Regulations and standards often seem to get in the way of the day-to-day operational decisions we have to make to keep things going. As I have been involved with industries across our planet, I have noticed the people involved in operations have a “get ‘er done” attitude in the workforce. The personal push to deliver the end result makes a difference in throughput performance. And the safety professionals cringe at the shortcuts that are taken in order to get ‘er done.
The dangers to people, equipment and environment have led numerous industries to investigate, study and experiment with the variables until the optimum performance and safety interaction is determined. This work resulted in documents, policies, procedures and principles which assist organizations to deliver world class operations, safety and environmental performance. In the power distribution industry, the SSM (Safety Systems Manual) is consistently updated to reflect new technology and field learnings that make a difference. Mining typically has FRP (Fatal Risk Protocols), the safety protocols that when violated have proven to lead to fatalities. Numerous industries publish and train cardinal rules; safety protocols that must not be broken and if they are will lead to employee and manager terminations.
And yet over time without de rigueur, a culture of rigorous adherence to these kinds of standards, the “go-getter” culture seems to regress into dangerous practices that get a little more done. This leads people to hear words such as, “We haven’t had that kind of accident for a long time. I am sure we will be ok just this once.” Once this assumption starts, the slippery slope to the next disaster rears its ugly head. This can cause new employees to learn the culture of accommodation that replaces a culture of correct. Many of you safety professionals and I have experienced the tragic results that show up down this kind of pothole packed road.
One of the strengths of our safety profession is that “we don’t make assumptions – we make informed decisions.” We are all a part of the support staff that is to make sure we have not joined the slippery slope culture. We do this by observing, researching the information banks, informing leadership, and training the appropriate personnel. In the world of safety accountability, this process would be termed Define – Train – Measure – Recognize / Feedback.
Think about this kind of reality check in your organization. What important standards are our people starting to bend? What informed decisions can you help deliver that will help to move the safety culture back on the correct track?