• Who is ‘Best in Class’ and Why?

    20 October 2015

    A plant safety manager just finished his presentation of plant safety performance results and key activities.  It was the plant’s best year ever.  Injury rates were down, lost time days were reduced and improvement projects had been completed on time and on budget.  Associate involvement and morale was high.  Most importantly, there had been no serious injury or fatality events.   By all accounts, it had been a successful year.

    Then a member of the review panel asked “Who is best in class and why?”

    At first, it seems like an easy enough question.  Yet it is almost impossible to answer, especially on the spot in front of your leadership team.   It’s like what is your favorite flavor of ice cream and why?

    As we know, most companies measure safety performance as a ratio if injuries per hours worked.  The government requires us to maintain these rates on our injury logs.   But, the devil is in the details – do all companies keep records as thoroughly as we do?  Are support man-hours included in the totals?  How do you know?

    The problem with injury rates is that you get them for free – if you do nothing to manage or improve your safety performance, you can still add up your injuries and illnesses, multiply by 200,000 and divide by man-hours.  It is not a measure of leadership or culture.

    So where do you go and get this information?  Does it fit into a graph or chart?  How do you know when you see it?

    Best in class - graphic 1

    Without defining safety excellence within your own company first, it might be a mute point.  Although each company may have different long and short term targets, excellence probably includes 1) commitment to identify and eliminate potentially catastrophic hazards, 2) involvement of all levels of associates, including those in a leadership role, 3) the focus on continuous improvement in physical work conditions and environment, and 4) the discipline of all associates to conduct daily actives with the successful outcome in mind, regardless of other conflicting priorities.

    Benchmarking is from the perspective of the organization who is trying to improve.  If our culture is to continuously improve, we may never be satisfied with our safety accomplishments.   Even if we reach our ultimate goal of zero injuries, there will still be work left to be done.  Perhaps, when those outside of our organization look to us more than we look outside our organizations to improve, then we might be best.  But we may never stop looking.

    Best in class - graphic 2

    Make mine vanilla with sprinkles and a cherry on top. Why, it just tastes right.

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  • Does Your Corrective Action Program Need Corrective Action?

    11 May 2015
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    Even the safest organizations frequently identify problems and opportunities for improvement. In fact, many best-in-class organizations actively seek out even minor potential problems so they can address them before they lead to accidents or incidents. In such companies the lack of large numbers of problems and improvement opportunities identified by the workforce is often seen as a warning sign for complacency. (Loud, 2004, p.35). Companies that recognize the need to find and fix problems, and the importance of continuous improvement, have long developed lists of corrective actions and generally track closures. This approach, often called “stack and track,” is better than nothing but is far from optimum.

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  • Percent Safe is NOT a Measure of Risk

    12 February 2015
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    Percent Safe is NOT a Measure of Risk

    Virtually all companies collect worksite safety observations. Sadly, most companies collect only unsafe findings. This results in a very incomplete picture, as discussed in “The Value of Safety Observations, Especially Safe Observations”. Those companies that do collect safe observations use a standard metric called Percent Safe (% safe). This metric is a simple calculation that factors in the number of safe observations and the number of unsafe observations, providing a percentage.

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  • What Makes an Effective Safety Professional? – Part 5 (Final)

    19 January 2015
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    Predictive Solutions - Safety Professional

    In his book ‘The Righteous Mind’, Professor Jonathan Haidt of New York University’s Stern School of Business suggests that there are essentially six basic moral foundations. These foundations are all set differently in each human, due to differences in genetic makeup, development (particularly fetal development) during ontogeny, and environmental factors such as culture and experience. Each foundation has different settings and, like the settings on a music sound system, can be set high in some people and low in others. Just as some sound systems have the base turned up and some don’t. These basic moral foundations are: caring, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity.

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  • What Makes an Effective Safety Professional? – Part 4

    19 January 2015
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    Character - Safety Professionals

    Over a series of articles I looked at how the responses to the questionnaire could be interpreted under each of those categories. However, it was apparent from very early on that most of the responses were character orientated (Persistent, Inquisitive etc.). And of these, most were moral judgments (Trustworthy, Conscientious, etc.). But I left this category until last, because character and morality are very difficult concepts to pin down. Character in particular has been considered by some of the greatest minds of all time, and they have all struggled to offer a satisfactory explanation of what it is, where it comes from and why it is valued.

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  • What Makes an Effective Safety Professional? – Part 3

    17 October 2014
    Safety Pros

    This article is the third in a series that details the characteristics of an efficient safety professional. As detailed in the introductory article, Technical Proficiency, Teamwork, and Character are three attributes that a qualified safety professional possesses. This article will focus on the second of the three qualities – Teamwork. Teamwork is the heart of any enterprise and the most effective mean to achieve goals and objectives. To maximize the team’s ability, safety professional has to recognize the individual role, strengths, and weaknesses within a group. I will expand on the value of team work by discussing nine specialist group roles observed by Maredith Belbin, a researcher and an author.

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  • What Makes an Effective Safety Professional – Part 2

    5 October 2014
    Safety Pro 2

    To do his job well, a safety professional must earn the respect of his team and the foundation of this respect is technical proficiency. The safety professional has to equip himself with knowledge about the role and the profession in order to execute a plan or to resolve a situation. I introduced three characteristics of an effective safety professional last article. In this article, I will expand on the first characteristic – Technical Proficiency.

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  • What Makes an Effective Safety Professional? – Part 1

    3 October 2014
    Safety Pro 1

    What makes an effective safety professionals? Based on the my experience, there are three crucial factors which are technical proficiency, team work, and character. Having all three of the attributes is a rarity which explained why I only met one such person after years of working in the industry. He was efficient, persuasive, and invaluable to the team. Here I will introduce the idea and I will expand on each characteristics in the later posts.

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  • Myth busting: All Accidents Are Preventable?

    13 June 2014
    Construction Accident

    “All Accidents Are Preventable” is a persistent myth that has found its way in many textbooks and policy. I believe that MOST accidents are preventable only if we work systematically and structurally. It is impossible to predict accidents for every event and every aspect of our lives, but we must continue to exert effort because, hopefully, we will avert the important ones.

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  • The Blind Spots of Behavioral Observation Programs

    Blind Spot

    The blind spot in many behavior observation program occurs when a behavior is judged safe or unsafe without context. “Running with scissors” is the prime example of an unsafe action, but it is the correct response for a medical professional in an emergency situation. To maximize a behavior observation program, we need to eliminate the blind spot. We have to start exploring the reasoning behind an action before categorizing it. Only then can we establish a foundation of trust between ourselves and our most valuable source of safety – our employees.

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