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The 6 elements

  1. 1. PBPExecutiveReports THE 6 Elements OF A Successful Safety Program A SPECIAL REPORT FOR SAFETY PROFESSIONALS AND EXECUTIVES
  2. 2. The 6 Elements of a Successful Safety ProgramPBP Executive Reports are straightforward, fast-read reports designed for time-pressed upper-level executives and managers. PBP Executive Reports excel atcutting the fluff, eliminating jargon and providing just the information today’sexecutives need to improve their organizations’ performance.This Executive Report was researched and written by the veteran Editorial staffof Progressive Business Publications, a leading speciality-information company.It contains the latest thinking and best practices for implementing a successfulsafety program in all types of industries and organizations.© 2010 PBP Executive ReportsAll rights reserved.370 Technology DriveMalvern, PA
  3. 3. Executive SummaryEXECUTIVE SUMMARY Most safety and health professionals agree their jobs have a technical side and a people side. Most of them will agree, too, that the people side of safety is much harder to master than the technical side. The technical side includes such things as making sure machine guards are properly designed and installed, personal protective equipment is used, training is provided, and enforcement and discipline are in place. Maybe you can’t quite learn it from a book entitled “Safety for Dummies,” but nevertheless ample resources exist to help safety professionals with these matters. There are few good resources that specifically address the people side of safety and provide an exact roadmap for winning the hearts and minds of workers so they actually WANT to do a job safely. That’s why the people side of safety is seen as the more challenging side of a safety professional’s job. To help safety professionals be as successful with the people side of safety as they are with the technical side, this Executive Report examines the six elements of successful safety programs, three of them technical, the other three people-focused. All six elements have been given a title by Scott Geller, the Safety Performance Solutions consultant and a frequent speaker at many safety conventions. Geller is among the safety thought leaders who stress behavior-based safety. All of the elements are organized in a manner starting with the letter “E”. On the technical side: I Engineering I Education I Enforcement On the people side: I Emotion I Empathy I Empowerment Page 1
  4. 4. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This report explores and explains how even the technical side of safety can be administered more effectively by taking into account the elements of the people side. Further, this report explains the importance of using the right phrases and language to conquer the hearts and minds of workers. It examines which terms are better avoided and what the best substitutes are. And finally, it sets out a simple self-auditing procedure for determining when safety professionals can feel confident they have been successful in reaching the hearts and minds of their workers so safety considerations will always be foremost in their decision-making. All it takes is finding the answers to three simple questions – and anonymous surveys can help any safety professional find those answers. Page 2
  5. 5. The Executive Report The 6 Elements of a Successful Safety Program Safety management is never easy because safety and health professionalshave to keep their eyes on so many different things at the same time. It’slike juggling multiple balls and making sure none come crashing down. Safety professionals have to make sure the workplaces in their care arefree of recognized safety and health hazards. Yet, to have an effective safety management program, everyone knowsthat’s not enough. Even if everything relating to machine guarding and personal protectiveequipment is in place, and all required training has been done – and even ifthe worst nitpicking OSHA inspector couldn’t find any fault with thephysical plant and the required training and recordkeeping because it’s allproperly documented – there’s no guarantee an accident won’t happen. That’s because fallible human beings work with those well-designedmachines. Wherever people are present, variables exist, errors can be made,equipment can be damaged, and people can get injured – or worse. To have an effective safety program, safety professionals must be wellcovered in six different areas. Three of those areas have to do with the physical plant and the requiredpaperwork that must all be in place. This is the technical side of safety. Although the technical side is difficult, competent safety professionalscan cover all these bases if they use the right resources. The other three elements, the most difficult ones to get right, all have todo with influencing the people doing the jobs, and the human dynamics Page 3
  6. 6. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMthat come along with having people interact with each other while dealingwith complicated manufacturing equipment and other work processes.The 6 E-words Only the most effective safety management programs give equalattention to all six factors. To make these broad areas of safety management more memorable, theycan all be given titles with words that start with the letter “E.” The first three elements to be considered are those dealing with thephysical environment and the regulatory requirements – in other words, thetechnical side of safety. They are: 1. Engineering 2. Education 3. Enforcement The next three elements to be considered are the most difficult ones,because they deal with the human dynamics, the people side of safety. They are: 4. Emotion (including emotional intelligence) 5. Empathy 6. Empowerment1. Engineering Having the right safety engineering in place in any plant, at anyworksite, or in any warehouse or office, means that all machinery isregularly checked by competent professionals to ensure safe operation. Page 4
  7. 7. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM Thorough safety professionals document these equipment inspections. For machines that could come into harmful contact with the bodies ofworkers, that usually means putting the right machine guards on theequipment, or railings, or whatever might be required to create a physicalbarrier. Along with machine guards, any number of other wonderful safetydevices have been invented that are available to safety professionals to keeppeople out of harm’s way. Personal protective equipment (PPE) also falls into the broader categoryof engineering. The right kind of PPE has to be selected after a careful analysis of thehazards workers may encounter in the workplace during the normal courseof their jobs. PPE can range from safety shoes and boots, hardhats, safety gloves,respirators, eye and face shields to full-body suits, depending on theconditions encountered in the workplace. PPE must be carefully selected and maintained, and steps have to betaken to make sure that workers use it correctly. General good housekeeping practices also fall into this engineeringcategory. Cluttered workplaces are an invitation to disaster. So are wet spots and spills – especially if workers lack the discipline tomark the spots and clean them up as soon as possible. Poor housekeepinginevitably results in slip-and-fall accidents, and worse. Workstation design is another important part of engineering. Poorworkstation design, especially for people who have to engage in repetitivemotions as part of their jobs, is a known cause of ergonomic soft-tissueinjuries. Those injuries carry a high price tag because they cause aninordinately high number of days away from work. Page 5
  8. 8. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMMore engineering controls – the list goes on A solid program for confined-space entry, where required, also fallsunder engineering controls, as do fire protection measures and the controlof electrical hazards, which can cause shock as well as fires. On construction jobs where people have to work at heights of six feet ormore, fall protection needs to be in place, which may include properlyconstructed scaffolds and reliable tie-offs for workers. The number of engineering controls that may be needed to mitigateworkplace hazards is as varied as the workplaces themselves. Trained safety professionals generally do well on the engineering partsof their jobs. There are OSHA rules to consult as to what’s necessary, aswell as voluntary additional standards promulgated by the AmericanNational Standards Institute (ANSI). There may also be additional voluntary safety management standardsadopted by the International Standards Organization (ISO). And any goodworkers’ compensation insurance company will have consultants availableto conduct a free internal safety audit and make recommendations on whatneeds fixing. Professional organizations like the American Society of Safety Engineers(ASSE), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and theNational Safety Council (NSC) are other important resources that can betapped for help. Many of these associations have active local chapters in addition to thenational organizations. In general, most conscientious safety professionals earn a good grade onthe first “E” of effective safety programs, the part having to with safetyengineering.2. Education Education is of equal importance to the success of any safety program asengineering. Page 6
  9. 9. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM The best safety guards in the business and the best PPE available on themarket will be of no use if the people who have to work near them or usethem haven’t been educated and trained how to use them properly. People have to be trained to do any job well, so they will be able to doit efficiently. And along with how to do the job efficiently, they should also betrained, ideally at the same time, on how to do the job safely. Efficiencyand safety must go hand in hand to achieve strong safety results. Some safety training is required by OSHA under specific rules. For example, before any worker is allowed to drive a forklift around ayard or a warehouse, a competent person has to train the operator andrecertify the person at regular intervals. Other OSHA rules, such as those dealing with emergency response,confined space entry, trenching and other areas, also have very specifictraining and education requirements. The OSHA Web site ( provides more specifics. OSHA at one point considered issuing a mandatory training rule aimedat all companies, forcing all employers to consider the safety hazards oftheir jobs and train workers on how to avoid them. The proposed rule was withdrawn and it was turned into a set ofvoluntary guidelines. But any company that doesn’t train and educate workers on how to doa job safely is begging for trouble.No training – killed on her first day A styrofoam plant in Columbus, OH, had to close its doors after atemporary worker was killed an hour before her very first shift was comingto an end. She was only supposed to sweep the floors around an assembly line, butno one told her anything and out of a desire to do a good job, she enteredan area where she wasn’t supposed to be (safety locks had been disabled). Page 7
  10. 10. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM She was crushed to death when she tried to clean inside a machine thatsuddenly started up. The company was engulfed in prosecutions and litigation, criminalcharges by the Department of Justice, OSHA violations and civil wrongfuldeath suits by the widower. The legal nightmare forced a multi-million dollar plant to close its doors– all for failure to train a temp sweeping the floors.Getting safety training right Selecting the right kind and the right amount of required safety trainingshouldn’t be very difficult, but some companies still struggle to get it right. Because of ever-increasing production demands, it’s often difficult to pulllarge numbers of workers away from the production floor and put them ina classroom for classical safety training. Self-paced, computer-based training programs can help. Targetedtraining in small bites is often more effective than long lectures inclassroom settings. That’s why “toolbox talks” for just 5 or 10 minutes prior to the start ofevery shift are very popular and effective and have grown well beyond justthe construction industry.Safety training, the right and the wrong way A big mistake companies make in the way they conduct safety trainingis that it is focused more on satisfying the paperwork needs of the companythan on the actual educational needs of the workers. Many companies still sit groups of workers down for required safetytraining and care more about collecting the signatures of the workersacknowledging that they have received the minimum required training thanon making sure that the workers really got the education necessary to keepthemselves safe and healthy on the job. If training is “pro-forma” and designed to cover the rear-ends of thecompany and its managers just in case the company should be unlucky Page 8
  11. 11. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMenough to have an accident or be targeted for an OSHA inspection,workers aren’t dumb, and they will pick up on that. If employees see the company doesn’t appear to think that safety andsafety education are important, they won’t think it’s very important, either.3. Enforcement The third leg of the stool of the technical side of effective safetyprograms is enforcement, also undeniably of equal importance. Consistent enforcement of safety policies, rules and regulations, both themandatory OSHA rules and any additional safety policies companieschoose to adopt because of their unique workplace challenges, constitutes akey building block of any successful safety program. Having an effective enforcement program in place, accompanied by aprogressive discipline policy when necessary, shows that companies areserious about safety. In effect, companies are saying to their employees: “We will make surethat you follow these safety rules for your own good – and everyone else’s.”Effective enforcement Effective enforcement entails that managers and supervisors should holdworkers accountable for their actions, as long as the people entrusted totheir care have been taught how to do things right. If workers knew very well how to do a job safely, and specific safetyprocedures were still not allowed, then it’s time to call someone’s attentionto it. Failure to enforce safety rules, especially out of expediency in the rushto get a job finished, is a clear sign to the workers that the company doesn’tcare – as long as the job gets done. If some people are allowed to cut corners and get away with it, otherswill follow. And safety lapses and injuries will inevitably follow, too. Page 9
  12. 12. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM Although consistent and visible enforcement of safety rules is important,just as important is the attitude with which a company approaches itsenforcement program. A “gotcha!” approach in which supervisors, managers or safetyprofessionals lie in ambush just to catch workers not wearing their safetyglasses, or not tying off on a construction job, has its limitations. If the name of the game is to catch people and discipline them, workerslearn that game quickly, and learn how to avoid getting caught. They’ll just get better and better at cutting corners when managersaren’t looking. They can win that game, although it will probably be a loser’s race tothe lowest rung of the ladder until someone gets hurt. If you pushaggressively, you will get pushback. Any action begets a reaction.The best kind of enforcement is self-policing Enforcement programs are much more effective if companies and theirmanagers clearly show that they want to enforce safety rules because theycare about their people. They don’t want any worker to hurt himself or herself because a jobwasn’t done in the safest way, for their own protection as well as for theprotection of those around them. The safest workplaces are those where the workers have developed atrue sense of interdependence. They know that the safety of all of themdepends on every single one of them carrying out his or her task safelyand efficiently. The best policing of safety rules and policies is not carried out with the“gotcha!” mentality. On the contrary, the best policing is self-policing. The safest workplaces are those where little discipline is needed becauseworkers do their best and police each other. That’s the kind of workplace where one co-worker will tell another:“Hey, Joe, put on your face shield. I know someone who got hurt herewhen a flying object came right into his eye. I know your kids. I want you Page 10
  13. 13. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMto be able to see them when you get home tonight.” If a safety professional can get the workforce to the point whereworkers tell each other to follows safety rules for their own sake (insteadof warning them because a manager is coming around the corner to catchpeople), they’ve gone a long way toward making their workplace as safeas possible.From the technical side of safety to the human side The first three “E” elements of a successful safety program, Engineering,Education and Enforcement, deal principally with the technical side of asafety manager’s job. Although it’s difficult enough to keep up with the technical side, this isstill the relatively easier part of the job. After all, physical hazards can be spotted and eliminated or mitigated.Education and training requirements are spelled out somewhere ingovernment regulations and can be followed to the letter of the law. And other specific rules can be downloaded off the OSHA Web site,while discipline and enforcement programs can be put in place to makesure that people follow them. Most safety professionals find that dealing with people is the harderpart of the job. To be sure, even the first three elements can probably be dealt withmore effectively if they are approached from the people side. For example, it’s easier to spot physical hazards in the plant if theworkers themselves, who are closest to the production floor, are activelyinvolved in the safety program and have their eyes and ears wide open forpossible new or unseen hazards. Safety training and education will be more effective – and workers willretain and put into practice more of it – if it’s clear that the education isaimed at keeping workers safe, not at satisfying some paperworkrequirement for company management. Page 11
  14. 14. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM And even enforcement and compliance with safety rules will be moreeffective if workers police themselves and have bought into safety assomething that everyone is responsible for, not just management. The people side of safety cannot be ignored in any area of a successfulsafety program. There are three specific elements of any effective safety managementplan that deal explicitly with the human dynamics of safety, regardless ofthe specific environment, or what kind of engineering controls must be inplace, or what specific training and education programs are necessary, orwhat OSHA or other rules have to be enforced. These elements dealing with the people side of Safety are Emotion,Empathy and Empowerment.4. Emotion No safety program can be effective unless people’s emotions are takeninto account – and given a defined role in the design of the safety program. Safety professionals should try to understand their employees’ feelings,manage to get them to express their feelings, and should not be afraid toshow their own feelings. It’s all about showing they really care about safety and puttingsomething of their own emotions into showing it, and being able to get theworkers to do the same. When managers set the example they really care, and workers can relate,those workers will eventually follow that example and develop a sense ofcaring as well, about their own safety as well as about the safety of others. How do people show they care? Workers show they care when theyreport hazards. But signs of caring don’t always have to be negative andadd to the negative reinforcement often prevalent in safety programs. Workers also show they care, perhaps even more so, when they reportsafe behaviors by their co-workers in addition to the unsafe behaviors. Page 12
  15. 15. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM Ideally, they spend just as much time reporting safe as well as unsafebehaviors. If they say something to their co-workers when they see thembehaving safely or unsafely, simply because they care, it is a powerful showof emotion that builds a healthy rapport. Of course safety managers themselves ideally set the example byshowing they care. The next phase is to develop safety leaders among theworkforce who can do the same – stop and report safe and unsafeconditions and acts whenever they see them, paying just as much attentionto positive reinforcement by reporting safe behaviors as well as to thenegatives of unsafe conditions or behaviors. True safety leaders inspire people to be accountable. People want tofollow leaders. If safety managers can get followers to be self-motivatedabout safety, safety will improve. In a system where self-policing becomes the rule, safety managersprobably won’t have much to do in the area on enforcement.The value of positive reinforcement At FirstGroup America, Inc., the parent company of Greyhound Linesand a number of other transportation companies, workers can’t enter thepremises without a little booklet in their pockets that used to be called“passports” (you needed a passport to get in). The booklet contained forms in triplicate (one for the employee, one forthe employee’s supervisor and one for company headquarters) for people to“write up” a co-worker for doing something good about safety, even if itwas just following the rules. Mike Murray, CEO of FirstGroup, said the exercise might sound like abig paper chase, but it wasn’t. Whenever submission of “good” write-upsslacked off, injury rates would rise soon thereafter. To the rank-and-fileemployees, the passport program became the convincing evidence that thecompany really cared about safety. Safety programs are most effective when they’re personal. That meansthey’re based on human dynamics and take into account that safe workpractices depend on human interactions between supervisors and workers, Page 13
  16. 16. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMor between co-workers. People deal with each other emotionally and reactto each other emotionally. When safety managers and all managers and supervisors who influenceworker behavior are really feeling it, when they show through theiremotions that they care, that’s when people start caring at all levels of theorganization, too. It’s not easy to get there. At first, people may feel uncomfortable saying positive things to eachother, or reporting negative behaviors. They may want to avoid the risk ofbeing labeled as “management toadies.” As a matter of fact, getting people to speak up about near-hits,near-misses and close calls is one of the most difficult things to achievein any safety program. But the reward, if you can get them to that point, is worth it. If peopledo start speaking up about those close calls, those occasions can becomewonderful opportunities for teaching safe behavior and/or eliminatingsafety hazards. It takes courage to speak up – and courage is a much-welcomedbyproduct of emotion that fortunately can be taught and learned. For workers, it’s easier to keep on walking and pretend they didn’t seeanything when they see a co-worker take off his respirator or his eyeprotection because it was getting hot and uncomfortable. Why get in the co-worker’s face? He knows what he’s doing. He’sresponsible for his own actions. It’s a natural reaction to want to avoidgetting involved. Involvement takes caring and emotion. Mustering the courage to speakup, despite a possible negative reaction from the other person, can save aneye or even a life in some circumstances. And when people are motivatedenough to care, they will speak up. Page 14
  17. 17. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMThe best trainers are people’s peers One of the most effective ways of inspiring people to behave safely at alltimes is to ask people who have suffered accidents or near-misses to speakto groups of workers just like them. When those injured victims get emotional about how they saw the light,and how they got a second chance to change their behavior and explainwhy now they always choose the safe way of doing things, that’s when itcan sink in. You can only get through to people (many of whom start out believingthat accidents will never happen to them, always to someone else) if theycan see themselves in the situation being described. A worker just like them who had an accident or a close call is capable ofmaking his or her peers see themselves in a similar situation. Getting people to see themselves in other people’s shoes is the mosteffective technique for changing behavior. Safety training works best if it can be made personal, made emotionaland made graphic. Examples always speak louder than words. You can tell workers a thousand times not to put their fingers into amachine and not to disable the safety guard just to be able to clear a jam alittle quicker. But a peer who lost a finger in a machine will always make the case athousand times more effectively. The most effective method of safetytraining is storytelling. And people who have been there usually do the bestjob of it when they speak with conviction.Emotional intelligence Another relevant e-word term closely related to emotion is “emotionalintelligence.” When people have acquired a degree of emotional intelligence, they havethe ability to put off immediate (and perhaps seemingly good) consequences Page 15
  18. 18. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMfor more beneficial long-term consequences. Emotional intelligence leads people to sacrifice some things today for thegreater good later. It means that they have learned to clear a machine jamthe proper way and not to get around that safety guard, thereby riskingpermanent injury. It means that they have learned to put that cell phone down whiledriving in their cars. They’ll miss making that call now, but they know theywon’t risk a car crash due to inattentive driving. Emotional intelligence includes the ability to realize the consequences ofone’s actions and behaviors. Avoiding unpleasant consequences gives peoplethe rationale to do what they want to do. People will do something either because they actively want something,or because they want to avoid something. They want to do a good jobbecause it gives them self-satisfaction and self-respect, in addition to adecent paycheck. They may also do something right because they want to avoid theconsequences and the costs of doing it wrong, either to themselves or totheir families. They don’t want to get hurt or sick, miss work andpaychecks, or be disciplined or lose a job. They certainly don’t want tobecome the object of an “investigation.” Emotional intelligence is not something that people either have or lack.It can be taught and trained, through a carefully developed workplaceculture and through the examples of respected co-workers and supervisors.5. Empathy Successful safety programs are built on a culture in which people are notafraid of showing emotion. But empathy must go hand-in-hand withemotions. Safety programs function best when safety professionals, as well as othermanagers and supervisors having interactions with workers, show peoplethat they have compassion for their situation and they show this empathy Page 16
  19. 19. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMwith actions, not just words. For instance, effective safety leaders set the example for safe behavior bynot texting on their cell phones themselves while they’re driving around theplant. They show the workers that they always put their safety helmets onin hardhat areas, even if they’re only passing through briefly. Empathy is making safety training and education a two-wayconversation to show that trainers really care about the workers beingtaught. A one-way conversation that simply instructs workers to “followthe rules” is devoid of all empathy. Empathetic safety leaders take the time to understand and to learnwhat’s on people’s minds. They give advice – not just instructions.Emotions can be positive or negative, but empathy’s always positive Psychological research has shown that even one single negativeinappropriate interaction between a worker and a supervisor can haveharmful effects on a worker’s behavior for years to come. If workers feel wronged, personally insulted or attacked, they will likelypush back – just to show the supervisor that they can’t be bullied. They willengage in such negative behavior, expending a lot of negative energy, even ifit is to their own detriment and may lead them to engage in unsafebehavior. Discipline may be necessary in some cases of willful behavior such ashorseplay or sabotage, but should be carefully administered because of theprobable negative consequences. From the point of view of long-term consequences, positivereinforcement is almost always better than negative reinforcement. Both are full of emotions, but the emotions involved in discipline andnegative reinforcement are always negative, while there is no possibilitythat the empathy involved in positive reinforcement will generate negativeenergy. Page 17
  20. 20. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM6. Empowerment Empowerment is the final e-word relevant in creating a successful safetyculture. In some circles, the word empowerment has acquired a negativeconnotation in today’s economic environment. Sometimes empowerment is used as a substitute for making people domore with fewer resources out of economic necessity. “We don’t have anyone else to help you with this anymore, so we’regoing to ‘empower’ you to do it all by yourself – in addition to yourregular work, of course.” That’s a typical phrase many a middle-level manager has probably heardfrom superiors these days. True empowerment in the safety area should mean something totallydifferent. • Do people feel empowered to stop an assembly line if they see an unsafe condition? • Do people feel empowered to work at a safe pace even if it is known that there is a big rush to finish a job on time, perhaps even with a bonus in the offing? • Do people show ownership of safety? • Does each individual worker show he or she feels empowered to make the right decision out of safety considerations? • Are the workers self-motivated to do the job safely and avoid injuries at all times out of a sense of ownership for the cause of safety? • Do they show a commitment to safety? • Are they telling themselves to do their jobs safely even when it may take a little longer and even when no one is watching? When the answer to each of those questions is affirmative, then that’sthe kind of self-motivation that shows a true sense of empowerment in thesafety sphere. Too bad that “empowerment” has taken on some negative Page 18
  21. 21. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMconnotations in today’s economic environment. Otherwise it’s a terrific principle that embodies the best of theself-regulated workplace that values its positive safety culture.The importance of using the right language The distortion of the word “empowerment” is just one example of howlanguage is an important part of any safety culture. After all, language – both the vocabulary used in verbal communicationalong with the so-called non-verbal “body language” – is how peopleexpress themselves and show their emotions. The correct use of language can make or break a safety program. A simple example can illustrate how certain words have negativeconnotations and how it may be possible to use substitute words that lackall traces of negativity and conjure up positive ideas instead. Such language changes can be important to change the safety culture ofa workplace. For example, perhaps it would be better if an alarm clockcould be renamed an “opportunity clock.” Why is it alarming to have to wake up and go to work? It should be anopportunity to jump out of bed and achieve something during a new day.Similarly, it is better to have a culture in which people strive to “achievesuccess” in safety through positive reinforcement rather than “avoidfailure” through negative reinforcement. Accidents and injuries are failures. Good safety coaching is a success. Much of the safety literature is full of references to “accidents,” which isactually a bad word to use for safety professionals. An accident sounds likesomething that couldn’t have been prevented or controlled. Most injuries in the workplace can be controlled – that should be thepassionate belief of serious safety professionals. “Incident” is not a good substitute for accident, either. It’s just a lame Page 19
  22. 22. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMeuphemism. Perhaps safety pros would do well to call things what they are– injuries. Injuries can be – and should be – controlled and avoided.More on accidents, investigations, committees and teams “Investigation” is another word that conveys the wrong message. Whenthere is an injury or a near-miss, companies typically launch aninvestigation into a particular safety event. But what message does that send to workers? A bad one. No one wantsto be “investigated.” The FBI investigates serious interstate crimes. Workerswant no part of it. The word investigation conjures up the idea that a move is a afoot tofind someone to blame – and the worker involved in the near-miss or injurywill naturally assume that it’s going to be him or her who’s going to besaddled with the blame, and targeted in the investigation. Root cause analysis all too often is a rush to judgment to blame humanerror for whatever happened. In most cases, sure enough, human error canbe found. But any number of contributing factors are also involved. Andidentifying those contributing factors may be much more important toprevent future occurrences of the same kind. Rather than announcing that an “accident investigation” will be openedafter an injury or near-miss, it would be much better to say that managersand workers will together attempt to find out what happened and whatcircumstances were contributing factors to make sure that no one else inthe operation will ever have to face the same risk again. Now that’s something most workers might actually want to collaborateon, instead of seeing themselves as the target of an “investigation” – andclamming up for fear that anything they might say will be held againstthem in some proceeding in which they feel like they’re in the hot seat. Words mean different things in different organizations, and anyoneinvolved in safety training had better be aware of what those specialmeanings are – or any effort is doomed to fail. For example, at the Coca Cola company, a “committee” was known inthat particular company’s culture as a place where ideas were sent to die a Page 20
  23. 23. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMslow death or be “committeed to death.” So if people were asked to serve on a safety committee, there were neverany volunteers. Union environments tend to frown on the word “team” – they don’t likesmall 10-person teams to be carved out of the rank-and-file. That feels toomuch like “divide and conquer.” To labor unions, everybody’s on the same team, according to TerryMathis, a safety consultant from ProAct who spoke at the 2009 NationalSafety Council congress.The hallmark of a successful safety culture How do you know when a company has attained a successful safetyculture, where safety Engineering is in place, where safety Education isadequate and tailored to the needs of the workers, where a safetyEnforcement program is effective, where safety is felt with Emotion,Empathy and Emotional intelligence, and where people feel Empowered tomake the right decisions for the sake of safety? Here’s a self-test that can be applied in all workplace settings. Can every worker answer a resounding “yes” to three simple questions: 1. Can I do it? 2. Will it work? 3. Is it worth it?1. Can I do it? To be able to do a job safely, to achieve the required production goalsbut at the same time to be sure that they can go home just as safe and ashealthy as when they started the job, workers have to believe that they havehad the right training to do the job and do it safely. They have to believe that they have adequate resources to be able tofinish the tasks and do so safely. Page 21
  24. 24. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM This question comes down to self-efficacy and self-confidence. Withoutthose factors present, companies will have a workforce that is unsure ofitself and prone to making mistakes that can get the workers themselveshurt as well as others around them.2. Will it work? Do the safety leaders themselves, as well as all individual workers,believe that the processes in place will keep people safe and injury-free? Dothey really believe that reporting near-hits instead of sweeping them underthe rug is the right thing to do for the overall cause of safety? Do they believe it will bring the company closer to the ideal of aninjury-free workplace? Do they believe the safety policies are the right ones?Do they believe in their hearts that an injury-free workplace is actuallypossible, or are there still some people who think it’s inevitable that peoplewill get hurt because it’s just a dangerous job? If there are still some people who are not so sure about these things –and these attitudes can be measured through anonymous surveys – thatmeans it may be time for some more education. Some people need to be educated a little more about why safety isso important. There is a subtle but significant difference between training andeducation. Typical safety training puts people in a classroom, where atrainer goes through the safe way of doing a job and collects signaturesfrom all attendees to prove the subject was covered. It sometimes seems that it is designed more for the needs of thecompany (being able to prove that the required training was doneaccording to the regulations if there is ever any question or inspection) thanfor the real needs of the employees being trained. Education requires that the people being taught really understand therationale for the material being taught. It also requires evidence that theyreally “get it.” Page 22
  25. 25. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAM3. Is it worth it? This question addresses the real belief system of the workers. Do theybelieve all the extra stuff they do for safety is worth it? Are people shownthe statistics, like the Total Recordable Rate (TRR) coming down, or betterstill, some positive leading indicators, to prove that safety’s worth it? And even when they are shown the stats, this persuasion process alsohas to go beyond mere numbers. People have to feel personally – emotionally – that it’s worth it and thatit’s the right thing to do. Workers have to believe that it’s worth it toalways don safety gear so they’ll always be able to go home to theirfamilies in one piece at the end of their shifts. When people believe a safe workplace culture is worth the effort, thenthey have become truly interdependent. They depend on their co-workersand their supervisors and managers and vice-versa, and they feel theirco-workers have their back. Trust is a necessary element to create this truefeeling of interdependence.Why caring is better than making them fearful It is possible to get people to behave safely by personalizing thesepositive emotions of trust and interdependence. It is also possible to drivebehavior through fear, the fear of being injured on the job, or the fear ofbeing fired or disciplined if safety rules are broken. However, safety managers would do well to be careful with fear as amotivator. Fear can only be effective as a motivator if it is accompanied bya strategy to avoid what the person is being made afraid of. If it isn’t accompanied by such a strategy, fear can be merely paralyzing,and can actually induce unsafe behavior. In other words, it’s fine to makepeople afraid of being burned by a hot oven. But they have to believe thatthe safety gear they have been provided with, face shields, safety boots,gloves, etc., if properly used, can keep them from suffering that terriblefate. The first step toward creating a work force that believes the job can bedone safely is to create a group of people who are failure avoiders. Failure Page 23
  26. 26. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMavoiders are definitely better than failure accepters. Those who acceptfailure think that it is inevitable that there will be accidents some day.These failure accepters are also in need of more education. Failure avoiders are one step up from failure accepters. Failure avoidersgenerally take this attitude out of fear – fear of being terminated orotherwise disciplined, or fear of being injured. Eventually it is better to move people from merely being failure avoidersto active success seekers, people who believe in an injury-free workplace asnot just an ideal to strive for, but something that is possible to attain andthey can play an active part in themselves.Creating positive leading indicators Actively caring safety cultures do not just measure negative safetystatistics like accidents, injuries, near-hits or the Total Recordable Rate.Measuring those is a question of loss control. After it’s happened, there’snothing more you can do about it. Caring safety cultures also measure positive “leading” indicators thatcan be accurate predictors of safe behavior and injury-free workplaces. A leading indicator could be the number of safety toolbox talks held inthe week. It could be an accounting of the number of positive safetyinterventions by workers. • How many times did they tell someone to put on his or her respirator? • How many times did they praise co-workers for observing all safety procedures as positive reinforcement? • What did they do for safety last week, and/or what do they intend to do for safety the following week? Track it and hold them accountable for it – that can become a usefulleading indicator of safety. How many times do people ask themselves: “How can I help the causeof safety?” Maybe then they won’t just pass by a trip hazard and thinkthey’ll report it the next time when they’re not in such a hurry. Maybe Page 24
  27. 27. THE 6 ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROGRAMthen they’ll report it immediately – before the next worker falls and getsinjured.Changing safety cultures The tragic space shuttle Challenger accident in which a NASA crew ofastronauts died has been analyzed and dissected numerous times. The Challenger blew up because the O-rings tended to get brittle in coldweather and NASA had never launched a space shuttle before in such coldconditions. That’s why the O-rings failed and the Challenger blew up,killing the entire crew. But that wasn’t the root cause of the disaster as subsequent reportsclearly showed. The root cause was the culture at NASA that stressedachievements – missions – over caution and making sure all safetyprocedures had been followed. It was a culture in which too great a level of risk was accepted as a pricefor achievement. Fortunately, the culture at NASA changed drastically andimmediately after the disaster. Without such a disaster, it often takes longerto change safety cultures. But nobody wants or should need a disaster tostart changing the culture. Good safety professionals don’t need a Challenger disaster to change thesafety culture in their workplaces. They have the tools to diagnose anyshortcomings in the culture before something happens. And above all, they show they care. Page 25
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