James Madison, fourth president of the United States, was instrumental in drafting the United States constitution. He warned against creating laws “so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” Based on some of the complicated government forms, promulgations, policies, procedures and the like I read Madison’s warning as timeless advice that should be heeded in safety and other areas, as well.
A common tendency in safety deals with addressing an injury, incident or close call by writing a new procedure or rule that gets published, read to the troops and a short time later completely forgotten. I remember a conversation with safety pioneer Dr. Dan Petersen in which he railed against job safety analyses (JSAs) because the engineer who wrote them felt good about addressing a dangerous issue and the operations group never really implemented the intent of the JSA. The net result was a false sense of security and a safety culture that looked strong from a paperwork standpoint, but in reality was a house of cards.
Is there a simple solution for this common pitfall? Some of our customers’ continuous improvement teams have delivered rules of engagement for their work cells that are to the point, easily understood and as a result lived by the people in the work group, those most at risk. Examples include: “The following PPE will always be worn when this work cell is operational: ………...” “No metal tools will be used on equipment that contains 1.1 energetic materials.” LOTO becomes something like “Before any equipment is worked on it will be completely de-energized.” Other employee-based teams write practical JSAs and then are required to train them to the rest of the employees as a part of job safety briefings.
How can you and your organization “de-obfuscate” and get to a simplified, more effective safety culture?
Editor’s Note: Join our May 22, 2013, Safety Culture World Webinar to hear how one customer achieved cultural transformation with Caterpillar’s continuous improvement model and now leverages its own personnel to deliver the Zero-Incident Performance (ZIP™) Process.