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spike bullet March 2007 - Safety in the Workplace

Is Your Safety Process Rigorous or Just Plain Ruthless?
5 Factors for Rigorous Safety Leadership
Get Rigorous for a Bright Future
Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)

color bulletSafety in the Workplace: Be Rigorous, Not Ruthless

By Carl & Deb Potter

You may have read the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.  In his book, he explains how many companies thought being good is . . . well, "good enough."  In these times of constant change and global competition, it is important to always look for improvement — especially when it comes to safety.

Who wants to settle for "good enough" safety? In most cases, "good" means the company is willing to settle for an injury.  "Good enough" safety means setting safety goals based on lagging indicators. (An example is to reduce lost time injuries by 10%.) 

Great safety means setting a rigorous goal of zero injuries.  According to Collins, you want to be rigorous and not ruthless when growing your company.  This same concept should also apply to safety in the workplace.

Is Your Safety Process Rigorous or Just Plain Ruthless?

Ruthless safety could be characterized as a company that tends to punish employees by verbally beating them over the head with the safety manual for getting hurt on the job.

Don’t read this wrong — every company must have a disciplinary policy to get the attention of employees who don’t understand the consequences of unsafe behavior.  To truly change behavior, frontline leaders must always clearly identify the behavior required to prevent injuries.  After all, the goal is "Nobody Gets Hurt."

Rigorous safety could be characterized as clearly defined behaviors that workers are held accountable for that prevent known hazards from injuring them.  If a worker continually proves that he or she has no intention of behaving safely, then disciplinary action must be taken.

Rigorous safety means that leadership has the best interest of the employee at heart.

5 Factors for Rigorous Safety Leadership

Leading employees to behave safely on the job is not always an easy task.  During our 15 years of experience of consulting with top executives on workplace safety, we have had many leaders tell us that if they had known leading employees to behave safely on the job was so hard to do, they might have turned down the position of supervisor, foreman or lead.  Yet, there is hope.

Leaders from the frontline can be effective by learning about dealing with these five human factors:

1. Expectations

Unspoken, unrecognized expectations in the workplace can lead to job frustration, substandard safety performance, decreased job safety commitment and even high turnover.  Understand that most employees expect to have a workplace free of hazards.Woman reading a checklist

Workers have varying expectations when it comes to factors such as autonomy, work/life balance, career opportunities, stability, structure and teamwork.  The key is to learn what expectations the individuals in your organization have and then work with them to meet or — in some cases — adjust those expectations.

2. Communication

Being a superb safety communicator is difficult to accomplish.  Think about the people to whom you communicate safety requirements on a daily basis.

You will notice some are strong in certain communication skills, but weak in other skills.  Learn everything you can about your communications style and how it affects others.

What impact do you have?  If you don’t usually get a positive reaction from those around you, take a course in interpersonal skills.

3. Innovation

Change — whether anticipated or unanticipated — can be difficult.  To innovate, grow and improve a safety culture requires individuals who are able to see the big picture.  Accept that change is a part of life and learn to let go of the past, then embrace and apply new techniques, technologies and tools when appropriate.

4. Organization"On target" graphic - 3 arrows hitting the target

Safety innovation cannot happen without teams of people dedicated to hitting the goal: 
A Zero-Injury Workplace

Leaders must be able to organize a team and motivate it towards the goal.  Imagine everyone leading each other to the goal of a zero-injury workplace.

5. Appreciation

Great leaders accomplish great things.  Great leaders appreciate the people who make things happen.  Understanding how one reacts to certain situations as a leader is vital to being a successful leader.

Get Rigorous for a Bright Future

Becoming rigorous about safety can be hard work.  However, it is very rewarding.

When a company and its leaders commit to improving their effectiveness with rigorous safety programs, employees are more motivated to behave safely so they can go home to their families every day without injury.

After all, no matter what level you are in the company, the goal is "Nobody Gets Hurt."  

That’s a goal everyone can live with.

About the authors: Carl Potter, CSP, CMC and Deb Potter, PhD, CMC help top executives target a zero-injury workplace so everyone can go home to their families every day without injury.  As advocates of a zero-injury workplace, they can help your organization raise its safety performance and cut its workers compensation insurance expenses in half.

© Carl & Deb Potter, 2007 - All rights reserved.  Used with permission of the  authors.

  Internet Resources

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world wide web - articles  Articles

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

January 16, 1989


TO:                     Mary Jones, Insurance Claims Adjuster

FROM:              Joe Smith, Bricklayer

RE:                     My Accident Claim

I am writing in response to your request concerning Block #11 on the insurance form which asks for “the cause of injuries” wherein I put “trying to do the job alone.”  You said you needed more information, so I trust the following will be sufficient.

I am a brick layer by trade and on the date of the injuries, I was working alone, laying brick around the top of a four-story building when I realized that I had about 500 pounds of brick left.

Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to put them into a barrel and lower them by a pulley that was fastened to the top of the building.

I loaded the bricks into the barrel and flung it out over the side of the building with the bricks in it.  I then went down and untied the rope holding it securely to insure the slow descent of the barrel.

As you will note on Block #6 of the insurance form, I weigh 145 pounds.

Due to my shock at being jerked off the ground so swiftly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope.  Between the second and third floors, I met the barrel coming down.  This accounts for the bruises and lacerations on my upper body.  Regaining my presence of mind, again I held tightly to the rope and proceeded rapidly up the side of the building, not stopping until my right hand was jammed into the pulley.  This accounts for my broken thumb.

Despite the pain, I retained my presence of mind and held tightly to the rope.  At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel.  Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighed about fifty pounds.  I again refer you to Block #6 and my weight.

As you would guess, I began a rapid descent.  In the vicinity of the second floor, I met the barrel coming up.  This explains the injuries to my legs and lower body.  Slowed only slightly, I continued my descent, landing on the pile of bricks.  Fortunately, my back was only sprained and the internal injuries were minimal.

I am sorry to report, however, that at this point I again lost my presence of mind and let go of the rope.  As you can imagine, the empty barrel crashed down on me.

I trust this answers your concern.  Please know that I am finished “trying to do the job alone!!”

[ Note: Above all else, maintain a sense of humor ! 

About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.   We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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