Inside-Out Safety

Now for something a little different…

A few weeks ago I put out some feelers on social asking if anyone would want to contribute some stories of their own for Relentless Safety. The response was crazy. I’m still going through emails and trying to find places where these pieces will fit and get maximum exposure. Because they’re great.

The following is from Dr. Sylvia Lee. Dr. Lee provides management consulting services in strengths-based leadership and organizations, organizational design and development, and general leadership development.  Her program, PowerUp Leadership supports leaders in becoming strengths-based.

Safety from the inside out:

Safety isn’t just about you.

A few years ago, the concept of the triple bottom line commanded considerable attention.  The idea is that business leaders pay attention to not only their fiscal bottom line, but also their social and environmental bottom lines as well. That is, leaders focus attention on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) for the impact of company operations on the environment and on society and actively measure such impact.

COVID has made CSR more than good business sense.  It’s made CSR essential for business success, maybe even survival – a concept that no business leader can ignore.  It doesn’t matter if your business is small or large, public sector, private sector, or not-for-profit sector.  It doesn’t matter what goods and services you sell.  It doesn’t matter where in the world you are.  If you’re a leader, it’s up to you to provide CSR leadership.  Safety is embedded deep into customer requirements for being your customers. 

When you, as a leader, pay attention to safety from the inside out – the safety of your customers and community – your bottom line improves.  A few years ago, a consulting gig demonstrated that completely, even though the consultation had nothing to do with safety.

The CEO of a flame-retardant clothing manufacturer called me.  His executive team were fighting with each other.  Marketing thought they were the driver of business; Operations thought they were.  Business was suffering.  Could I help?  “Be as obstreperous as you like,” the CEO said, “just get them to work together.”  Well, you can’t turn down a consulting gig like that!

I met with the executive team – the CEO was right – no co-operation, no collaboration, no communication.  I asked them what the purpose of the company was.  Not the mission or the vision, but the reason for being.  The stared at me.  I pointed to the mission statement on the wall of the meeting room.  “To Be Number One”.  What does that mean, I asked?  Number one in what – sales, profits, market penetration?  And who says so – you, your customers, the Better Business Bureau? 

Team members couldn’t answer.  So, we moved on to other things, with that purpose question always at the forefront.  On the third day, one of the executive thumped on the table and said, “I’ve got it!  Our purpose is to save lives!”  They all looked at each other with surprise in their eyes, and then recognition of truth.  The discussion turned to how such a purpose translated into operations, into marketing, into sales, into everything.  With a common purpose in mind, the team members could create ways to work together, rather than trying to beat the “other side”. 

So where does safety come into this?  Well, a few weeks later, after I’d completed my work with the executive team, I ran into the CEO on the street.  “You know what was really great?” he said.  “My team started to focus on performance.”

He told me how their operations people were able to talk with the workers sewing the garments.  Instead of their past practice of rejecting sub-quality sewing, they could now say, “See this seam?” pointing to one that wasn’t sewn perfectly.  “That seam could kill someone.  It could cause terrible burns to someone.”  Now the front-line workers were paying attention to the new purpose statement for the company.  They began to pay more attention to their work, feeling proud that they were contributing to the safety of their customers, rather than frustrated that their work was rejected by their supervisors.  Their work became more meaningful, because the people who wore the clothes they made were relying on them to make clothes without flaws.  The safety of their customers became paramount. 

Performance improved, employee engagement improved.  Operations improved. Marketing started to promote their employees in marketing materials, featuring individuals sharing their pride in their work.  The CEO was sure sales would increase, employee morale would improve, and the financial bottom line would grow.  All because of a focus on safety from the inside out.

Let’s let it out.

Thank you Dr. Lee

If you have an interesting, fun, funny, sad, or otherwise engaging safety story, send it to me at Jason@relentlesssafety.com. Let’s all learn from each other!

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

DON’T MISS THE LATEST EPISODE OF SJL!

Inigo Montoya: Safety Philosopher

Time for some real talk…

I sat in my bosses office that morning for my regularly scheduled weekly one-on-one. It was a big day. I had just spent the prior month writing, editing and designing a three hour leadership (not safety leadership, CLICK HERE TO SEE WHY) and was about to deliver it to him.

Which I did.

Then came the feedback.

“Jason, you’re a really great big idea guy,” he began. It was familiar territory. “But I really need to to work on follow through. An idea is only 2% of the work…” I’d heard it all before.

Now don’t get me wrong. He wasn’t completely off base. I’m big enough to admit that. But the irony (in a real sense, not the Alanis Morissette kind) of being told that after just delivering a completed project was kind of mind boggling in that moment.

That got me thinking

And listening.

The message didn’t line up with what was actually happening, so I decided to start listening to my boss a little more carefully. It was an experiment that I postulated only had two likely outcomes. I would either learn more about his style and grow to respect him or I would not. The result was the latter.

What I began to notice were his undertones. There was always something else in his message beside the message. For example, when a leader genuinely thanks workers for all their sweat and sacrifice in order to acknowledge that times are stressful, one does not need to end that thought with “but we have a business to run.”

Or justifying the decision to drug screen an employee for an incident by stating “well probably half of them are on drugs anyway.”

One of my favorites was “I don’t mind you doing all this writing stuff, but I don’t want you talking about anything at work.” That one made me giggle.

There were more examples of course, but I’ll leave it at that. The guy’s greed and slanted view of the people who worked for him was just gross. It doesn’t warrant the publicity.

Safety does it too

Think about your words next time there’s a “safety event.” Do you really care if someone’s in pain or are you just mad because of the extra work they just caused you? Are you interested in finding out what happened or is the employee just stupid enough to have let Darwin win? What about all those times that a leader really cares about safety by telling people that their incentive is being taken away because of a “bad” injury rate.

The long and short of it is that your intentions will always betray your words if the two aren’t aligned. Come to think of it, maybe that’s how they came up with the idea that actions speak louder.

We can always do better. Who’s with me?

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

DON’T MISS THE LATEST SJL PODCAST!

My Wife Tried To Murder Me… With MURDER Scrub!

Coconut oil scrub to be exact, but first things first…

I’m a magnet for strange. Anyone who’s read many of my stories or my book knows that. In particular, I find that more strange things happen to me in public bathrooms than most. Take that as you will.

As proof, I could offer up THIS STORY about that one time I had to break into my house from a bathroom window. Or THIS ONE about a time when I saved a bee’s life in the most unexpected of ways.

I could even tell you about a time very recently when I visited a restroom and was interrupted by the patron in the stall next to me. Ordinarily I can get in “the zone” when I have business to attend to, but this interruption was legendary. Few sounds are as alarming to hear in a throne room than those of deep, guttural… snoring.

As you can see, I speak from a high level of authority when it comes to weird stuff (and bathrooms). Even if those stories don’t make my case, I’ve got more.

Let’s dig into my wife’s nefarious plot to bring about my demise

Let me start by saying, I love my wife. She is spectacular.

BUT…

If I end up dead/murdered (even though it would be the direct result of my antics) no one should ever consider it a mystery. I preemptively confess that my relentless pursuit (see what I did there?) of bigger, better, and funnier drove an otherwise rational and kind woman to rid the world of my idiocy.

And it’s not like she hasn’t come close before.

I swear it wasn’t me!

As it happens, she’s almost succeeded… accidentally. God help me if she ever tries.

At one point before the spawns were born (see HERE or HERE for more info) she was quite the crafter.

At that point in our marriage I had no reason to suspect any ill intent. We were still newly-wed-enough to believe married people like each other. Anyhoo…, when she proclaimed one day that she was going to start making sugar scrubs I told her she had my full support. They sounded delicious (I was wrong about that…). But they smelled nice and really do help with exfoliation.

Then I took a shower!

There was no Norman Bates in this story. The plot was much more simple. As it turns out, sugar scrub is MOSTLY made of coconut oil, not sugar!

Following her first foray into this new project, my wife had indulged in the exfoliating and moisturizing experience that is F@#$%&! sugar scrub for an undetermined amount of time. Once fully moistfoliated, she exited the shower and let me know it was my turn.

I don’t remember much after that except that I learned three things that day:

  1. Coconut oil is slippery as fuck!
  2. I can perform the splits.
  3. My wife is going to live much longer than me.

She totally wasn’t trying to kill me though. I think

Here’s where it gets… uh… slippery

If I replaced a few elements from that story with a few from your work environment, would your judgement of the circumstances change as well?

Let’s try:

  • My wife = trades-person (employee)
  • Sugar scrub in the shower = unapproved process (violation)
  • Me = “Safety Guy”

Now the story reads: “An employee was observed violating plant safety policy 2097.00987879.00887790880.xxv2 when she used an unapproved chemical to clean equipment. This resulted in a very serious near miss when the Safety Guy slipped in residual chemical. Disciplinary action is recommended.”

Maybe that’s a little far fetched… Maybe not.

What do you think?

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

If You Don’t Agree, You’re As Dumb As A Flat Earther!

Believe it or not, that sentiment is how I met the one and only Clive F. Lloyd

Almost two years ago now, I was perusing around LinkedIn and found an interesting article. It was written by a VERY zealous guy about the “evidence” he’d stumbled upon proving that Behavior Based Safety was the best thing since Pavlov discovered Kibbles & Bits.

In it the man explained that he had just flown on an airplane. He then (illogically) concluded that since he had followed all of the airport’s boarding and security protocols, BBS was the only way to do safety.

I know. I didn’t get it either.

What stuck in my mind about it, though, was that he concluded in the article that if you didn’t agree with him, you might as well believe the earth is flat.

Enter Clive…

As I LOL’d my way through the comment section of the deranged man’s article, I stumbled upon a gem of a quote from none other than Clive Lloyd. I’m not going to repeat the quote here because it ended up in my book. You should go check it out and find out why the quote was so impactful for me.

As it goes, Clive and I developed a friendship through LinkedIn after I asked if I could include that quote in my book. Not only did he say yes to that request, but he actually volunteered to proofread the manuscript once it was finished. I have family members who won’t even do that!

Needless to say, his feedback was invaluable and helped me secure a publishing deal. Having him on one of my episodes of SJL Presents was the least I could do in return.

You will not be disappointed

In the episode, Clive and I cover a lot of ground. Particularly, he explains how to make a safer workplace physically by building trust psychologically. It was a great conversation and I’m beyond proud to share it with you.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

The Misadventures of Saf-T-Cat

I doubt any of you have ridden 14 miles under the hood of a Honda Civic…

They see me rollin…

Saf-T-Cat has. This is her story…

Don’t be dismayed that I’ve already given away the punchline. Sure, you’re wondering about Mouse’s (Saf-T-Cat) journey, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m going to fill in the details that lead up to it with stuff I “SHOULD” have noticed before I got to work. This story only makes sense in the light of hindsight.

The morning began like most others. I woke up late and rolled over to wake my wife up. She hit me, so I got up and took a shower. She was still asleep when I got out. Up to that point all was normal.

The dog was cuddled up next to my wife and our kitten Luci (short for Lucifer) was running round the bedroom flicking her tail and gurgling (she doesn’t meow) to signal she was hungry. Not inconsequentially, Luci also does that right before she darts between your legs to escape captivity. Mouse was not around, which was odd. Not odd enough for me to notice, though.

I groggily put on my clothes and headed to the kitchen. Luci followed, flicking the whole time so I fed her. Still no Mouse.

Meet Luci… The Devil

In my haste I retrieved a well-balanced breakfast of Monster and fruit snacks and headed to the car. I got in, started the engine and then sat in the driveway for a minute to pull up some music on my phone. My daughter came running out and tapped on the window to give me an Easter egg to take to work. It was suspiciously wet… on the inside.

Let’s rewind a little further

At this point it is important to note that my car, which is ordinarily parked in the garage, was in the driveway all night. Recently my wife purchased a new vehicle in preparation for the lease expiring on the SUV she’s been driving for the past three years. We were scheduled to turn it in this week, but as you might imagine, these strange times have made that difficult. So, we made arrangements with the dealership a few weeks ago to keep it parked in the garage until they can accept it. Thus, my car got the boot.

The night before, my wife and son had been in the garage organizing tools and cleaning supplies. It’s not unusual for the cats to wander out whenever someone is working in there, and everyone vaguely remembers both of them skulking around during the cleaning activities. That night, however, the garage door had been open due to my car’s newly downgraded status.

At bed time, the garage was closed up, the animals were ushered inside (or so we thought), and everything seemed normal. The next morning even seemed that way, despite Mouse’s absence. So, I cranked up the Taylor Swift and drove to work.

And then I realized how wrong I was

I pulled into the parking lot after what appeared to be an uneventful commute and took my time exiting the car. As soon as I did I heard the sound. A cat. From the sound of it a very scared one. The sounds appeared to be coming from my car, too. I doubted that was possible in the moment, given that I rarely trust my ears to tell the truth these days. So, I looked in a nearby bush. Nothing.

After a few minutes it was clear that the noise was indeed coming from my car. I just knew it was Luci. She’s jet black and very sneeky. I thought maybew she’d gotten into the trunk or was wedged under the back seat. But checking both of those places yeilded no results. There was only one place left… under the hood.

I popped the latch and propped it open expecting a fury of devil-kitten to come flying out at my unprotected eyeballs. Instead, I just heard more cries. Then… Mouse emerged from behind the engine. She had a small scratch on her nose, but was otherwise unharmed (physically).

This is the look give after riding under the hood for 14 miles

It should have never happened…

  • If I had been a more responsible pet owner…
  • If I had paid more attention…
  • If I had woken up on time…
  • If I hadn’t parked my car in the driveway…

Those are all statements I would expect to hear during a typical safety incident investigation. Often spoken by those who have no grasp of reality. The hard part is that those statements aren’t completely untrue. But even if any of those “if” statements had been true, they would not have guaranteed a different outcome.

The event was much more complex than my inadequacies. Unfortunately those are easier to identify than the deeper issues. Consider this:

  • The unfamiliar parking situation had unintended consequences that affected another process.
  • The cat dynamic in the house created a bias toward Luci as the doer of mischief, so no one considered Mouse might be outside.
  • My wife likes to organize (this is also a contributing cause for most of my lost items… jus sayin’).
  • The morning routine had no provisions for checking on the furry A-holes, only feeding them.

So here’s the end of the story:

Mouse died that afternoon 🙁

Mouse loved her safety vest… Seriously.

I’m totally kidding. She is fine. I’m surprised she is, but also incredibly happy. I would have been heartbroken.

The actual end of the story is that we learned A LOT from mouse riding under the hood of my car all the way to work. Not the least of which is that she is one lucky cat who lives on to share her safety message with any who would hear it:

Don’t blame the people who made mistakes. Figure out how to keep their mistakes from causing CATastrophe (sorry, couldn’t help myself). The more you do that, the less you’ll have to count on luck.

Here’s Mouse’s first on-screen adventure

See. She’s fine. Happy happy happy.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

Safety Isn’t Good (at) Business

Thanks to Dave Collins for this pic

But we’re really good at pointing at things…

You haven’t lived until you have a conversation like they one I’m about to share with you. To set the mood, let me take you back to 2008…

The Black Eyed Peas just told you that tonight’s gonna be a good night. You just texted your girlfriend from your Motorola Razr about the Spaghetti Cat bit you watched on The Soup last night. Then, as you set aside thoughts of redesigning your MySpace page, your boss walks over and gives you the news. Today is going to suck regardless of how tonight turns out.

The boss just informed you that your assignment for the day is to walk the contractor safety reps around a 2-million square foot construction site to show them safety hazards. More specifically, electrical ones.

This particular site had been deluged by unexpected monsoon weather and more than a few things were under water. As it happened, one of those “few” things just so happened to be… the entire bottom floor and basement of the facility. The GC on that job had bet on their expectations of good weather and begun finishing interiors before the building had a roof. They had lost in a MAJOR way. To say there was tension in the air would be… accurate.

And THEN… Safety arrived to save the day… point at extension cords

Some very concerned administrative folks who’d been riding along that morning on the Project Manager’s windshield tour of the damage had informed us that there were… wait for it… Extension cords sitting in water.

Now, I’m going to make light of this hazard for the rest of this post. I’m not going to say it wasn’t a real hazard, but seriously… bigger fish. If you’re not comfortable with that, I suggest you go listen to Episode 100 of the Drinkin’ Bros Podcast to find out what uncomfortable really feels like.

In general, the idea of extension cords being immersed in water, though not something I would advise, does not rank incredibly high on my pucker meter. I’m sure there will be more than a few who disagree with that, and that’s fine. You being wrong doesn’t change the message of this little story.

The issue in this story doesn’t have as much to do with the magnitude of the hazard as it does the reasoning for which the hazard needed to be removed. That reason, as you might guess, was “because OSHA said.” To the contractors who were already dealing with the water crisis in other ways that only meant diverting time and resources to something that just wasn’t the issue of the day. Safety hadn’t changed that opinion based on the four letter “O” word.

So, I spent the rest of that day (minus the 25 minute lunch break I took to run home and get dry pants), trudging through nearly foot-high water pointing at every extension cord covered by H2O. Oh, and don’t think I forgot about that little “conversation” I mentioned at the beginning. It went like this (hundreds of times that day):

Me (pointing at a submerged extension cord): That one.

Contractor: Why?

Me: Seriously?

Contractor: Yeah.

Me: IT. IS. UNDER. WATER.

Business… we’re seriously not good at it

Ok, that’s a broad generalization, but I’m standing by it. Because even the best among us… the Safety Pro who can sell safety based on an iron-clad ROI. That guy. Even he has missed one key ingredient at least once. We all have.

We’re all guilty of pulling safety out of the work process at least once. How many administrative processes have we thrown in people’s faces “just to ensure” they do the “safety” step? How many unnecessary forms have we created and required without knowing how the work works? Which revision of the site safety manual are you currently updating to distribute to the workforce along with a sign-off sheet they have to sign for acknowledgement?

Now ask yourself two questions: How many of those things made someone safer? & How much more effective might those endeavors have been if you could show your organization how to accomplish safety without impeding their work? Think about what that ROI would look like with that little detail included.

In the case of the watery extension cord saga, the contractor was pretty well justified in considering the wet cords a risk worth taking. According to Safety the only thing at stake was the remote possibility someone would get shocked and the even remoter possibility that OSHA would magically appear and unleash the fury at that very moment.

But what if we had helped them with their problem in exchange for some help with ours? Better still, what if we had shown them that their work could be done more safely and efficiently if they corrected the hazard?

How do we get better?

Think about it like this. Have you ever seen an extension cord explode, electrocute a puppy, burn down a building, or turn an average Joe into a super villain because it got wet? I haven’t. And I’ve seen a shit-ton of them (see above). Does that mean they’re not hazardous? Of course not. But it’s not one of the risks that makes me loose sleep. I doubt someone who’s job isn’t SAFETY even thinks about it. If they do, it’s highly likely they consider it a costly nuisance.

So here’s the challenge: If your job requires you to convince someone to do something they think will cost them [anything], you need to find a better way to persuade than telling them they might (in some non-quantified way) experience some level of undesired consequences up to and including death or termination (whichever comes first). Rather than adding roadblocks to the work, find a way to add value. That’s what I think every time I see an extension cord.

If you’re new to this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason. I’m a safety professional, podcast host, author, and world-renowned origami artist (that’s a lie). If you’re NOT new to this blog, go buy my book… it’s like this but multiplied by the power of unicorn tears. In any case, I hope you enjoy the content here. Please like, share, and join in the discussion as we all pursue Relentless Safety.

Make sure you LOOK safe

Safety Has Nothing To Do With Optics

There’s an old bodybuilder adage that says “it’s not about how much you can lift, it’s about how much you look like you can lift.”

I think there was an executive once upon a time who heard that joke and thought it had a direct parallel to safety. No one can question safety…

As long as it looks like we care...

As long as we say safety is important…

As long as we put up a bunch of signs that show how serious we are…

While we’re at it, let’s make people wear unnecessary PPE and cumbersome “safety” gear that actually makes the job harder, too.

Now is not the time for platitudes

In light of all that’s going on in the world, safety has taken a strange turn lately. It’s definitely on everyone’s mind. But one thing is becoming clearer by the day: We have a lot of teaching to do.

I’ve heard a lot of frustration from fellow safety professionals about how their leadership is not taking their recommendations seriously. Not just for virus-related topics either. I can empathize with that sentiment completely. But it makes me wonder…

Amidst all the misinformation, bad decisions, and emotion I wonder if leaders don’t take our recommendations because of things we have done to ourselves.

Have we “Chicken Little’d” ourselves out of being trusted advisors?

Did we rely too much on gimmicks and goofy slogans to be taken seriously?

Are we too busy handing out band-aids and checking off checklist items to focus on what really matters?

I wonder…

Eventually business will have to get back to “normal.” Unfortunately none of us know what normal will look like tomorrow. All I know is I don’t want to be part of a profession that isn’t taken seriously. Maybe we should consider that during this time.

What will you do differently?

Safety Whack-A-Mole… Blindfolded

Sorry, Jason. She’s going to need bed rest!!!!

I’d been sitting in a crowded waiting room for hours with Julie, one of the executive assistants on my project. Julie was a sweet woman with a mean streak. I learned early on that it was best to stay on her good side. And I always did… which was why I was the one sitting with her that particular day.

At the time, I was fresh out of the Air Force and still learning what safety was about in the “real world.” The company I now worked for had been serving as “agent for the client” at my location for over 27 years. The project spanned six phases of construction worth billions. Our people rarely experienced injuries on that project so when Julie strained her back picking up an ice chest full of soda everyone was very “concerned.”

I’m sure the concern had nothing to do with the fact that the project proudly boasted about no lost time accident in nearly 17 years…

So, there Julie and I waited. She was tough but I could tell she was in a lot of pain. Finally, the medical assistant called her back and I walked to the door with her. I had two reasons for doing so: First I asked if I could consult with the doctor to let him know what Julie’s role was and what kind of accommodations we could make if he determined that her duties needed restrictions, and second I really (and I mean really) needed to pee.

The MA let me into the back as she shuttled Julie into an exam room. I walked to the restroom and tried the knob but found it locked. So I waited. Standing there, I watched the doctor follow Julie and the MA into the room and close the door. So much for my consult, I thought.

But then, the doctor emerged just as quickly as he had gone in. He headed straight for me.

“I know what you’re after, Jason and I hate to give you bad news. But she’s going to need at least three days of bed rest.” His lightning fast diagnosis was perplexing to me.

“She needs bed rest for a back strain?” I asked.

“That’s what she needs. I’m afraid so,” he answered.

I’m sure I was glaring at him, but I didn’t ask any more questions. He walked away and I forgot about my urgent need. I walked back out to the waiting room to call my boss and deliver the news. Our record was about to end.

My boss handled it well. He accepted the news and told me to “just make sure she’s taken care of.” I hung up and sighed with relief as my bladder reminded me it also needed to be taken care of. So, I headed back to the restroom once again.

Great news!!!

I emerged a few minutes later to see the doctor once again leaving Julie’s room and heading toward me. He looked like he’d seen a ghost.

“Great news Jason! No restrictions or time off!?!! Julie can return to work today.” His look was shifty and nervous. Again, I agreed and let him move on.

As he walked away, Julie exited the room with a devilish smirk on her face. I can only imagine what she told him when he tried to give her time off. She told me on the ride home that she wasn’t going to be the one to break a 17 year record. At the time I considered it a victory. I didn’t know any better.

“No lives were ever saved in retrospect” – PLD

The aftermath of Julie’s incident was filled with corrective actions, new office policies, and worker training. It was as typical as any post accident ritual at any company. We spent hours determining the root cause of her injury (ahem… her back was not strong enough to perform that task in that position). We interviewed the co-worker who had been helping with the coolers. The project manager even made the decree that canned beverages were not to be carried in any greater quantity than a 12-pack (seriously).

All of it was done under the auspices of “prevention.” Which… would have been fine if it prevented anything. The problem, as with most reactionary safety, is that circumstances are rarely, if ever, duplicated. In this case, the project had similar injury when Julie’s counterpart picked up a cooler filled with ice not six months later. But, hey, she hadn’t violated the 12-pack rule.

I’m not trying to say that figuring out what can be learned from an injury is a bad thing. Those are lessons we need to learn. What I am getting at is that we spend far too much time reacting because of a consequence instead of trying to avoid that consequence in the first place. You can read between the lines of this story and get a pretty clear idea of why organizations do it, but those subjects are for another post.

The constant rear-view mentality of safety has created a mob of over-paid band-aid dispensers who no nothing more than try to prevent something that ALREADY happened. Most of them fool themselves into believing that will magically change the future. We should do better…

  • We should stop telling people that their safety is determined by a number
  • We should find ways to investigate and replicate successful work
  • We should engage with our people to find out what little things make their jobs more difficult than they need to be
  • We should look beyond yesterday and try to figure out what will kill and maim today.

Until we do, we’ll just keep playing blindfolded whack-a-mole safety.

The Sky (PROBABLY) Isn’t Falling…

I don’t usually pander to the flavor of the day, but COVID-19 has permeated every aspect of social media lately. I’m hoping that I can help bring some pragmatism into the conversation. Not because I’m super smart or have knowledge most people lack, but specifically because I don’t. We’re all lacking full understanding of what’s going on. The media hype (regardless of what’s motivating it) isn’t helping matters.

First and foremost, people need to educate themselves on the risks associated with this outbreak. We should be seeking credible sources to help us make informed decisions about our response. Should we take it seriously? Of course. Should we buy two thousand rolls of toilet paper because the apocalypse is nigh? Sure, just give me some time to get some Charmin stocks purchased first…

Hysteria isn’t the answer fellow safety peeps. We should be the ones bringing rationale to the table. From a risk perspective, we need to remember the fundamentals (ahem… Hierarchy of Controls anyone?). Too many are casting aside their sensibilities because wearing an N95 makes people “feel” safe.

So let’s get educated.

My good friend Abby Ferri recently published a well-informed white paper on Corona virus and I think it’s a great place to start.

You can find the paper on her website (abbyferri.com) or by clicking THIS LINK!!!

Let’s help each other out and share knowledge instead of unfounded opinions. Otherwise we’ll all be wiping with our sleeves and passing out from lung fatigue.

The Only Way To Safety

Year one is in the books!

Yesterday marked exactly one year since I started Relentless Safety. It’s been an interesting one. Now, here we are 100 posts (yep you’re reading article 100, be sure to catch up if you haven’t read them all) later and I have to say is it’s been a wild ride so far.

I had every intention of sitting down to write this yesterday after some weekend work, but the allure of a wife-sanctioned nap won out. It was a nice nap, but I’m still a little grumpy about why I needed one in the first place… Daylight Savings Time!

As usual, my Spring Forward Sunday included the obligatory discussion about the senselessness of Daylight Savings. Since I can’t recall ever meeting anyone who disagrees with that sentiment, I’ll spare you the research paper on why I think changing the clock twice a year is stupid.

The conversation got me thinking…

So much of what we do in the safety profession is based on what we’ve always done. And sometimes what we’ve always done makes about as much sense as loosing an hour of sleep so you’ll have more time to plant your crops. Yet there are so many who cling to ideas just because they know nothing else.

A few weeks ago I was invited to sit on a multi-disciplinary task analysis panel. It ended up being a fun experience, but the first day had me doubting. I always try to feel out the room before getting too boisterous. Especially when I’ve never met anyone. Not everyone shares my temperament though.

The interesting part about that first day was watching everyone jockey for position. Everyone wanted to stake the claim that they knew best (or at least as much as everyone else). One would pontificate about his knowledge of a regulation only to be countered by another who zealously proclaimed to go “beyond regulations in my industry.” It was civil, but also a little uncomfortable. But as the day progressed I started to notice something eye- opening.

Other perspectives are hard to see

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we know or believe to be true. Everyone does it. In safety that’s a dangerous proposition, though. Because it obscures your vision and impedes your ability to see what’s actually going on outside of the box you hide your ideas in.

In an interesting twist, after that first day of tension, the group spent a few hours getting to know each other over drinks and dinner. Not surprisingly, the discussion was much smoother on day 2.

So what have I learned?

If the past year of writing and interacting with those of you who take the time to read this stuff has taught me anything, it’s that perspective matters. And everyone’s is different. There is no magic safety bullet, so quit thinking that your way is THE WAY (now the picture makes sense, huh?).

The more time and energy we can put into figuring out all of the angles (perspectives), the more likely we’ll be able to see the next big thing heading our direction. The people we support will appreciate when we do.

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