SAFETY PERSPECTIVES

Managing Employee Safety at Home and Work

Posted by  Guest Blog

One of the clichés in the occupational safety world is that our goal is to ensure that our employees get to go home each day the same way they came. The implication here is that we make them safe in the dangerous workplace until they can get to the safety of their homes. But what if home is not the safest place for them to be?


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The Next Step to Improving an Already Strong Safety Culture

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

I was recently doing some development training for a global manufacturing company with a large presence here in North America. Overall, this organization has a great safety culture and has a pretty comprehensive safety management system. Not surprisingly, their TRIR (Total Recordable Incidence Rate) is currently below 1.0. However, they are actively looking for steps to get to 0.5 or lower and take the next step in terms of their safety journey.

In preparation for my training, I was reviewing some of their incident reports from the past year and noticed a similar trend. Regardless of the department where it occurred, the nature of the event, or the employee’s experience level, none of the injuries were due to any safety rule violations. In addition, they all tended to occur on tasks that were rare or unexpected. In some of the incidents, investigations revealed that there were actually no documented procedures for how to safely complete one of the steps in the process because it was rare or had such little risk associated with it. Simply put, these were not simple, garden variety safety incidents. They were more complex, and had various potential precursors related to anything from ergonomics to training to equipment maintenance.


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What Are the Traits of Proactive and Reactive Safety Leaders?

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

If your workplace has ever experienced a serious injury, then you may be familiar with the following types of questions:

  • How could this happen?

  • Why weren’t we aware of that situation?

  • Why wasn’t that fixed a long time ago?

  • What was the employee thinking?

  • Why didn’t anyone say anything?

The list could go on and on. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to be a “Monday morning quarterback,” second guessing decisions and actions after the fact. We hear a lot these days about needing to be more proactive when it comes to safety, but it’s often easier said than done. Why? Because people are busy, plans change, and there are always new potential risks that can emerge in our workplace. This is just the reality of the modern-day work environment, and these days, leaders are being asked to do more and more, with safety becoming an increasingly large part of that.


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Workplace Safety Commitment: Where Does it Begin?

Posted by  Craig White

In a past blog post, I discussed the importance of achieving employee commitment to safety programs and policies as a means of reducing incident rates. Since then, the broader topic of safety commitment has received increased attention in both industry and the safety research literature, warranting further discussion on this key aspect of employee safety. I now want to focus on safety commitment from the organization and top management.

I cannot understate that for a safety program to be effective in reducing accidents and injuries, employees must believe that management is committed to improving safety. In fact, demonstrating management’s commitment to safety is the critical first step in implementing any new safety practice. Without this perception from staff, employers will be hard pressed to enforce any changes that may reduce at-risk behaviors and hazards around the worksite.


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A Real Example of the Danger of Not Being Aware of Your Surroundings

Posted by  Craig White

The video below showing a trench excavation cave-in was filmed in 2009 and has since been used in safety training workshops, but only recently went viral online for unknown reasons. Please take a minute to watch before reading this post:

That was quite a close call. The worker was thankfully unharmed but was a mere split second away from certain death had he not jumped out of the way in time when the dirt walls fell into the trench. Ironically, the person filming the incident and calling for the worker to evacuate the trench just seconds before the collapse was a local OSHA agent who happened to be there at the time to inspect the work site. The cause of the collapse was determined to be inadequate reinforcement of the trench walls, which became more vulnerable as workers progressed deeper below the street surface.


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Why Do Some People Choose to Work Dangerous Jobs?

Posted by  Craig White

We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the characteristics and behaviors of employees that can lead to a workplace safety incident. This week, I want to switch gears and talk about jobs that are inherently dangerous in and of themselves and the individuals who choose to go into these lines of work.

Before I go any further, please take a couple of minutes to watch this short video that illustrates the type of job I’m referring to here:


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Where Do Your Safety Rules Come From?

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

Please answer the following question as honestly as possible: Which of the following best describes your organization’s safety policies?

  1. Based on relevant data and current best practices
  2. Only meets the minimum OSHA (or MSHA) requirements
  3. Long, detailed, and complicated
  4. Most are put in place only because of a specific injury or significant event that occurred

Congratulations to those of you who would answer “A.” Hopefully, that is truly the case at your company!

If you answered B or C, you are certainly not alone. I talk to many employees and leaders every year who are on one extreme versus the other: it’s either the bare minimum, or it’s over the top. This is often a function of company size, but there are many exceptions. I have worked with several organizations that have 250 employees or less who have very ambitious and preventative safety policies.


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Finding a Balance Between Productivity and Employee Safety

Posted by  Craig White

We all know the United States Steel Corporation as one of the leading raw materials manufacturers in America, but were you aware that when it was founded in 1901 with startup capital of $1.4 billion it was the largest business enterprise launched to date? That amount of money would be more than enough to get most companies off of the ground these days, let alone back then. U.S. Steel has since gone on to continuously expand its manufacturing capacity through organizational restructuring and the acquisition of numerous subsidiaries, making it one of the most profitable corporations in America. However, the steel industry is quite competitive, so maintaining its market advantages in meeting production demands has been critical to its success. Therein lies the topic of today’s discussion, the cost of prioritizing productivity over employee safety.


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3 Ways to Save Your Company's Life Saving Rules

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

Many companies I work with have some set of critical safety policies that are essentially deal breakers and must be adhered to. These are usually called something like “Rules to Live By,” “Life Saving Rules,” or “Fatal Four” and they are based on the high risk of injury or fatality that is associated with certain critical activities.

Common rules to live by focus on things like Lock Out/Tag Out, fall protection, obtaining required permits before doing certain tasks, or drug and alcohol use. Obviously they can vary based on the industry and the organization, but they all accomplish an important goal which is to communicate a very clear, concise, and specific set of policies that can keep people safe from the most dangerous hazards on the job. This puts everyone on the same page about the biggest exposures and how to avoid them.


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The Legacy of One Bad Plant Manager

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

I was at a new client site two weeks ago in the upper Midwest, doing some training and coaching on Safety Leadership with a group of Supervisors and Managers. I was coaching a particular individual on his leadership behaviors related to safety, and we were just about to wrap up when he said something that really struck me. He said, “We’re still trying to change the culture around here. We had one bad plant manager here who set us back like 10 years in terms of safety in the short time he was here, and now we have to undo all the damage that he did.”

Wow. What a legacy to leave behind! This was not the first time I had heard about this particular (former) plant manager - it was clear that this individual had a low regard for safety and the facility’s safety performance declined sharply after he took over. Everyone there saw the clear effect that he had on safety.
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