Make sure you LOOK safe

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?

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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.

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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.

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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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