Monday, August 27, 2012

Question 58 – Does being safe slow down production?

The safety perception survey jointly developed by Drs. Dan Petersen and Charles Bailey provides significant statistically valid insights into an organization’s safety culture. It also provides some noticeable controversies. I guess my favorite of these is question # 58: “Does compliance with safety rules and regulations slow down the operation?”

 In many of the company survey reports there has been considerable discussion as to whether question 58 should be answered “no” instead of the “yes” the original researchers designated as the correct answer. I discussed this question with one of the survey originators, Dr. Dan Petersen. His said the correct answer to this question is “yes.”

No matter what Dan’s response, to me the real issue here indicates whether safety has been integrated into the operation as a value added component. It is all about safety integrity for each and every process in a facility/organization. I believe that work groups should carefully study their processes and build adequate safety precautions into them. These processes must be done to the level that excellence in safety is not a hindrance to excellence in production and cost, but adds value to the operation.

The “Quality Revolution” successfully faced this same challenge a number of years ago when the new concept of zero defects caused plant personnel to slow down and inspect for quality. The operations world would not allow a binary approach to quality that goes something like “Do you want quality or productivity?” Soon the realities of intense global competition dictated that this approach of non-value added work (effort) had to be eliminated. Quality and productivity could not be mutually exclusive. When this quality revelation occurred in the quality revolution, quality became a third cornerstone of manufacturing, just like productivity and cost.

Safety is at this same crossroads in globally dominant organizations. Safety and productivity cannot be mutually exclusive. The end result is non-value added work to preserve safety (slowing down) must be engineered out of processes as safety becomes the fourth cornerstone of operations. As the organization goes through its safety improvement efforts, global excellence will demand fast, cost effective, high quality, SAFE solutions living in all processes. If you have not tackled this challenge yet, get ready. Global competition that demands excellence has this safety slow down issue in the cross hairs of its improvement efforts.

The Doc

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

I am responsible for – Your personal safety culture

Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” host (and Caterpillar spokesman) Mike Rowe roused much controversy in the safety community with his blog entry and subsequent stage monologue asserting that even where posters advertise “Safety First!” many work environments seem to exercise “Safety Third.” Safety professionals everywhere gasped when Rowe dared to share, “Of all the platitudes automatically embraced in the workplace – and there are many – there is none more pervasive, erroneous, overused, and dangerous, than “Safety First!” in my opinion.”

Indeed, this seemingly fearless entertainer has encountered many significant safety issues during his career. One of my favorite anecdotes from Rowe’s trove of harrowing tales is about crab catching in the wild Alaskan seas that often run with swells of 50 feet or more.  In this sketch, the boat captain is questioned about his paying no attention to OSHA safety rules while his crew is working amid extreme, life threatening dangers for hours on end.

The captain’s initial response to OSHA rules is not printable in this blog.  The second part of his response is, and goes something like, “My job is to make you rich!  Your job is to stay alive long enough to collect it.  Get back to work!”

Ouch!  What a shocking message.  However, once you get beyond shock and awe, dig deeper.  No matter where you work – on the job – at the home – during travel, who is responsible for your personal safety?  If the answer is anything but “I am responsible for my own safety,” it is an accident waiting to happen.  This is true no matter where you are on the planet, no matter what you do to earn a living, no matter what you do in the off hours.

Many of you are aware of the mini-firestorm Mike Rowe’s comments caused.  In May my friend Dave Johnson, chief editor of Industrial Safety & Health News weighed in on the issue with an editorial that praises Rowe’s candor while cautioning readers against guzzling his Kool-Aid. Rowe kept the fire of debate burning with a letter to Dave thanking him for his editorial and reiterating his position on the “safety first” mentality. He recounted some of the ineffective rules, paperwork, one-size-fits-all mentality and tripe about “safety first” he has encountered while pursuing dirty jobs.  Rowe’s ending comments suggested all this safety noise may cause people to become complacent because they are convinced their safety is someone else’s responsibility. 

What is first and second in Mike Rowe’s world of “safety third?”  I like Mike’s viewpoint that your common sense and your personal responsibility had better be the answer.  Isn’t this what Dr. Dan Petersen told us: “I am responsible for my own safety.” 

Mike goes on to point out that “Every day, workers fall through the cracks of a one-size-fits-all safety policy.  Complacency is the real enemy, and I’m pretty sure the way to eliminate it will not involve more rules and more soothing assurances that an individual’s safety is someone else’s priority.  ‘In compliance is not the same as being out of danger.’  How effective is repeating the same dogmas that have been out there for the last hundred years and forcing people to watch thirty-five year old safety films that would put a glass eye to sleep?” 

Mike Rowe has ruffled a lot of feathers with his comments.  Is this the real issue?  I think not.  I like that he is trying to force us to get out of our comfort zone ruts and get real.  Common sense and your personal responsibility are paramount to worker safety.  This is the real message he is sending.  I hope we all hear this message loud and clear, no matter what background noise is going on.

And may you be blessed with working in safety environments better than those shown in “Dirty Jobs.”

The Doc

Monday, August 6, 2012

Safety Measles – Spreading a culture of safety excellence

How many of you have experienced measles, personally or within your immediate family?  My guess is that in the virtual audience of this blog, all hands are raised. We all recognize the skin splotches that indicate this common infection.

If we take a parallel journey in our virtual universe, you will realize many organizations have safety measles.   When we look across our spectrum of safety performance,  it is obvious when these select splotches of excellence exist here and there. The real issue becomes how to spread our safety measles everywhere.  We need our cultures of excellence to spread across the whole body.

This should lead to a close examination of the characteristics which have allowed our splotches to thrive.  What are the critical success factors for safety excellence measles?  These include culture superiority indicators such as leadership, support, diagnostic evaluation, condition and knowledge audits, training, fundamental safety management process error proofing, commitment, involvement, engagement, etc.

As you can tell it is not easy to catch and spread a culture of safety measles excellence.  Look throughout your organization for the obvious indicators, and then carefully and relentlessly spread the success factors which work in your organization to where safety measles don’t exist.

The Doc

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