this level of responsibility. Yet you must be visible in a meaningful way and get to know your people and the ins and outs of all the operations. The approach I found best was to go on a monthly site inspection, but only a portion of it, as I could neither devote a whole day, nor could I absorb all the people and operations intricacies for eight hours. Each month, I met with the labor safety committee person and took an hour or so to do an in-depth review of one or two departments. This gave me quality time with the people, the processes, the safety leadership, and made management visible, engaged and real. In essence, I needed to take on the whole organization in bite-sized chunks.

What is your viable process for better engaging in your organization’s safety, operations and people?

The Doc

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