Monday, June 24, 2013

Piñata – Prioritizing your safety efforts

Recent travels took me to areas around Mexico.  While there I enjoyed watching the children at a birthday party being blindfolded and trying to hit a piñata with a stick and thus get all the candies and small toys to shower down on them.  It was a fun time that also brought back memories from my youth and the sound advice my papa used to give me.  In this case I can still hear him say, “Son, never hit a piñata that has hornets flying out of it.” 

How does this apply to safety?  I have yet to work with a group that did not face difficult issues.  Which ones do they decide to work on with the scarce resources at hand?  Normally the groups start with a risk assessment which in turn sets up a loose listing of priorities.  Yet there are seldom enough resources to tackle them all.  So now what?  My opinion is that you must work on the fatal risk issues first, but which one of the many do we tackle now, and then how do we prioritize the many lesser risks which follow?  Here is where I apply my father’s wisdom and begin with the ones we know we can solve.  In so doing we steer away from the hornet nests until we have the experience, knowledge and trained resources which can successfully take on and overcome the more difficult, resource crippling risks that must someday be resolved.  Build a successful team that can enter into the fray and make a win for everyone without being severely stung in the process.

The Doc

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rerouting – Keeping safety on track

“Don’t worry, I know right where I’m going,” I said to my wife. Then an almost-human voice ratted on me:  “Rerouting … rerouting…”  Now she knew I was lost!  In the technology intense culture of our day millions of drivers recognize these words, or others like them, as a timely, practical message they have gone off track.  The GPS device not only recognizes when a driver is off course, but immediately begins plotting a new path to back on track.  I do not know of such a computer aided, satellite technology, audible device for rerouting safety cultures when they get off track.  However, there are numerous indicators that do signal a safety culture that is off course.  You are all familiar with injury rates as being one of these. There are others such as:



  • Near-miss events and what is done about them

  • Safety Perception Surveys and what is done about the kind of data they deliver

  • Physical audits and what is done about them

  • Workface one-on-one interviews and what is done about them

  • Value added safety accountabilities across the organization and how consistently they take place


I guess we could call these sorts of timely messages as examples of practical leading indicators that benefit the course and direction of your organization’s safety reality. That is as long as you and your organization do something about the data you receive and reroute aspects of your safety culture accordingly.


The Doc

Monday, June 10, 2013

RIF – Breaking through safety performance plateaus

RIF, Recordable Injury Frequency, the worldwide standard for judging safety performance is often talked about as inadequate, but in actuality is seldom if ever replaced.  Some of the common arguments in opposition to RIF include:
  • RIF is reactionary, not proactive .

  • RIF doesn’t give a hint as to what you should do differently to improve safety.

  • Why incent RIF performance when all it does is lead to hiding injuries and thus impede progress in resolving the recurring issues that should be addressed? 

  • RIF means nothing to a worker on the front line, where the risks are lived with every day.
We have all heard these arguments and more.  Yet we keep slogging down this same old road expecting a different result – the classic definition of insanity.  A group of safety professionals recently met with the executive safety leadership of a Fortune 50 company that was struggling with the RIF Plateau.  A number of years back when their injury numbers were higher they attacked the RIF culture that existed, solved many condition and regulatory issues and took a steep drop in RIF and its associated costs.  The leadership was all smiles as they thoughtlessly planned the next 10 percent RIF decrease goal with all its bonus structure implications thereto pertaining.  And then they hit the RIF Plateau and injury rate progress stopped for years.  No matter how hard they pushed a meaningless goal of < 0.1 RIF reduction the outdated statistic did not move.  Classic safety wisdom draws to a halt at the RIF plateau.

During the weeklong retreat it was decided that the CEO and group presidents owned RIF responsibility, whereas all those below these pay grades were responsible for the upstream activities that delivered downstream results.  This led to a whole new initiative that will involve:
  • Safety culture training

  • Safety culture diagnostic

  • Continuous Improvement focus

  • Engaging employees at all levels of the organization in safety problem solving

  • Safety Accountabilities for employees at all levels of the organization

  • Effective interpersonal safety communication at the front line

  • Personal Risk Assessment as a way of life for all employees, on and off the job
This initiative is still in the formation and implementation process.  However, for the first time in years there is viable energy working to move beyond the RIF plateau performance trap.  Is it time for you and your organization to exit safety RIF insanity and do likewise?

The Doc   

Monday, June 3, 2013

Stars and Clouds – Your future goals

Safety professionals protect working class employees in countries all around the world.  In every situation, we touch the lives of people who labor daily for an hourly wage.  Industries, technologies and risks may change, but a common factor remains: men, women (and children) who work the front line, producing what the rest of the world purchases. These employees all have dreams, aspirations and daily realities that affect their lives and the lives of their families. Even in jobs that seem mired in drudgery, I have still seen a spark of life that seems to be built into our human DNA; hope springs eternal. There is a common desire for a better life for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and our community, no matter where we toil on our planet.

Recently, as I talked with a young minimum-wage shuttle bus driver, I was reminded of experiences in my youth.  I had spent a long week of digging trenches for minimum wage, and though I was glad for the money, I certainly hoped there was more to life than this. As I prepared for another week of dull, repetitive labor, my papa imparted some of his country wisdom that has stayed with me forever: “Son, if you aim for the stars the worst that can happen is you will reach the clouds.” We then discussed and developed a vision of my future that went way beyond living at the end of a shovel.Over the years there have been inevitable ups and downs; however Papa’s starry vision remains indelibly imprinted on my mind and my work ethic.

As safety pros, we also have down days when we seem mired in regulations gridlock, poor work conditions, impossible bosses, family struggles, and on and on. It can feel like endlessly digging trenches. I find the way out is to reflect on the starry vision, lift myself up by the scruff of the neck and exit my personal petty pity party by doing what I can to reach for the stars. Is it time for you to develop such a starry attitude?

The Doc

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