Monday, September 29, 2014

Half – Avoiding a safety pitfall

Most things that begin with the word “half” are bad news.  Half-baked is not good for cakes, cookies or creativity.  Half-done means you still have to do as much as you have already done.  Half-dead is never the look you desire!  Half-alive makes you think, which half?  Half-price makes you wonder, what’s wrong with it?  Half-crazy means just sane enough to be out on the streets. 

Recently, a close family member had a heart attack when the lower half of the heart stopped functioning.  The emergency room experience, surgery, post operative treatment, changed life style and more certainly convinced us that half-hearted is a very bad reality.  Perhaps the worst “half” we encounter is half-heartedness.  None of us wants to be on the receiving end of a half-hearted gesture, a half-hearted compliment, or a half-hearted commitment.  There is a message here that none of us should be satisfied living half-hearted lives that limit our ability to love, to give, to obey, to rejoice, to celebrate a job and a life worth living. 

We each have numerous choices each day as to how we will engage in the many different aspects of life.  The old cliché, “Any job worth doing is worth doing well,” among other considerations, comes into play at the family level and most certainly at the job level for the safety pro.  How are you engaging when it comes to improving the safety of those under your responsibility on and off the job?  Let’s not be half-hearted, rather let’s commit to being “all in.”

The Doc       

Monday, September 22, 2014

What now? – Using a survey to improve safety culture

I recently received a request to comment on how an organization could improve their safety culture by focusing on three key safety drivers which were identified in a safety perception survey a local university delivered to their employees.  The results of the survey said their employees scored low on: Safety Importance, Safety Engagement, and Safety Communications at the frontline.  These are topics many organizations struggle with as they get deeper into improving their safety culture and performance results.  Here is my short reply to their inquiry.

  • Safety Importance:  The issue becomes getting safety to have a priority greater than or equal to production demands.  Our teaching in this area is based on the work of Dr. Dan Petersen, renowned safety culture expert, writer and consultant.  His “Six Criteria of Safety Excellence”


  • Top management is visibly committed

  • Middle management is actively involved

  • Front-line supervision is performance-focused

  • Employees are actively participating

  • System is flexible to accommodate the culture

  • Safety system is positively perceived by the workforce

These same six are also truly a foundation for operations and quality performance excellence.  The solution here is about understanding how to develop this kind of engagement across the organization.  The focus is on developing and living a culture of value added safety accountability throughout the organization and how this fits in with quality and operations accountabilities which must also be in place

  • Safety Engagement:  How do people in a workgroup help each other live a safety culture of correct?  For more than a decade Caterpillar has studied, developed and honed a Rapid Improvement Workshop (RIW) process which engages hourly and salaried personnel in a relentless pursuit of zero errors in operations, quality and safety.  The focus on achieving a zero incident safety culture has required the RIW process to be improved and intensified.  This includes hands on training in what it takes to engage a core group of workgroup personnel from throughout the organization in going beyond one-off issue solutions and into upstream process error proofing which delivers downstream metric and safety culture excellence.

  • Safety Communication:  Interpersonal communications that have workgroup personnel and management speaking up about safety issues, learning from the speak up engagement and reinforcing those actions which actively live a safety culture of correct.  This requires a very interactive, hands on learning and practicing of work group safety communication:

    • Speak Up; how to give effective safety feedback in an adult manner  which corrects improper actions and activities

    • Listen Up; how employees process safety feedback and commit, on an individual and personal basis, to improving the weak and dangerous activities which must always be performed correctly and safely

    • Recognize It; the safety communication at the front line needs to go beyond just correcting improper activities.  Organizations that achieve excellence also engage in a coaching model that reinforces what is being done correctly. The concepts and training focus on how to reinforce safety activities which are done correctly by workforce personnel

Does your organization have similar safety culture challenges that can be addressed by the above approach?

The Doc

Monday, September 15, 2014

Writing – a process to deliver consistent safety excellence

In William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well he mentions that many writers suffer from “the tyranny of the final product.”  They are so concerned with selling their article or book, they neglect learning the process of how to think, plan and organize.  Their work is jumbled when “the writer, his eye on the finish line, never gave enough thought to how to run the race.”  There seems to be a concern only with the fruit and thus ignoring the root out of which the fruit springs. 

In my experience, there is a definite parallel in safety initiatives which react to the latest event.  In doing so, we do not put in the time and effort necessary to develop, train, measure and give feedback to the well thought out accountabilities which when practiced eliminate the possibility of injury.  This detailed plan is what helps deliver the fruit of a practical error proofing approach to fundamental and advanced safety processes.  The careful attention to the important roots of our safety tree must come from our people who have to live with our safety processes.  Their careful, well thought out detail to what really happens in the field assists our people to live a zero incident safety culture.

Each of these well thought and well executed safety processes include the necessity for all our people, on and off the job to stop, think and act.  If you see it, you own it.  We must do it safe all the time.  And this requires careful well thought out processes with practical accountabilities which help eliminate the possibility of incident or injury.  These processes with appropriate safety accountabilities then form the path of root to fruit in a safety culture of correct.  From this well thought out plan comes a safety culture that can go beyond reacting to the next inexcusable injury.      

The Doc

Monday, September 8, 2014

Trustworthy – A key to safety performance

Trust is a relatively simple word with a meaning that is challenging to achieve both in the workplace and off the job.  We all evaluate the people we work and associate with as a part of being human. Often, we evaluate our level of trust with things other than human behavior including animal behavior or machinery / equipment. We all quickly judge what and who we interact with as to how much trust is justified for the various situations in which we interact.  What does it take to be worthy of the trust we value in others?

Just as with the critical success factor of leadership, the business world has written an incredible amount of material on another critical organizational attribute; trust.  Recently, I was reading some of Stephen Covey’s thoughts about developing, establishing and gaining trust in the workplace.  Trust is a character trait that results from four fundamental practices. When these practices are consistently demonstrated by a person, it results in a trustworthy character:

  • Integrity and honesty that results in a consistent reputation for telling the truth

  • Excellence of intentions which do not deceive or protect anyone and are without hidden motives or agendas

  • Capability, expertise, knowledge and skills in their areas of expertise

  • Consistent delivery of positive results over time to establish trust

Living these criteria for being trustworthy is a good objective for safety leaders in all that they do on and off the job.

The Doc 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Smarter – Improving safety performance

Recently my son and I were in a hardware store to purchase a new wax seal for his family’s leaking toilet.  It had been a while since I last had to replace a wax seal and therefore was surprised to see a range of technologies that were available for this pretty basic household element.  As we discussed the options with the sales person he expounded on his formula for success in any endeavor; “You have to be smarter than what you are working with.”  He then added “In this case, I think the two of you will be able to successfully change out the toilet seal.”  Hmmm, was this a compliment or a sarcastic put down?  We did some push back about this, had some light hearted laughter, then went home and successfully and safely conquered the toilet challenge.

However, the dialogue about being smarter than who you are working with just doesn’t sync with my personal experience in safety or management.  Successful continuous improvement teams have good people who individually excel in necessary attributes like leadership, practical problem solving, execution, communication, etc.  As with any well performing team, no one person knows it all, or is superior in all aspects of what it takes to successfully execute the challenges before them.  Success has each member contributing to their best in the difficulties that the total team must wrestle with. 

I have worked on many teams with numerous people who were far better than I was at the individual tasks we faced.  However, together with each of us doing our part where we had individual expertise we succeeded way beyond what one superior person could have done.  This is true in operations, quality and most definitely in safety where a wide spectrum of knowledge, skills and capabilities are necessary.

The Doc

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