As in worker’s compensation…

I stared blankly at Dr. Dickhead (honestly I can’t remember his name and he was one, so…). The site I worked on at the time employed a full-time medical provider and I had just pitched an idea to him. Rather than respond to my pitch, he keyed in on that particular word.
“That’s what I said, doc.”

“No, you said ‘workman’s.’ It’s pronounced ‘workers.'” This was going nowhere.

“Ok,” I said slowly enough for him to understand. “I think this could really help reduce our WORK-ER’s compensation cost. It helped me get off all of the pain treatments I’d been on for years.”

“Well, you’re just a case study of one. That’s no reason to believe something like that could work.” With that the doc turned and walked out of my office. Apparently our conversation had ended.

The idea I had pitched to him was something that I later found huge success in implementing at two different locations. It was an early intervention program for soft tissue injuries called Active Release Techniques. If you’ve never heard of it, do yourself a favor and click that link. For me and countless others, the method has been a life changer. But that’s not the point of this post.

Why wouldn’t we do what works?

My conversation with Dr. D has been seared into my memory for years because it is one of the best examples I’ve ever experienced of people resisting change. In my experience, even people who say otherwise don’t want to venture outside of their comfort zones. But that’s what it takes to change. And change is something this industry desperately needs.

I read an inspiring article about that earlier today and it got me thinking about the goals I’ve given myself. This came after having to chew on my tongue for the last several days rather than spend them in constant debate with someone who wouldn’t have played fairly anyway. As I said, there’s real resistance to change in the field of safety that defies basic logic. It will take more than a few courageous people to change it.

This brings me to another story: one of my first experiences hearing about the term Human Performance Improvement (some now label it HOP among other things). The concept is simple though, fix the system, not the human. Humans are fallible. We will make mistakes, errors, missteps, and incorrect decisions. The presenter was none other than Dr. Todd Conklin.

His presentation was centered on the human performance version of accident reconstruction (as opposed to typical root cause analysis). A coworker and I sat through the workshop and became energized by the ideas presented. It was a whole new way of looking at the world and it just made sense to me. There are zealots out there who still dismiss the ideas outright just because it isn’t what we’ve always done. Or worse, because it isn’t BBS (don’t get me started).

Let’s double down instead, that will work…

Our excitement spilled over and my co-worker and I went to our manager. We explained how simple, yet effective the process was and advocated for trying it out. His response?

“We’re not even good at the process we have now. We can’t start something new.” There was no budging him from that opinion.

And it wasn’t just him. The safety profession is plagued by insane re-branding and reissuing of the same ineffective initiatives that have never worked. In the hope that maybe, just maybe this time will be different. It’s mind-boggling.

  • Not driving compliance for a PPE policy?
  • Having issues with soft tissue injuries?
  • Still experiencing a rash of soft tissue injuries?
    • Limit the amount your employees can lift to less than 10 lbs and buy them all back braces (don’t you dare think about teaching them how to get stronger)!
  • Having problems with high injury rates in general?
    • Make more rules, and chastise the employee’s poor behavior when they get hurt to discourage others from doing the same.

If you aren’t picking up my sarcasm, well, just go ahead and do everything I just listed. There’s no hope for you.

I’ve said it before, do what matters!

If you’re a sensible person, let’s agree to do better. For me, that means I’m going to quit asking for permission so much (thanks Kevin). There are enough of us out there to make some real impacts in this field, but we have to get the idiots out of the way first. Let’s to that by outplaying them at their own game.

If someone thinks that write ups for violations is the way to go, prove them wrong by coaching and then figuring out how the system failed (then fixing it). Maybe you’ll have the opportunity like I did to implement something incredible like ART. Whatever you do, promote it in spite of the naysayers. In the end, they’re only screaming because they know your efforts will prove theirs were ineffective.

Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com

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