Monday, October 27, 2014

Repeat warnings – eliminating boring safety training


“Caution, the moving walkway is ending, Caution, the moving walkway is ending.”……..  If you have ever been on an automated walkway at an airport you have heard this kind of announcement repeatedly.  Why do airports repeat this announcement over and over?  The reason is to ensure safety and protect them from liability if someone were to be injured.

Repeated announcements can be annoying, but they do have value.  Have you ever become annoyed or bored with the same old safety message you are giving or being given?  I know I have been on both the giving and receiving end of this kind of mind numbing, non-engaging, zero attention kind of safety message.  I also know that repetition of warnings and safety preparations/precautions is an absolute necessity in every workplace.  We must give detailed attention to safety at the start of every shift. When we see or experience a change of state or incorrect activity, it is time for repetition of what is correct.  We must give refresher training. The real issue becomes the who, what, when and how. We have plenty of leeway with these four.  How can you be creative in the safety presentations so you avoid inattentiveness and tedious messages such as the ones delivered in the moving walkway announcement? 

Our people need to hear and heed important safety messages and we need to be creative in our delivery so we catch and engage their attention.  What can you start doing creatively and differently in the important safety messages we must deliver?

The Doc

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hardship – making the best of your circumstances


Like many towns, Enterprise, Alabama, has a prominent monument, but it is unlike any other. The statue doesn’t recognize a leading citizen; it celebrates the work of a beetle.  In the early 1900s, the boll weevil made its way from Mexico to the southern US.  Within a few years, it had destroyed entire crops of cotton, the primary source of revenue.  In desperation, farmers started growing another crop – peanuts.  Realizing they had been dependent on one crop for too long, they credited the beetle with forcing them to diversify, which led to increased prosperity.

The boll weevil is an example of something that comes into our lives and destroys what we have worked hard to accomplish.  It can bring devastating results - sometimes financial, emotional or physical, all of which can cause fear.    We witness the end of life as we know it.  But as the people of Enterprise learned, the loss of what is old is an opportunity to discover something new.  Hardships can be a way of getting us to give up bad habits or learn new talents.   Our thorn in the flesh can stop us from striving to preserve old habits that are no longer effective. 

From a safety perspective, have we become comfortable with mediocre performance that once used to be viewed as excellent?  When forced into a job change, can we branch out to do even better with the new opportunity and challenges before us?  When dealing with the injured, can we help them to discover a new life that fits within their new personal realities? 

We can view every hardship as an opportunity to cultivate a new virtue in us.  Bitter experiences can help make us better.

The Doc

Monday, October 6, 2014

The biggest loser – Getting to safety excellence

There are an endless number of techniques and products that can assist a person to lose weight.  Many of these products have guarantees of five or ten pounds of immediate weight loss.  It turns out that for most people, the first ten pounds is relatively easy.  If you wish to lose more weight, the going gets tougher. In turn, this requires a whole different long term, sustainable diet and exercise plan.  As you shed more weight, the work to get to the next level becomes incrementally harder. It requires an increase in intensity, responsibility, accountability and likely even a support group that helps in the required long term commitment.

I find a parallel between losing weight and improving safety for organizations.  Caterpillar’s safety improvement journey has somewhat mirrored this reality since committing all of the various global organizations to a safety culture that continually eliminates injury.  At the beginning of the injury loss journey, the set of tools used to decrease the Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) from around 6 to 4 was a two year focus on equipment/facility related fixes.  As RIF improved and then plateaued at 4, it became apparent a difference initiative moved the responsibility and accountability from the safety department to operations with safety becoming a resource instead of the responsible party.  After about two years of this consistent change, the next RIF plateau was around 2. To break through the plateau, the focus shifted to ergonomics and continuous improvement teams.  Once again, noticeable improvement occurred when this tool set was added, and then a long, five year plateau occurred for the above approaches at a RIF of 1+.

The next safety improvement approach was a deep dive which involved in depth Rapid Improvement Workshops (RIW).  This RIW approach engages teams of hourly and salaried employees with cross functional experience to focus on developing and error proofing upstream safety processes.  The improved processes delivered from the RIW include value added safety responsibilities and accountabilities.  The proposed solutions are first piloted to ensure their robust character and then rolled out with appropriate monitoring of the critical process characteristics. The improved process with its focused responsibilities and accountabilities is then adopted as a part of the safety culture by all levels of the organization no matter what country or business unit is involved.  To date, our RIF using the previous improvements and this more intense, more engaged relentless pursuit of a zero incident safety culture continues a yearly decline and is currently less than 0.75.

The injury loss reduction safety journey described above occurred while the employee count at Caterpillar has more than doubled to nearly 150,000 people.  Across this decade long ongoing commitment to safety culture excellence the number of medical injuries shed is more than 51,000, meaning that greater than a third of our total workforce has been able to avoid severe injury.  Serious weight loss and serious injury loss plans require far more than a short term commitment to doing whatever it takes to lose what we should never have allowed in the first place.

The Doc  

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