Monday, April 28, 2014

Fudge – Under reporting safety incidents

A common safety leader’s complaint deals with individuals who fudge the numbers – those who do not report all the injuries and incidents that occur, and those who fudge the severity and do not take incidents as recordable.  Why would anyone do this?  In some cases, it deals with contractors who want to be a part of a bidding process which requires low injury rates to enter the bidder pool.  Inaccurate reporting is also tied to performance measures based on injury rates.  Additionally, many countries do not have legal requirements for reporting. Altogether, there are probably a dozen or more other reasons for under reporting injuries.

My first experience with inaccurately reported safety incidents was when I was a manufacturing engineer in a metals facility that had won the corporate president’s safety award for lowest injury rate in their division.  After a major, facility-wide celebration for 1,000+ employees, it was discovered that the safety manager had purposefully falsified the data.  At our next staff meeting, the safety manager was unexpectedly told by the facility manager to stand up and describe how his unethical actions impacted everyone in the organization.  In more recent years, I have run on to other organizations which discovered, months later, that one of their facilities had an unreported fatality.  Or, that after a particularly bad year of many injuries, a facility went ‘event free’ only to have a corporate audit team determine the real truth.

It is fairly common for organizations worldwide to place a major focus on downstream indicators, the things we don’t want to occur.  This kind of pressure can lead to one or more people fudging the numbers, and others complaining about inaccurate reporting stemming from a weak safety system/culture.  You can understand why more organizations are trying to move to upstream indicators, which are measures of accountability performance that actually reduce injuries.  And yet, injury rates always seem to be a part of the performance equation and thus the pressure to adjust injury reality.

I have also experienced organizations’ efforts to combat falsely reported injury rates.  One group made the OSHA log their worldwide standard and ethics document. This kind of document comes with a ‘one strike and you’re out’ policy if you are found responsible for falsifying the data.  Another company has changed their whole safety performance system so that only senior vice presidential personnel have a RIF (Recordable Injury Frequency) metric.  All other levels are measured by the relentless pursuit of safety accountabilities in order to eliminate the downstream injuries. 

These approaches do not focus on accepting excuses or trying to place the blame on others.  The real focus for getting to a zero-incident safety culture is on what are you doing.  Achieving a zero-incident safety culture is serious, hard work and has no room for excuses, fudging the numbers, complaining about others, or any other unethical shenanigans that remove an active focus on keeping our employees from being injured on or off the job.

The Doc

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rich – Understanding what being rich means

On a recent assignment in the Middle East, I met some fascinating people from different cultures.  During the events of the days and nights, we shared many interesting tidbits on names, cultures, beliefs and favorite sayings.  The given names in this part of the world are very different from what I am accustomed to hearing.  Besides that, the names often have real significance and are given by parents with the heartfelt desire for their children to grow up with a hope of significance.  While preparing a campfire dinner, Fawaz explained his name means ‘winner.’  Later, during a conference session, Waddah told me about ‘the clarity and inspiration of the sunrise’ his father and mother desired him to be. 

As we dug into names, we also discussed sayings and philosophies from our upbringing.  For the sake of a short blog article, I will only share two of these gems:

  • Train until you cannot get it wrong (like done in the airlines) vs. train until you get it right (like is often done in general industry).

  • Who is the rich man?  The one who is happy with what he does!

The reapplication to our safety profession struck me; pay grades do not make safety pros winners.  Nor should our training be as superficial as it often is.  What kind of clarity and inspiration can we achieve and deliver by performing the best we can while being happy doing so?

The Doc

Monday, April 14, 2014

Values – Strategies and safety excellence

Providing a published document that states the organization’s values is a common business practice for many companies.  This values document, in turn, should lead to strategies that help establish a culture that lives and delivers these values.  Many times, employee safety is a stated value.  

 I think many of us have experienced stated safety values that are not strongly practiced or enforced in the real, front-line operations culture. There are some companies I have worked with that professed ‘zero harm,’ had great safety policies and procedures, but lived a noticeably flawed production culture at the work face.  Then, there are other organizations that talk about how important front-line safety is but have no mention of safety in their values statement. Consequently, they seem to have a weaker safety reality where their employees are most at risk.

The values statements are intended to influence upper level management on issues such as communication and decision-making that drives the delivery of the values across the whole organization.  These typically come into play on a regular basis, but should also play a noticeable role in difficult decisions.  When push comes to shove, tough circumstances need to be guided by values instead of what is expedient. It sometimes seems like these higher risk events cave into the pressures of operational demands when the going gets tough.

What variables make it hard to deliver and comply with the stated values in your organization?  How do these values influence your corporate strategies?  Can you describe a time when the ideals/beliefs/values were disregarded to maintain team unanimity?  How did the situation ultimately turn out?  How has this affected both your organization’s and your own personal realities?  How will such an event affect you and your actions in the future?

The Doc    

Monday, April 7, 2014

Job Titles – Striving to improve our status in safety

A while back, I read a story about the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) asking for examples of important-sounding, obscure and even bizarre job titles.  One of the entries offered her job title of Underwater Ceramic Technician; she was a dishwasher at a restaurant.  Sometimes titles are used to make a job sound more important.  Upon further analysis, all parts of an organization or a body are necessary to function properly.  No one part is necessarily more important than another. 

In an organization, it doesn’t matter what title we hold.  What is important is the purpose of the talents we have and how we use them to improve, strengthen and sustain an organization’s excellence.  When we gauge our effectiveness by this standard of excellence, it will not matter when we are moved to another role or no longer hold a specific title. As safety professionals, we do not work for praise based on our job title or position, instead we serve to build up and help our fellow employees. Our gifts and talents are not for us, but for the benefit of others. 

Whether we are a vice president, safety resource manager or part-time, hourly employee focused on improving safety excellence, the real issue is what we are doing to eliminate the possibility of incidents in the workplace and off the job with our family and community.  Maybe one of the better titles for safety professionals is ‘someone I can count on to do the job I need done.’

The Doc    

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