SAFETY PERSPECTIVES

What's More Crucial for Workplace Safety, the Person or the Behavior?

Posted by  Craig White

Do you have any coworkers or employees who always seem to get bumps and scrapes around your workspace, often bend safety policies, or take risks? We know that some individuals are simply more prone to getting injured than others, but what is it about these people that puts them at greater risk? Well, just like each of us have unique personalities and particular abilities, we all have characteristics that make up our individual SafetyDNA.

Our S.A.F.E. model of SafetyDNA includes the following factors:

  • Stays in Control
  • Aware of Surroundings
  • Follows Rules
  • Exhibits Caution

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Noise Exposure is a Long-Term Workplace Safety Risk

Posted by  Craig White

Is there a lot of noise in your work environment? Is the noise level potentially damaging to your hearing? If so, then you are among the approximately 30 million American workers who are exposed to hazardous noise on the job. What safety experts find most concerning about loud noise at work is that the effects of excessive noise exposure are usually not immediate. Rather, hearing loss can take years, sometimes decades, to occur. Consequently, workers often fail to take the necessary precautions to protect their ears because they are not thinking about the long-term damage from prolonged noise exposure. This has resulted in around 125,000 cases of significant, permanent hearing loss in just the last 10 years.

Your reaction to this might be, “There isn’t much I can do about the noise at my job,” and to a point you are correct; the equipment and machinery around you are going to make noise. However, there are certain controls you can implement to minimize employee risk exposure. First and foremost, employees must wear their hearing protection devices (e.g., ear plugs) at all times in the hazardous noise areas of your job site. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) averaged across an 8 hour workday is 90 dBA, so Federal regulations require employees at work sites that exceed this level to wear hearing protection.


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New Year’s Resolution: Improve Employee Safety

Posted by  Craig White

OSHA’s annual workplace fatalities report reveals that 4,405 workers were killed in 2013, which breaks down to approximately 85 individuals per week. Although this number seems alarmingly high, this was actually the fewest employee deaths in a year since the inception of the fatal injury census in 1992. I am looking forward to reading the 2014 report when it is released, as I am quite interested to know if this trend has continued.


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Do You Have What it Takes to be a Safety Leader?

Posted by  Craig White

I’ve been doing a bit of reading on safety leadership lately, and I’ve noticed a consistent theme in the safety consulting and research literatures: Identifying the characteristics of successful leaders. Countless articles present lists of mostly personality-based traits that are posited to predict which employees will gravitate toward leadership roles in the organization. OSHA even has a ‘Safety & Health Leadership Quiz’ that rates your safety leadership skills. Clearly personality is a key component of safety leadership, but to paint the whole picture we must also consider the behaviors of effective leaders.


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One Takeaway from a Client's Safety Summit

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

Last week we were invited to speak at one of our client’s company safety summits. This particular client is a large, global manufacturing company. We were honored, as this was an internal event that only occurs once every 2 years, where all of their North American Health & Safety Managers attend to discuss important safety trends and data, receive training on key issues, and develop a game plan for improving safety.

As part of the education they received, we presented our recent work with two of their sites which were experiencing rising incident rates. We have been working with supervisors at those sites to measure their safety leadership skills, and then provide coaching and development to help them improve in key areas of safety leadership. One site in particular had incurred two recordable injuries that are already costing them well over $1 million in direct costs alone. One of these involved a shocking incident where a supervisor actually hit one of his own employees with a motorized vehicle on the shop floor. Apparently when this supervisor was questioned about his role in the incident, he took little to no responsibility for his actions. He said, “The guy shouldn’t have been there.” This attitude summarized one of the key themes for the summit – safety leadership and the (lack of) accountability that supervisors often have for the safety of their team members.


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3 Strategies for Staying in Control of Your Personal Safety at Work

Posted by  Craig White

Staying in control on the job site is a key factor to displaying strong SafetyDNATM. Individuals low in personal control are more likely to experience an injury at work. On average, those individuals incur 2.6 times more accident-related medical costs to the organization, compared to those high in control. Although some of us are hard wired to exhibit greater control than others, we can all take steps to improve our SafetyDNA, and reduce our personal exposures to risk. Let’s take a look at three strategies for increasing personal control at work.


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Four Behaviors of Safe Leaders - The L.E.A.D. Model

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

Over the past few weeks, we have shared various stories and examples about behaviors related to safety leadership. We talked about how George Washington, and William Wallace in the movie Braveheart, each had a strong vision for the future that truly inspired and motivated people to action. Sir Richard Branson gave us an example of how successful leaders really embrace change and help people to see its benefits. For the sports historians, we couldn’t help but remember legendary coaches like John Wooden and Vince Lombardi, whose personal touch and teaching skills made them amongst the greatest of all coaches in professional sports. And on the other side of that coin, we discussed the unfortunate legacy of Joe Paterno, whose credibility was diminished because of his choices many years ago, despite his unbelievable winning record at Penn State.


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Lack of Awareness: My Downfall

Posted by  David Juristy

Okay, so here’s a good story.  I work for a company that has an entire practice dedicated to safety and improving workplace safety.  My degree is in Industrial Operations with an emphasis in safety.  I’ve been through countless safety training courses while on active duty in the United States Air Force.  To sum it up, I like to think of myself as a safe person.  That is until I completed the SafetyDNA assessment, an online psychological test battery that measures a person’s “SafetyDNATM,” which shows your personal safety profile.

When I received my report I was puzzled how it could conclude that I had a few “blind spots” when it came to certain areas relating to safety.  For example, one aspect of my profile is that I am lower than others on “Awareness of Surroundings” and to be honest, I was a little skeptical.  That is until this past weekend.


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Your Supervisor Can Make You 3 Times More Likely to Be Injured on the Job

Posted by  Esteban Tristan, Ph.D.

How much impact can a supervisor have on safety? After all, one person can only do so much, right?  If only we had a way to actually quantify that impact...well, now we can. In fact, that is exactly what our research has been focusing on for the past few years. We have been working with companies in a lot of different industries for over 20 years, so we’ve learned a thing or two about leader behavior and how it impacts safety. And while we all would probably agree that the role of a leader is very important, until now there has not been much empirical data on how important this role really is to safety metrics such as incident rates. So rather than speculate, I’ll just share with you some of the things we’ve found so far.

We have been able to show a direct link between a leader’s psychological profile and the injury rates of the team that they supervise. In other words, if we assess a leader for certain traits and competencies, we can estimate the risk of an incident for those who report to him/her. This is done using a validated psychometric test battery that measures specific characteristics that are necessary for effective safety leadership. Scores for each leader are then compared to their incident/injury rates.


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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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