Monday, December 22, 2014

Simplicity – Improving safety understanding

Few people take the time to study the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) income tax regulations – and for good reason.  According to Forbes magazine, in 2013 tax codes surpassed the 4,000,000 word count mark.  In fact, tax laws have become so complex that even experts have a hard time processing all the regulations because it is burdensome in its complexity.  Some other three and four letter agencies come to mind with multi-million word count challenges; EPA, OSHA, MSHA, etc. 

People can only retain certain amounts of information, similar to a sponge only being able to hold so much water. Does another safety policy or procedure really help us drain the sponge so our people can better understand and better perform?  I guess we could look into our safety training packages for similar overload.  Maybe those of us who do a number of conference presentations should also consider that less is often more. There appears to be real value in the old advice of only having a three part sermon if you want any part of it to be remembered. 

As I have engaged field personnel who have to effectively use all this download material, there has been real value in having the front line employees put their simplifying touch to what gets presented.  If we want our message to be effective, it is not about how much detail there is or how fast we spread the material.  It is more about how understandable, memorable and applicable the important few communications are to those who have to implement them.  Who better to help the safety professional in getting the message across than those who have to effectively use all this download material?

Is your safety sponge too full of trivia and detail to help your organization clean up the potential safety messes that will occur?

The Doc   

Monday, December 15, 2014

Confusion – solving tough safety issues

The guru of the quality revolution Dr. W. Edwards Deming is known for saying, “If I had to reduce my message for management to just a few words, I’d say it all had to do with reducing variation.”  Before you can reduce variation, you must recognize that it exists. 

Another way of stating this is what my papa once told me; “Son, confusion always precedes revelation.”  Time and again I have been bothered by what I did not understand or comprehend and there was just no simple, quick solution.  What was required on my part was “soak time.”  In order for a revelation to appear, I had to separate myself from the difficult problem, think about it overnight and put together a ‘to do list’ that I reviewed every day.

For field problems, I was often not the correct person to solve the problem because I did not have the experience necessary to get to the solution.  For these cases of confusion, it helped to go to trusted hourly employees and front line supervisors to ask for some guidance.

This led to another important personal lesson; the value of ‘show me’ versus ‘tell me’ leadership.  Once the revelation was birthed from the confusion, I/we had to be able to correctly deliver ‘show me’ leadership.  To paraphrase old man Yoda, “There is no try or tell, there is only do.”   If you want to be sure the confusion has the correct revelation, you and your team must also be able to effectively do what you say is the answer.  This is indeed a smoke test for making sure confusion has been solved, and it takes time and engagement with you and your team to get to the correct solution.

The Doc 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Innovation or Violation – Improving safety carefully

Organizations vary in their tolerance for change.  A bureaucracy is usually very intolerant of change whereas a start up organization thrives on it.  Many mature organizations have studied what it takes to become and remain market leaders. These organizations   concluded that change is inevitable if they are to remain competitive with the others who are searching for ways to take market share away from the market leader.  The many knock off varieties of the Toyota Production System (TPS) come to mind as a structured approach to managing the relentless pursuit of excellence.    

Change agents I have met try to keep pushing the improvement envelope. All of them have a history of making some mistakes along the way.  Business literature has made comments in regards to the way innovators are treated. The literature states that punishment of occasional errors is not a good idea for those organizations that are in need of improvement.  How then does one take into account the inevitable errors for those who are leading the necessary efforts to improve the numerous processes which need adjustment for the many attributes of performance?

Innovation is seldom revolutionary.  Usually there are many small steps to improvements.  These must continue. However, there must also be careful consideration not to cross a critical barrier that takes innovation to violation, which could lead to potentially serious consequences.  The innovators are often blind to the cliff edge as they are focused on the next step of improvement. There is a need to consistently evaluate risks and make sure your well intentioned innovators do not violate significant risk barriers that must be in place. 

The Caterpillar safety improvement model has a small safety steering committee made up of executives, middle managers, front line supervisors and hourly technicians.  This group is tasked with both leading strategic safety improvements and evaluating innovative Rapid Improvement Workshop (RIW) team solutions for appropriateness and implementation risk reality.  If your organization is involved with an ongoing improvement culture, you might consider forming a similar oversight group which can help prevent innovation from becoming violation.

The Doc

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

ALARP – Shifting safety realities

I was recently working with a multi-billion dollar sales construction company that has a history of “good safety performance.”  A couple of years back they won a national safety award with an Experience Modification Rate (EMR) of less than 0.6.  However, this year they are struggling not with severity, but with what used to be a good industry Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) of less than 5. The low EMR and average RIF had been getting them into bid pools because they were viewed as ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practicable) with the competition and with the potential customer. 

In recent years, it has been decided that Loss Time Accidents (LTAs) is no longer an acceptable risk measure for large global companies who are trying to build for the future.  The standard for these companies to even consider hiring a contractor is a RIF of less than 1 and a desire for much better than this. The progression of safety excellence standards has slowly, but steadily been improving in the background.  Some 50 years ago the push was to eliminate fatalities. About 20 years ago, fatalities for large organizations were mostly under control, which allowed the big companies to focus on eliminating LTAs.  In the last 5-10 years, the next step became RIF.  Large companies that have big, expensive projects can demand an even closer to zero incident performance from their contractors.  An industry average RIF used to be ALARP for bid purposes, but now a RIF of 1 can get a company who provides high work quality dismissed from the bid pool. 

The brutal mirror of truth facing this contractor and equipment suppliers as well as service providers is that there has been a sea of change in safety requirements.  This will not go away and in fact it is accelerating.  The old tools of OSHA, compliance inspections, observation focus, policies and procedures, check in the box safety activities are foundational, but they are not delivering anywhere near the zero injury rates that are being desired/demanded.  This is today’s wakeup call; five years from now companies that have not reacted to the call will be locked out of business by those who have answered the call. 
In 2003, Caterpillar heard the alarm, looked in the mirror and saw an ugly RIF of about 6.  This ignited a structured progression of safety improvement initiatives that now includes a culture of employee engagement and appropriate value added safety accountabilities for our approximately 150,000 employees throughout all levels of the organization. It has taken 11 years to reach our current RIF of less than 0.75, and there can be no “good enough” complacency when it comes to employee injuries.  The journey continues to 0.6 and then beyond.  

How is your ALARP culture?  What brutal mirror of truth is looking back at your organization?  Can Caterpillar Safety Services help you move beyond your safety history and into a culture that engages in and delivers zero?

The Doc

Connect With Us

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