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SCnSP – Safety Through Improvement

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Oct 2016
     

Safety Through Improvement

Lessons from flat tyres

Picture: 1950's on-the-road breakdown repairs

     

I have 2 vehicle-related anecdotes from which lessons can be learnt. The first is from my youth and the second a much more recent one.

I still remember vividly the long trips we used to take by car when I was a young boy, growing up in Namibia in the 1950’s.

In those days, there were no tarmac roads and motor vehicles weren’t very reliable. It was quite normal on such trips for the car to break down a few times. Two or three punctures and maybe even having to replace a tyre were quite common too. This meant that, before every trip, we had to prepare a set of spares, including spark plugs, fan belts and, of course, tyres, tubes and patches. We also packed a toolbox, tyre pump, wheel spanner, jack and a can of water (to fill up the radiator) into the car. Invariably, dealing with breakdowns meant cuts, bruises and other injuries, so the First Aid kit we carried in the car was also restocked on a regular basis.

The lesson to be learnt from this story is that plant and process reliability improve safety. Every time we have to carry out maintenance work or an operational intervention, especially modifications, changes and non-routine work, the risk of injury and damage increases because we have to fit and fiddle to make things work. It is for that reason that we have to change things for the better through continuous improvement [1]. One way to do that is to look at how advances in technology can help us to design in safety.

Recently, as I was driving home, I noticed a slight vibration on the steering and that the car was pulling to the left. I didn’t worry about it too much and drove on. When I got home, I saw that one of the front tyres was almost flat. On closer inspection, I noticed that a nail had pierced the sidewall of the tyre, causing a slow puncture.

A tyre going flat from a nail puncture doesn’t happen overnight. In a slow puncture, the tyre loses pressure slowly over a number of days, which brings me to the lesson in this anecdote. Despite the best advances in technology and design, we still have to play our part in safety. I didn’t carry out the Circle of Safety [2], i.e. I didn’t walk around my car before starting the engine and driving off. If I had, I would definitely have noticed that the tyre was going flat and have avoided a potentially serious incident. Just imagine what could have happened if I had been taking a longer trip, at full speed, on the highway!

Picture: Disruptive safety call to action icon

  1. Get together with your maintenance and operations teams to examine maintenance and non-routine operations tasks that involve a high degree of risk, e.g. potentially fatal situations like working at heights, lifting loads, working in confined spaces, lockouts, etc. This is like a HIRA (Hazard Identification Risk Assessment), except that it has a specific focus on design and plant and process reliability.
  2. It is best to man these teams with the people who “push the buttons and use the tools”. I’m not suggesting that you exclude the engineers, just that you apply a hands-on approach, rather than sticking to the boardroom / paper exercise.
  3. Keep it simple to start with and don’t fall into the trap of analysis paralysis by trying to redesign the entire process or machine. Look for opportunities for projects which involve minimal resources and can be done fairly quickly, yet still result in an immediate and visible improvement in safety [3].

[1]    “Prevention rather than cure

[2]    “Walking the Circle of Safety

[3]    “Just Do Something Safe

        “Ukuhlanya: Safety Paradox & Disruptive Safety

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SCnSP – When is the safety battle won?

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Jul 2017
     

When Is The Safety Battle Won?

Engaging hearts and minds

Heart = OwnershipMind = Commitment

     

Many centuries ago, a Roman general was leading his legions towards the enemy in a swampy country. He knew that the next day’s battle would be fought on a certain plain because it was the only dry, flat place for miles. He pushed his army all night, marching them through a frightening and formidable swamp, so that they reached the battle site before the enemy and could claim the high ground.

In the aftermath of victory, the general called his troops together and asked them, “Brothers, when did we win the battle?”
One captain replied, “Sir, when the infantry attacked.”
Another said, “Sir, we won when the cavalry broke through.”
“No,” said the general. “We won the battle the night before – when our men marched through that swamp and took the high ground.” [1]

So, when is the SAFETY battle won?

Not when the rubber hits the road, or the airplane is at cruising height, or the construction is in progress, or the plant is operating on full steam. Not by analysing the statistics, reporting ‘near misses’ and investigating incidents. Not by paperwork and audits. Not by being reactive.

No … because by then it’s too late. All you can do then is police for compliance. I mean, can you imagine if the general in the above story had used that approach – having to check (audit) that his troops are actually fighting and using the correct combat tactics, rather than leading them in battle?

No. The safety battle is won long before any of the items mentioned above. It is won when we manage to get safety into the hearts and minds of all our people. It is won when we have succeeded in getting people to make safety a habit, in everything they do. Before they tackle each task, while they’re carrying out the task and after they’ve completed the task. It is won when the safety ABC is in place – individual safety Attitude, Behaviour, Choice. It is won when our people are no longer complying out of fear of being caught and disciplined or because the boss is watching. The safety battle is won when our people are thinking ‘Safety Assurance’ as part of the preparation for everything they do. It is won when individual perceptions of risk include thinking about consequences.

Finally, the safety battle is won when we all are looking at continuous improvement and best practices and sharing how to work smarter and safer. It is won when our people are not afraid of failing and treat every ‘near hit’ as an opportunity to improve productivity and safety.

Picture: Disruptive safety call to action icon

As safety professionals, we should strive to support the business by improving productivity safely!
We should be the first port of call when people are thinking of taking a shortcut or reporting a ‘near hit’ or ‘failure’. And it should be because they know and trust that we will help them do it safely, instead of blaming, and crucifying them for pushing the boundaries.
Safety Always.

[1]   Pressfield, Steven. The Warrior Ethos. Black Irish Entertainment LLC (2011). 978-1936891009.

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SpEd_CA – Year-end Message (2016)


 ⁂
 ⁂⁂
 ⁂⁂⁂

✨✨✨   YEAR-END MESSAGE   ✨✨✨

 ⁂
 ⁂⁂
 ⁂⁂⁂

Dec 2016

Be Prepared

Picture: Year-end Call to Action

Thinking ahead to 2017

     

What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Before you go on holiday or kick into holiday mode, make a short list of those things you would work on or complete this year if you had an extra month at your disposal.

Take this list and paste it on your whiteboard, notice board or some other place where you will see it when you get back. This is the list you should start working on right away in 2017.

Picture: Getting it done

Thank you for accompanying me on my journey through 2016.

I look forward to sharing 2017 with you … it’s going to be a year of change and growth and rocking the “safety boat”. Take care and stay safe until then.

May all the blessings of Christmas be yours (even if you don’t celebrate it) …
Jürgen & the eKhuluma team

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SCnSP – Running Like Hell and Panting Like Crazy

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Nov 2016
     

Running like hell, panting like crazy

What it takes to be a “top dog” …
… doing instead of talking

Picture: panting like crazy

     

Do you feel like you’re running like hell and panting like crazy … and getting nowhere? Then this one is for you, whether you are a CEO or a frontline manager. At each level, you are a leader in your own right. In fact, at home, in your family and in your community you are a leader, without appointment or position – merely by your actions.

There are thousands of books, written on leadership.
My take on leadership is simple and practical.

Leadership is what you believe, what you see, what you hear, what you read and learn, but, most of all, what you do:

  • the movement you create by the action you take (because words rarely change things);
  • the trust you create – envision, change, simplify, know and innovate;
  • the integrity you show – listen, respect, recognise, care and relate;
  • the way you deal with accountability – fix, coach, build, help, empower and expect results.

Leaders don’t wait for instructions – they provide direction.

If you are spending your time in meetings, instructing, prescribing, following up, chasing, checking, reviewing, supervising and, in general, trying to control what other people are or should be doing, then you are not leading, but managing [1]. You are most probably running like hell and panting like crazy.

Picture: Disruptive safety call to action icon

Do work that matters.
Care about how what you do impacts on others.
Protect and grow your people, balance priorities with resources, empower your people, make them think and then get out of their way.

Stand back, take a helicopter view, educate and empower and move your people from dependence to interdependence.
Why? There’ll be less running and panting and definitely more positive results.

[1]    You manage/handle horses, not people! Manage comes from manege ‹ Italian maneggiare to handle, train (horses), derivative of mano ‹ Latin manus hand. Present use, to be in charge of, run, be head of, head, direct, control, preside over, lead, govern, rule, command, superintend, supervise, oversee, administer, organise, conduct, handle, take forward, guide, be at the helm of.

RELATED LINKS

Purpose” from the series “Safety on a Shoestring Budget

Safety as a Value – Leaders’ Roles and Responsibilities

Safety, for Safety’s Sake

Gupta Lessons

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

The Politics of Safety

Discipline and Passion

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GM – Election Lessons for Safety (2016)

\\\\\\  \\\\\\      CURRENT AFFAIRS      //////  //////
Aug 2016
     

Election Lessons for Safety

Picture: local elections logo

     

The dust hasn’t quite settled yet, but it is nevertheless a good time for me to put on my safety hat and, once again, share my views with you on the recent elections. There are some safety lessons we can learn.

The outcome was, to a certain extent, determined by the campaign strategy. The ANC campaigned to retain its position and not lose control rather than going out to win and strengthen its position. The DA campaigned for change, a good strategy when your current climate is one of high dissatisfaction with the status quo. The EFF campaigned for the poor and marginalised. Their ticket was one of hope for a better future for those who have nothing to lose.

So, here are the lessons:

  • If you run your safety campaigns with the aim of not doing worse than before, you are on the wrong track. Trying to beat the previous record is just more of the same. A campaign for change, improvement and hope is the one that will get you voters’ buy-in.
  • Beautiful election manifestos, full of undertakings and promises, are just that – beautiful pieces of paper. Like your safety policy, they are meaningless and likely to end up windswept or in the dustbin unless you step up to the challenge and put the words into action.

ACTION

  • Look at your safety campaigns. What is the message to your “voters”? Seriously, if your employees were to “vote for safety”, how well would you do?
  • Look at your safety policy. How well is it adhered to? Is it just looking pretty on the wall so that you can earn that tick at the next audit?

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SCnSP – Safety Is Not A Game

♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Jul 2016
     

Safety Is Not A Game

How are you pushing safety?

Picture: Give a thumbs up or pat on the back for a job well done

     

Work, especially in terms of safety, should not be seen as a game, with the key components of goals, rules, challenges, interaction and with mostly luck as a basis to create fun.

Unfortunately, I still see many, many companies treat safety that way. They run competitions and use safety results as if safety performance were a race with records to be broken. They hold year-end functions congratulating the winners, holding up the best of this and the best of that. The perceived implication, of course, is that all others are losers, although it is never put that way.

Companies need to look at the types of safety incentives they use and the unspoken message this sends to their people. To me, the most powerful way to motivatestimulate and inspire safe behaviour is by recognition and prompt feedback.

Establish a culture of ongoing recognition and incentives, not once a year or only when records are broken or only for the b-i-g achievements. The “green card” technique gives recognition, immediately, to the person observed doing the right and safe thing. Be VFL’s (Visible Felt Leaders) by making recognition visible and felt now, not later!

Keep a close eye on what is motivating you to give recognition – there’s a fine line between appreciation and manipulation and people are able to pick up really quickly on false praise.

ACTION

Giving recognition isn’t complicated and yet it is so powerful as it helps to create a motivating climate, but it does take time and effort:

  • Establish ownership.
  • Find at least one person you can give recognition to on each of your walkabouts, by searching for things done right or well.
  • Tell that person what they did right and that it has been noticed.
  • Encourage that person to keep up the good work.
  • Do it in the presence of the co-workers and supervisor.

RELATED READING

Your Safety Monument

How to Implement Your Safety Dream

Lessons From Cats

The Power of Gold

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SCnSP – It’s just a project

♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Jun 2016

This is a really simple tip. Get this right, and you could turn your job on its head!

     

It’s Just A Project

Picture of a vegetable patch

     

Did you know you’re a project manager?

Seriously. You are. Every time you shop, decide what to wear, put air in your bicycle or car tyres, or catch a train or bus, you’re completing a task in what could be the project plan for your Lunch Project, or Date Project, or Career Project.

You’re the Project Manager of your life. The project may be as simple as hanging a picture on a wall, or a little more involved, like creating a vegetable garden or painting your home. It could be a project that only takes an hour to complete, or years and years. It might be a project to make sure things keep running properly (maintenance project), or a project for something new or better (development project).

So you can see that “project” is just the name given to the process of getting something done.
A project has a purpose: something that must be achieved, created, completed.
Whether or not you’re aware of it, a project also has a plan: by when you want or need it done (deadline), the steps that must be taken (tasks to be completed), what the right order is for those steps, how much time you think will be needed for each step, what you will need (people, tools, materials, money), how much of each you will need and by when, and, of course, it must have a start time and/or date.

If your project has a non-negotiable completion time or date, or if you have a limited budget, you may need to rearrange some of the steps, or get someone to help you with some of the tasks, or find a smarter way to do something so that you can finish it on time and within the budget you have available. Depending on the project, you may want to work out in advance what you will do if things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes, you might find you need to change your plan when you’ve already started on the project because one or more of the steps (tasks) has taken longer than it should have and you need to find a way to get some of the other steps done more quickly, or because a resource you need is not available at the time you need it, or something is costing you more than you expected it to. That, in essence, is project management.

Without even thinking about it, you already run at least some aspects of your personal life as projects. Maybe, without realising it, you do the same with your job.

Your “life” projects may be exciting (getting that new car) or necessary (eating a meal) or both. Whether or not they achieve their purpose (objectives) depends on the importance you attach to them (priority) and your self-discipline. The same goes for your job.

ACTION

See your job / role / function in your place of work as a series of pro-active projects which you choose (important). Such projects are exciting, about making change happen, about making improvements and exploring new options. They are about ‘now’ so give them deadlines. Make sure that the routine aspects of your job (emails, phone calls, meeting, reports, etc.) don’t suck up all your time so that you are too busy to complete the pro-active projects!

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SCnSP – What’s your real job?

♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
May 2016
     

What’s Your Real Job?

(as a Safety Professional)

graphic with text I'm just asking

     

Frequently, when I contact safety professionals, I am told: “We are busy with audits” or “I still have to do the monthly report” or “I am in a safety meeting” or “We are preparing for the EXCO”.
So, my challenge to you, as a safety professional, is:
Describe your real job in a paragraph or two, as if you were a safety consultant and had to sell your services to interested parties.
Now ask yourself: Would you pay a safety consultant for only doing audits, collecting figures, sitting in meetings, producing reports and being a safety accountant?

I know. You have to satisfy the needs of senior management, because they control the resources – pay your salary and approve your budget. Yes, there are legal stipulations which you have to comply with, in terms of reporting and ensuring the safety of employees. Yes, there’s work to be done to get and maintain your accreditation. And yes, you have a job description, with key performance areas in auditing and reporting.

Nonetheless, ask yourself: Who are your real clients? Does all the reporting, auditing and graphs you spend so much time on improve the safety culture? How much of what you do positively affects the employees – the people who ‘push the buttons and use the tools’ – directly? How much of what you do are ‘self-generated’ activities or distractions which you do because it seems the right thing to do?

Consider. If you are cook, what’s important is the meal you serve. If you are surgeon, what matters is your performance in the operating theatre. If you are speaker, your talk on the stage is what it’s all about.
Most professionals have to spend up to 90% of their time in preparing, ensuring quality, staying up-to-date and many other things. However, none of this matters if the meal is poor, the operation is botched up, or the talk makes no impact because we spent too much time on distractions, instead of the real purpose of our job.

Don’t allow yourself to get confused about which part of your job is really important, really worth your time, the actual point of the exercise, of providing safety support – the part which makes a real difference!

ACTION

Get clarity about what your real job is, then tackle it and deliver!

Look into the ‘integrity mirror’ and list your main tasks. Categorise them into Must Do (value-adding – someone is willing to pay for this), Nice To Have (not critical for safety) and Who Really Wants This (distraction / non-value adding).
If need be, go and rewrite your job description! You are the ‘safety cook’!

Ask the employees (not your managers):

  • How difficult are we making it for you to spend money on safety improvements?
  • How well are we listening, and reacting, to safety concerns or suggestions?
  • How easy is it for you to contact senior managers?
  • Do we give you permission to take action to make it safe?
  • How safety empowered are you and how do we know this?
  • What are we doing to improve and reinvent safety?
  • How good are our safety professionals?
  • What are we doing to support our SHE reps?
  • How much time are we spending on safety and how is that time spent?
  • How much of our safety efforts are re-active as opposed to pro-active?

RELATED READING

I’ve written about this issue a number of times, addressing it from different angles:

Mirror on the wall

Stretched thin

The illusion / paradox of control

I don’t have time

Safety first – really?

The best audits

What is your worth?

Under the knife

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SCnSP – Keep It Smartly Simple

♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Nov 2015

In this series, I share with you my thoughts on Why Safety Is An Issue For Most Companies and the Things We Must Address If We Want To Improve Our Safety Performance.

Keep It Smartly Simple in 3 steps.

Smartly Simple Solutions

(Just Do Something Safe™ and Action)

For six years I studied mathematics, physics, chemistry, machine design and some more fancy subjects like hydraulics and thermodynamics. So, when you give me a problem to solve, my mind kicks into engineering mode and I start designing a complex solution. To implement these engineering gizmos requires resources, one of them being time, which I normally don’t have. The result: a delay of weeks, sometimes even months to get something simple done.

picture depicting gears and cogs

Here are two examples.

Problem 1

New kittens which were crawling underneath a wooden bench in the kitchen and messing there.

My solution:
Buy some planks, screws, glue and varnish to close the gap. A 4-hour undertaking.

My wife’s solution:
Just wrap a few bricks in plastic and shove them into the gap. A 10-minute job.

Problem 2

A row of roses which needed frequent watering.

My solution:
Buy some irrigation pipes, sprayers and valves, plus build a terrace to cater for the sloping ground. A weekend job.

My gardener’s solution:
Tie a redundant plastic pipe to the trellises with cable ties, punch a few holes in the right places and hook the pipe up with a quick connector to the existing hose pipe. A 1-hour job.

My gardener is a true reflection of what it means to be a PDI. He would have been an excellent, practical technician, if he had just had the opportunity / financial support years back.

ACTION

Ask those people who ‘push the buttons and use the tools’ how to solve a problem that affects their work area. They will come up with Simply Smart (and Smartly Simple) solutions!

Go for a Just Do Something Safe™ culture.

  Ask  —  Listen  —  Do  

graphic depicting Asking Listening Acting

Get your teams / plants to solve their own safety problems. Remove the red tape and jumping through hoops of standards and procedures. Your job should be to make sure people can help themselves, doing what is within their means and can be completed within days, without taking short cuts and chances.

Action Involves Doing Something[1], but it excludes putting off the solution until later, because that kills the enthusiasm and tempo for improvement. This is one of the main reasons why most suggestion schemes don’t work very well.

[1]   Cindy Pivacic #CindyHIV

RELATED READING

Ukuhlanya: Safety Paradox & Disruptive Safety

Your Safety Dream

Listen With Your Eyes

Some Good Advice

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GM – VW Deception

♦♦♦   CURRENT AFFAIRS   ♦♦♦
Oct 2015

VW Deception

(Lessons About Measurement)

The VW deception[1]  is unforgivable. Yes, we should denounce this kind of behaviour and yes, heads should roll.  It leaves one discomforted, distrustful, wondering if it is happening, as yet undiscovered, in pharmaceuticals, medical care or health & hygiene, especially in food processing. (Mind you, a while back it did, with the horse meat scandal[2].)

I see this behaviour as a direct consequence of a culture where measurement becomes the end in itself and not the means to an end. It’s what happens when we ‘cook the books’ to reflect the result we are looking for, instead of assessing the results so as to ensure quality, safety, health, risk control or environmental protection. True measurement goes way beyond compliance to a minimum standard. Proper measurement is a tool for continuous improvement.

What VW did is similar to what is being done by many companies. Whenever a company ‘sets up’ or ‘spring cleans’ or ‘prepares’ just before an audit or alters statistics in order to meet audit criteria to keep the record intact … it is committing fraud by deception. It is defrauding its personnel, or the public or both.

We tend to feel quite justified in making our own amendments to figures. So did the guys directly involved at VW. But now VW is in trouble, because the company was caught out and it has customers who can vote with their wallet. As a top brand there is only one way – down.

Misrepresenting or selectively using data is a world-wide occurrence. Why did we find it necessary to put so much time and effort into the King Commission on corporate governance[3]?  Surely not because there is no problem in our backyards?

ACTION

This is between you and your conscience. Look into the mirror and ask yourself how often and by how much you adjust the figures on emissions, effluents, performance, waste, recycling, accidents, observations, near miss reporting, performance, costs … ? If you are in a leadership position, you might not be directly involved, but you are accountable for the culture which breeds this kind of behaviour in your organisation!

[1]   “Volkswagen: The scandal explained“, by Russell Hotten, BBC News, 7 October 2015

[2]   “2013 meat adulteration scandal“, from Wikipedia

[3]   “King Report on Corporate Governance“, from Wikipedia

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