SAFETY PERSPECTIVES

Knowing Your Safety Blind Spots Under Pressure Helps Keep You Safe

Posted by  David Juristy

Bill goes over to his friend Tom’s house to watch the game. When he walks in he notices Tom has a bandage on each of his ears. Puzzled, he asks him what happened.

  • Bill: How exactly did you manage to hurt both your ears?

  • Tom: Well, I was ironing my shirt when the phone rang; without thinking I lifted the iron to my ear thinking I was answering the phone.

  • Bill: Well that explains one bandage, what about the other?

  • Tom: They called me back!


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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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Proof that Safety Pays for Itself

Posted by  Craig White

Earlier this year in Houston, a temporary construction worker fell 12 feet through a roof, fracturing both of his arms and receiving severe contusions. His employer, Cotton Commercial USA, specializes in disaster management reconstruction for damaged buildings and the surrounding environment, so it is likely that the work site presented a high level of danger in and of itself.

However, the OSHA investigation revealed that not only was the worker denied his request for a safety harness (which was required equipment for this job), it also took the company three days to report the incident (federal law states that employers must report such events within 24 hours). This resulted in $362,500 in fines for seven safety violations, including four willful egregious violations, for various actions such as failing to provide employees with fall protection training and equipment. Above all, the worst part of this story is the injuries inflicted on the worker, but today I want to talk about a second reason to prioritize safety – the bottom line impact on company finances and productivity.


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How to Improve Workplace Safety for Younger Workers

Posted by  Craig White

Last year an 18-year-old construction worker died from injuries sustained while using a portable mortar mixer. The worker was cleaning the machine at the end of his shift when it suddenly began to operate, entangling his arm in the mixing paddles and pulling him into the drum. Coworkers were able to quickly dismantle the drive mechanism to reverse the gears and extricate the man, but unfortunately, rescue efforts by emergency personnel were unsuccessful as his injuries were too severe to survive.

This incident could have been avoided if the worker executed the proper lockout/tagout procedure for shutting down the machine before performing maintenance. Looking at the Select International 4-Factor S.A.F.E.TM model this individual was not following safety rules for working with heavy machinery, was not exhibiting caution by cleaning the mixer while it was operable, nor was he sufficiently aware of his surroundings to realize that he was placing himself in danger. Although there are no details concerning the amount of training the worker received to operate the mixer, the report does not suggest any negligence on the part of the construction company, so I will not speculate as to liability. However, this story is a perfect example of why it is important to discuss how organizations should manage workplace safety for young employees.


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Safety Leadership Starts With a Vision

Posted by  Guest Blog

Did you know that, at first, George Washington was completely opposed to the colonies declaring independence from the British crown?  Let’s take a quick look back at one of America’s great visionary leaders. 

Washington demonstrated strong leadership qualities early in his life.  He quickly moved up the military ranks during the French and Indian War, and despite setbacks, scored major victories for the British.  Jumping ahead a few years, while a land owner and local politician, Washington became increasingly irritated by the restrictive Acts implemented by the monarchy to maintain control over the colonies.  He responded by calling for a boycott of British goods, and was an integral player in organizing the First Continental Congress in 1775.  War ensued, and although it seemed crazy to take on the world’s most powerful nation, the colonies held off the British forces under Washington’s leadership.  One key to victory was his understanding of the political nature of war, specifically keeping the resistance alive.  The colonists began to believe that they could achieve their independence without defeating the British army, and this strategy proved successful. 


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4 Simple Ways to Lay Out a Vision for Safety

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

It’s one of my favorite movie scenes ever – the part in Braveheart where William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson) gives his famous speech to the Scottish warriors while he’s on horseback.  They are vastly outclassed and outmanned by the huge army of England, who rules over Scotland at the time, and the last thing they want to do is fight and be annihilated by their foe.  They don’t want to be there.  But then the dramatic music starts up, and Wallace rides in on horseback to deliver a short, but inspiring, chest-thumping speech that completely changes the demeanor of the army and pumps them up for the fight of their life.  He ends by exclaiming, “…one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!”  and they are ready for battle against Longshanks’ mighty army.  It’s a great cinematic moment, and it makes me think of famous speeches in history that have been actually recorded prior to major battles, such as King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, Patton’s speech, and many others.  These leaders gave their people a simple but inspiring vision that they understood and which motivated them during a really challenging time to give it their all for a greater purpose.

One thing I cannot help but wonder is – what if we had the same type of conviction and emotion when we talked to our people about…safety?  What if our toolbox meetings and safety briefings (at least occasionally) actually moved people just a little bit and got them truly motivated to work safely?  Too often, safety meetings and updates are a ho-hum, boring exercise that is about as exciting as watching C-SPAN (no offense to those who watch that channel of course).  Supervisors, managers, or foremen usually mean well, but a lot of times safety meetings just come across as ‘check the box’ activities where there are few surprises, little energy, and nothing personal about them.  And more importantly, many leaders fail to give their people any kind of real “vision” for safety.  I don’t mean some big, fancy, articulate concept; I just mean a simple, short message about safety that comes from the heart and that people can summarize in a sentence or two.


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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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An Example of Why SafetyDNA Matters

Posted by  Guest Blogger

During a recent conversation I had with a consultant friend of mine, he told me an interesting story about one of his projects.  He asked that I not use the client in question’s name, so I’ll call it Company A, but it is a mid-size oilfield services company that manufactures parts for offshore oil rigs.  My friend’s firm was contracted by Company A to update both their tests used to test job candidates and their employee development program, with an overall goal of reducing production times.  His team first went through the standard procedures of developing and implementing the most current versions of their traditional pre-hire tests.  They then introduced a set of promotion standards for hourly employees moving into front-line management positions.  In addition to performance, technical knowledge, and other ratings, they included the employee’s safety performance (previous safety incidents and ratings of safety behavior provided by their immediate supervisor).  The result was that employees who were involved in fewer safety incidents and were rated as safer workers by their bosses were identified as desirable candidates for promotion.  Once would expect that these individuals would probably have stronger SafetyDNATM profiles compared to others.  No safety training of any kind was administered in addition to these new procedures.  The outcomes of these changes were quite interesting. 

As expected, Company A’s average production times had decreased somewhat two years after the completion of the consulting project (specific numbers are not available, but the reduction was described as ‘significant’).  However, my friend was surprised to discover that the biggest improvement made as a result of the new procedures came in terms of employee safety.  In fact, during the same two-year time period, Company A’s incident rate dropped from 8.5 per 200,000 man hours worked all the way down to 0.4.  What I find most remarkable about this improvement is that it emerged in spite of the fact that they did not administer safety training, nor was safety even the focal concern of the project.  It occurred naturally when the best candidates and incumbents were placed in the appropriate positions.  Company A has since gone on to win two industry-sponsored safety awards, and boasts reduced health care costs associated with injury recovery and workers’ compensation benefits.


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A Change is Needed for Metal/Non-Metal Mining in the U.S.

Posted by  Guest Blogger

A quick look at MSHA.gov will show you that there is a trend in fatalities that is causing concern in the mining community.  In 2012 M/NM mining fatalities were at 16, with a fatality rate of .0079.  The following year in 2013 the numbers jumped to 22 fatalities, and a fatality rate of .0108.  That alone may not seem like cause for concern, but as of July 1st, halfway through the calendar year we are at 14 fatalities.  This has mine operators, as well as MSHA, rethinking the way they focus their safety efforts.


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Safety Training: Please Tell Me How To Do My Job!

Posted by  Guest Blogger

Whenever I need to service my car I always take it to an independently owned auto shop in my area.  I was recently there for an oil change when something caught my eye that I had never noticed before.  Among the various safety signs hanging around the shop was the sign in this picture.  Although the sign is clearly a joke, it made me wonder how common it is in reality that people have this attitude about their jobs, and how this affects their exposure to risk at work.  Employees who are not open to instruction or constructive criticism are often not open to new and potentially safer ways of performing their jobs.  Even worse, because they believe that their way of doing things is the best way, they are more likely to be low on the ‘Follows Rules’ factor of the SAFE model of SafetyDNA, putting them at greater risk of injury.

So I did an Internet search on the phrase I saw in the auto shop, “Don’t tell me how to do my job.” To my surprise, the first few pages of results did not include any relevant news stories or research articles, but rather dozens of online stores in which you can purchase stickers, shirts, and other items with the same image as the sign on the shop wall.  Apparently this is a much bigger joke than I had realized, though this only made me further question the prevalence of this attitude.  Doing some more digging, my suspicions were confirmed when I began to come across a number of stories about employees who were injured because they wanted to do things their way.


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