Monday, March 31, 2014

Truman – Anger management in safety

Former U.S. president Harry Truman had a rule:  any letters written in anger had to sit on his desk 24 hours before they could be mailed.  If at the end of the “cooling off” period, he still felt the same sentiments, he would send the letter.  By the end of his life, Truman’s unmailed letters filled a large desk drawer. 

How often in this age of immediate communication would even 24 minutes of wise restraint spare us embarrassment!  My calendar of sayings recently commented on the dangers of an uncontrolled tongue:  “No man can tame the tongue.  It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison.” 

When we are gossiping or speaking in anger, we find ourselves outside the lines of what our profession and professionalism should desire.  Our tongues, our pens and even our keyboards should more often fall silent with restraint.  When we ‘speak’ in anger, we all too often remind others of our own brokenness.  When we show restraint, there is another noticeable but silent message that honors our personal character by what we do and do not say. 

This is not a message about anger management; rather it is about professionalism, maturity and being realistic about our spoken and written words. The world is waiting for our intelligent input and evaluating who we really are by how we communicate in times of stress and passion.

The Doc    

Monday, March 24, 2014

Earn – Safety as a career

Safety as a career has many challenges with good days, mediocre days and bad days.  Then, there are the inevitable organizational changes that have us starting over in a new position, company or both.  I think we have all been in positions where the circumstances have us wondering why we ever chose safety as a career or why we should continue in this career choice. 

Recently, I had a short-term safety job assignment working with a large, privately-held company in Holland.  The week prior, I was working long hours on an assignment in Canada. Then, after less than one day spent at home, I embarked on a series of long flights to Europe. This led to one long day after another, working with the many safety culture challenges in this organization’s various countries of business in Asia, North America and into Europe.  The sleep deprivation and significant time zone changes finally overcame my resistances, and I had the worst cold I have had in years.

However, there were bright spots as well.  The organization responded well and moved toward a path of developing a safety culture that will significantly reduce the injury frequency of its employees worldwide.  Additionally, I had another chance to meet with my relatives in Holland.  Over dinner, my cousin Jan gave me some insight from his global career that helped me in the moment and I hope will also help you in your safety career challenges.  Jan’s striking comment was: “You get the clients you earn.”   

As I thought this over, there were multiple aspects that impacted me and may very well help you in the readership audience as well.  For the hard cases, we have to invest the time and effort it takes to have them succeed.  There seems to be no laydowns in this profession.  We are hired and retained to make a real difference in personal injury performance, and we have to earn our stripes by helping the organization that pays us succeed. 

The other significant epiphany from Jan’s simple comment allowed me to recognize weak spots in my background and abilities, keeping me from being as effective as I can be.  I must work through these personal challenges and earn my way to better performance and ability.  These personal growth areas must be accomplished if I am to continue with a career in safety that can assist my “clients” with improving their safety performance in areas that present insurmountable challenges. 

What is in your safety and personal life reality that has earning potential?

The Doc     

Monday, March 17, 2014

Truth –The voice of frontline employees

What is truth when it comes to safety culture reality?  The regulation-oriented data tells us a part of the story with respect to training, incident records, safety meetings, work orders, policies/procedures and the like.  Observations add a bit more insight to what our people are actually doing when they are occasionally being watched/evaluated by others.  However, this is mostly surface data that lacks the depth and engagement to fully understand the real safety culture on the frontline, where risks are encountered every day.

The regulations and observation processes fail to capture the attitudes, beliefs and ideas that are in operation every day between the ears of our workface people.  Knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of frontline safety reality requires one-on-one contact with the hourly employees and their frontline leadership.  In my experience, there are two good ways to gather this kind of safety culture information.

  • Use a safety perception survey that leads to quantitative data on what frontline personnel believe about important aspects of the workplace safety culture.  Typical safety issues evaluated by the survey include processes like hazard control, incident investigation, new employee orientation, supervisor safety performance and management credibility.  It is quantitative data because there is a resultant number which indicates how strong or weak the employees feel these fundamental safety processes are as implemented by the organization.  This kind of safety culture data goes beyond what is available through the evaluation of regulations or observations data.  And yet, there is another step which allows an organization to dig even deeper into the frontline safety culture.

  • Perform one-on-one interviews and small group discussions that are structured to engage the employees and reveal more in-depth information about the safety reality on the frontline.  The interviews do not ask yes/no or rank order questions, but rather is structured along the lines of “Tell me about a particular issue or practice.” This kind of detailed discussion reveals what the quality improvement approach personnel call “The voice of the customer.” 

With this kind of safety data, an organization can more readily determine where the biggest gaps are in issues like communication, safety contacts, training, etc.  In turn, this greatly helps a safety steering team decide what to work on first in the organization’s efforts to make sustainable safety culture and performance improvements. 

My advice:  heavily weigh the input of the frontline hourly and supervision workforce, and be very clear in your communications that the voice of this group is driving the areas of your safety culture and performance improvement.

The Doc    

Monday, March 10, 2014

Not Again – How to resolve recurring injuries

Recently, a manager in one of our service organizations asked some questions about recurring injury trends.  The trends revealed a higher incident rate among newer employees and also an injury pattern around time of day. The manager understood how newer employees can have a higher injury frequency rate; however, he was intrigued by the other data. He wondered how the specific day of the week, and particularly the time of day, could influence an injury rate. Why are injuries between 10:00 a.m. and noon so common? Have you seen this trend before?

I want to share some statistics with you. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are the days which experience a higher injury frequency rate. Thursdays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays follow. The time period from 10:00 a.m. to noon experiences the most incidents.

Our consulting group provided some input on these issues. One response was as follows:

I have experienced similar statistical dilemmas in my career. There is no way to be assured of the reasoning, but here are some possible ideas:

  • Assuming that the first break is scheduled around 9:00 a.m., these are injuries occurring soon after a break.

  • With this time frame just prior to lunch, it potentially indicates that workers’ minds are on things other than the task at hand.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • After their first break, are workers required to re-engage in a review of the risk analysis for their work and the work environment to ensure that risks are controlled?

  • Are certain work groups/areas more affected by the 10:00 a.m. to noon time, meaning is there a concentration of injuries during this time in a specific area?

  • Are there any prescribed safety activities that leaders engage in during this time period?  If so, what are the activities and what does the quality of these activities look like?  If not, should there be and what should the activities be?

I've known organizations that have identified similar trends in their analysis and decided to introduce another tool box (switch-on) meeting along with safety exercises and a review of risk analysis after breaks.

Another consultant responded with the following:

In the past, I have conducted interviews with questions focused on the identified time of day injury pattern. The injury trend occurring among less than 2 year tenure employees is fairly common.  More injuries per capita typically occur to employees who are new.  Often, the solution is to develop an excellent error-proof New Employee Orientation (NEO) program. This program could involve the use of indicator clothing (different color hard hat or vest) worn by new employees until they pass certification tests or have been there for a period of time which gets them through the new employee phase.  This phase is followed by a graduation ceremony, which has safety components and other recognition as they graduate to experienced employee status.   

It is also fairly normal for certain jobs to have predominant injury types like hands and fingers, slips-trips-falls, backing up vehicle damage and the like.  In turn, this kind of discovery leads to a Continuous Improvement or Rapid Improvement Workshop team which analyzes, focuses and delivers policies, procedures and training on the injury trend.

The Doc

Monday, March 3, 2014

FNG-FOG – Safety and the aging workforce

Every decade or so, companies experience a retirement bubble as a significant number of senior employees, also known as Fantastic Old Guys, or FOGs,  transition from the workforce into their retirement world.  There is then an influx of Fantastic New Guys, or FNGs, who start the process all over again until they reach retirement age.

Companies must on-board new employees with all kinds of advanced training in technology and safety that is typically not offered to the retirement population.  In turn, the FOGs often feel as if they are being dismissed in more ways than one.  In turn, many perceive that we are not treating the FOG group, which has built and sustained our company, as well as we should.

I have been involved with a few companies that handled this dilemma well.  By interviewing each of the FOGs, the company could determine how the retiring employee really wanted to exit.  Some just want to retire quietly with no additional training or engagement.  Another noticeable portion of the FOGs truly looked forward to an enriching training they would only use for a few years.  And then, there were those FOGs who wanted to participate in delivering the basic technology and safety training the FNGs needed.  By genuinely engaging the senior workforce in the realities both they and the company were about to experience, a true win-win was accomplished.  The free expert training resource the company discovered was truly a blessing in disguise and a significant morale boost for the whole organization.

The Doc   

Silence – Safety controversy

There are a number of popular approaches that assist organizations in improving their safety performance.  The OSHA VPP organization places a significant focus on regulation fundamentals.  Behavior Based Safety relies on observation techniques to identify weaknesses in safety activities.  The ISO approach has heavy emphasis on policies and procedures.  In some areas of the world, I have experienced a strong theory x, or punitive, approach to safety incidents. Those of you who read this blog series know that I focus heavily on safety culture diagnostics and the engagement of frontline and management personnel in continuous improvement team efforts to address and deliver a safety culture of correct.

Each of these approaches, and some others I am sure, has their cadre of people who strongly believe and vigorously defend their favored safety performance approach.  In the safety press, at conferences, during online debates and in other interactions, it is not uncommon to experience some real animosity between the parties.  Recently, on one of the online forums in which I participate, communication between the ‘warring’ parties has become downright nasty.

As I interacted with the forum leader of the group, he mentioned a quote from his monthly sayings calendar: ‘Do not speak if it is no improvement on silence.’  This brought to mind one of my mother’s frequent sayings: ‘If you can’t say something nice about someone then be silent.’  (I am sure there were at least another 364 mother says quotes, but we didn’t catalogue them or put them in calendar format as she shepherded us through life with these on a daily basis).  One of the proverbial sayings calendars I have seen includes a couple of other items which make sense in vigorous professional debates: ‘When words are many, transgression is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.’ One of my other calendar favorites goes along the lines of: ‘A man of knowledge uses words of restraint. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent and discerning if he holds his tongue.’

As I witness the endless series of debates on important safety topics, processes and approaches, the messages that I reapply in the workplace come from protagonists who display professional civility as a principle and value.  We all have disagreements with selected topics and people, and how we choose to deal with these disagreements makes a difference in both our lives and others.  Let’s discuss, debate and learn with civility and respect.

The Doc

Connect With Us

Bookmark and Share
/////////////Google analytics tracking script//////////////// /////////////END -- Google analytics tracking script////////////////