Monday, February 24, 2014

Diet – Evaluating your risk appetite

One of my favorite extracurricular activities is skiing.  Each year, my brother-in-law Tom and I travel to Colorado to tackle the slopes.  As we ski, I am aware of a whole world of safety risks unfolding around me.  Young children are being monitored and protected by parents as the youngsters develop their own ski legs, and no risks are tolerated.  The other end of the risk spectrum seems to be frequently populated by snow boarders who strap on a helmet with cool looking goggles that can limit their vision and ear buds that eliminate their sound activated warning system.  An OSHA analogy comes into play as ski patrol personnel are there to keep out of control people from literally impacting others.

Our last ski vacation provided another valuable risk example.  The mountain on which we were skiing was hosting a Grand Prix ski event for ‘adaptive skiers.’  We were amazed as men and women – who were missing arms, legs or were partially paralyzed – demonstrated their skills and abilities on races we would never even attempt.  Risks?  Yes, but well outfitted, closely monitored and definitely staying within the limits of their own personal restrictions.

In the industrial workplace, there is a similar spectrum of people with their own personal risk appetite.  A number of safety tenants – like careful training and monitoring of actual performance – are apparent.  However, there are many factors that influence risk appetite such as: peer groups, surroundings, the presence or absence of other personnel and other intangibles related to the personal risk tolerance of the individual.

In the safety profession, we must be aware of the personal risk tolerance of our individual employees and act accordingly.  Our own personal risk tolerance and the rules we set for safety are not interpreted the same by every person.  One size does not fit all on the ski slopes or in the workplace. Some employees are like Tom who, as a result of his personality and life experiences, just doesn’t take risks.  Others don’t even seem to be aware of surrounding risks as they remain focused on getting to the day’s finish line as rapidly and intensely as possible.  These people need special coaching and monitoring.  They must be put on a carefully prescribed risk diet plan, and if they will not practice and live our safety standards and principles we must remove them from our safety culture before they impact themselves or our other employees.

The Doc      

Monday, February 17, 2014

Shotgun – Improving your safety management systems

Safety professionals often enter a work environment where there is way too much that needs to be done.  Management wants to improve the safety performance, but there is significant uncertainty as to which issue to tackle first.  Once an initiative is selected, the leadership group often skips on to the next issue before their original initiative is up and running well.  In turn, this leads to a somewhat rapid fire shotgun approach which frustrates all and does not deliver the consistent, excellent results which are needed.  One of our recent customers put it this way, “We used the shotgun approach. We were doing dozens of things. Caterpillar Safety Services helped us step back and focus on the few critical items. In doing so, we rapidly saw better results.”

This customer had some real difficulties I am sure many of you have experienced:

  • Poor safety metrics; a recordable frequency of nearly 10
  • High employee turnover near 30%
  • High business growth that multiplied employee count by a factor of five in the last three years with more growth predicted
  • Many weak core safety processes such as start up meetings, safety committees, incident investigation and more
  • A focus on lagging metrics which did nothing proactive to improve the safety culture or performance
The upcoming webinar on Wednesday, February 19, will detail the process that Caterpillar Work Tools used to turn around their shotgun approach to a focused execution of well-prioritized initiatives with employee and management engagement.  In a twelve month time period:
  • Their recordable rate improved by 60%
  • They have a strategic plan and a consistent process that keeps them engaged on delivering safety excellence one initiative at a time
  • The organization’s morale is remarkably better
  • Their annual employee safety improvement ideas have exploded from less than 200 to more than 1,000
  • Safety metrics are focused on proactive solution engagement by all hourly and salaried employees, not on reacting to the latest injury
  • And more
Besides a brief testimony, the webinar will include detailed examples on how to:
  • Plan what needs to be done
  • Do the improvements robustly
  • Check how well the systems are functioning
  • Act on what more needs to be done
Please join John Vizner, facility manager at Caterpillar Work Tools Waco, Texas, and me for this interesting, informative and practical discussion on how to improve your Safety Management Systems and overall safety performance.

The Doc  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Light Bulb – Safety and personal consistency

I am fortunate to be able to interact in depth with excellent safety professionals and leadership personnel stationed around the globe. Time and again, I have truly benefitted from the insights others have provided. As you read through the many blog articles, I guarantee you these are not all my original concepts, even beyond what my papa provided as personal guidance.

Recently, a customer spoke about a concept that really grabbed my attention. His input was that there are three fundamental safety concepts for people: values, personal commitments and lifestyle realities. As we discussed each, there was a depth of character that you and I both will benefit from considering.
  • What are my personal values that do not change, no matter what the circumstances?  In the work place, people often take shortcuts to get the job done. Yet, if we talk to people there are always sane limits (values) they will not violate. You have these limits and so do I. The real question here is how we evaluate the personal risks we take and how might this decision affect our life, that of our workmates and our immediate family. I find I need to live safety and personal values to a greater degree. As I age and my personal abilities lessen, my personal risk assessment – as lived out in values and related actions – must also improve.
  • Personal commitment is a function of my relationships with others. Who am I, and how do I demonstrate that to others in the workplace, off the job and with family?  We all know others are watching our every move and evaluating (judging) our actions and character. Yes, I need to be aware of how I demonstrate my personal commitment to safety as well as my personal commitment to others in my circle of influence.
  • Personal lifestyle is the open book others read daily based on my actions – how I walk the talk, how I practice what I preach, how I personally demonstrate my values and commitment. In the business world, this is known as “the bottom line.”  You and I, all those in the workplace and our extended community can very quickly determine the real from the phony.
We can’t turn these important attributes on and off like a light bulb – we must live them daily. What kind of light are you shining to the people around you?

The Doc    

Monday, February 3, 2014

Grazing – Assessing safety resource needs

I recently worked with a medium-sized (2,000 employee) company in North Dakota.  The safety professional at that company is an avid horsewoman who was trying to convince me to bring a couple of her horses to my small farm in Illinois.  Her intent was to own fewer than 10 horses so her property grazing realities would allow her to stop buying hay.  There was a light-hearted negotiation that included fencing, veterinary care and how many acres per horse would be self-sustaining. We both agreed there was an obvious parallel in determining how many safety professionals per acre were needed to help a company deliver better performance.

A while back, Caterpillar was active in developing a continuous improvement safety culture excellence initiative with a similar sized company in the same industry.  Our Safety Steering Team was surprised when the CEO instructed his organization to hire nine more safety professionals.  Until this point in time, the company had been focused on reducing headcount, so it was exciting to experience a shift in focus.  This company covered a territory larger than the state of Texas, and the CEO recognized there was a size limit to the territory upon which a safety pro could effectively graze.  This led to the addition of one or more safety resources to each sizable operating entity.  The new safety pros had to know the regulation requirements and be able to learn and teach the use of Caterpillar safety culture excellence tools, techniques and effective personnel engagement.  Having added additional resources, the company was now able to move from an industry average injury rate of 3.7 to a less than 1.0 total recordable injury frequency rate.

While seeking well performing and contributing safety professionals, the CEO considered the learning curve, interpersonal span of influence, continuous improvement team engagement and appropriate work/life balance .  Initially, the company had trouble filling the nine safety professional job openings; its safety reputation was lacking to attract qualified safety leadership personnel.  It was about 12-18 months later when their performance and associated reputation for safety culture excellence had them receiving more resumes than they could imagine. If we are to achieve far greater than average performance, it involves going beyond average quality and safety performance. It not only requires acres per resource consideration but also consideration with respect to training, care, expectations and many other elements.

The Doc 

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