Monday, October 5, 2015

Hormesis – the right prescription for Safety

We need a strategy. We need to know the real pain points. We need input and opinions. On almost every corner, we are enticed, corralled or strong-armed in to providing data points for others to strategize an improvement plan for our lives.  In small doses, surveys are beneficial to gauge people’s interests & perceptions. But at some point they become counterproductive. In the medical world, Hormesis is the effect in which a positive result comes from exposure to small doses of a potential toxin. In large quantities, they can be lethal. A quick Google search on ‘Consumer Surveys’ nets 9.7 million results. They are everywhere.

Over the years, I’ve had my share of safety professional conversations about meaningful surveys, how & when to implement and the perceived value to participants. I won’t debate the quantity of surveys at which you get diminishing returns. However, as we pursue the Hormesis affect, we want to avoid Rhabdomyolysis. Although I’m not a doctor (initials M.D.), I do like the dichotomy of these two words. In layman terms, Rhaddomyolysis is the release of a kidney-damaging protein following over-stimulation of a muscle.

To ensure you’re getting truth from the workforce on safety matters, here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to deploy a survey and ultimately administer a prescription:
  • How does management currently demonstrate visible commitment to safety as a value within the organization?
  • In what measurable ways are front line employees engaged in safety processes?
  • Name specific activities supervisors do on a regular basis to emphasize the importance of safety?
  • Currently how does your organization measure the presence of safety vs. the absence of incidents?

After conducting countless surveys & employee interviews, these are cultural issues I see come up again and again. A safety survey is really nothing more than data points unless management is authentically prepared to address these questions ahead of time. And engaging with the workforce on solving these issues will ultimately determine your level of success. We all know culture change takes time to be fully integrated into day to day business. So when should we take the next survey you ask? Experience shows deploying a benchmark survey to gauge perceptions is best served at a minimum 18-24 month after your baseline survey.

So keep the Hormesis flowing but avoid the toxic levels and be prepared to act on the results. As my pharmacist father use to tell me “it’s more than just counting pills, it’s understanding the purpose and the goal.”

Mark Dowsett

Account Manager – Caterpillar Safety Services

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