I want to welcome you to SafetyCary – a safety blog aimed at identifying best practices based on experience and data gathered over a twenty year career in safety. Specifically I will be focusing on the use of leading indicators to predict and prevent injuries.
I want to begin with a simple quote from Dr. W. Deming so that you understand my philosophy. He is known as an innovative thinker and is attributed to Japan’s success in the electronics and automotive industries after World War II. Dr. Deming emphasized the importance of measuring and testing to predict typical results. ”You can expect what you inspect.” If a phase consists of inputs + process + outputs, all 3 are inspected to some extent. Problems with inputs are a major source of trouble, but the process using those inputs can also have problems. By inspecting the inputs and the process more, the outputs can be better predicted, and inspected less. Rather than use mass inspection of every output product, the output can be statistically sampled in a cause-effect relationship through the process..” In essence, he states that if you don’t address the inputs and the process, you will require a quality manager to address all of the defects!
The same concepts apply to safety. If more time is spent identifying the inputs (behaviors and conditions) and process (management and operational systems) then the outputs (injuries) will be reduced. Otherwise, you will require a Safety Manager to be reactive in addressing the injuries that do occur.
Now, a good friend once told me that inspections alone won’t get you to world class. Initially I opposed his view (quite vehemently) but his wisdom was spot on. Dr. Deming also is quoted as saying “Quality comes not from inspection but from improvement in the process.” Inspections alone aren’t enough – acting on the data provided to effect change positively and proactively such that the causal factors are addressed and the process is improved is what is required to see a reduction in accidents.
I wish to close this welcoming address with another quote that relates to my belief that continuous improvement can be acheived by reacting proactively to the measurement of inputs and processes. This quote comes from Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe in their book Managing the Unexpected. ”Error is pervasive… What is not pervasive are well-developed skills to detect and contain these errors in their early stages“.