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SCnSP – Ukuhlanya


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. It’s time to tackle the  safety dilemma / paradox  of our times with a  disruptive approach to safety.


(Safety Paradox and Disruptive Safety)

How do you review your Safety Plan?

Let me give you some essential background before I suggest the actions.

It started when I realised that, for most of our plans, it is a case of insanity i.e. doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result[2].

Expectations have changed drastically, both for employers and employees. Employers expect more skills and competencies and at the same time more engagement and contribution from employees. Employees want more freedom in how they fulfil those expectations. It’s time to “acknowledge that the old method of productivity, of being a good employee by obediently doing what you are told, is obsolete. Our job is to figure out what’s next and to bring the ideas and resources to the table to make it happen.”[3]

graphic depicting lack of einspruchsrecht i.e. consultation

In addition, people have a much shorter attention span in these times of hashtags, selfies, iPhones and iPads. We have distorted the priority scale with the habit of responding immediately to the ring / tweet / vibration of the hand-held device. We have developed an attitude of “I want it and I want it now!” and people’s behaviour has changed accordingly. People are tired of posters, pamphlets and papers. The old systems of toolbox talks, presentations and preaching procedures no longer work that well. There is a new generation of employees who demand “einspruchsrecht”[4] and full engagement.

The Safety Dilemma.

In this age of disruptive change, we have to do things better, faster, cheaper and safer or risk going out of business. We have to have people on board who think and create safety improvements. We have to let them experiment – try it, fix it and make it work. We have to make information-enabling technology available so as to free them up to do what they do best, like thinking, creating, etc. The technology must engender independence not dependence, dependence being when you get what I call the “auto pilot syndrome” = pilots who can no longer fly themselves out of an emergency.

At the same time, we want people to manage the risks and to not take chances. We want people to look-to-see and listen-to-hear. So, we have to enforce our cardinal or lifesaving rules and, in the process, pile on a myriad of procedures, instructions and standards. For example, to avoid traffic accidents, keep to the left, drive a road worthy vehicle, be a competent, licensed driver and obey the road signs are non-negotiable!

Ultimately, for most, safety becomes a compliance issue: measure injury rates, deviations from procedures, near ‘misses’, non-compliant behaviour, etc. When the fear-based compliance manifests, we are unhappy. We want people to do the right thing because it is the safe thing to do, not because they’re going to be caught and / or fined.

We want to keep it safe and simple but we still need to be in control. It is a tough balance to strike.

Control contains a peculiar paradox.
The more you impose control, the less control you have,
because it removes accountability from someone who should own the responsibility in the first place

The Safety Plan.

In most organizations, there is a fear of failure and thus things take too long, changes are analysed to death, projects are too intimidating and the approval levels are far too high up the hierarchy. The end result is that people get ‘busy’ with activities like meetings, investigations, proposals, etc. which do not actually produce an outcome. At the end of the day, the “big change” project on the safety plan just gets stuck – the ‘elephant’ cannot move, despite the best efforts of the ‘rider’. The ‘path’ becomes muddied.[6]

To get around this, we need to shrink the changes into smaller, bite sizes and rally the herd to drive safety forward. If we can invent, launch and complete projects in days, instead of weeks or months, its way more likely that these projects will be more relevant at the plant / team level.

If you want your employees to get enthusiastic about safety, give them something ‘they can take home’ and be proud of = something they accomplished. One hundred small projects, completed at this level, are worth much more than one big project battling to get traction.


  • Instead of a grand revision of your safety improvement plan, go for a  Just Do Something SAFE™[7]  safety culture. Get your teams / plants to create their own safety projects. Carry out campaigns themed on “any cause, anytime, anywhere” that are safety-related, within their means and can be completed within days.
    I am not going to give you a template or a hundred examples, as that defeats the object of you owning this disruptive safety approach. I will, however, share with you a few trigger ideas: paint the workshop floor, erect a handrail, review and renew safety signs, clean out the store room, spring clean ‘my own work space’ week.
    Your challenge is to rally the herd using suitable encouragement and recognition.
  • If the above approach is too disruptive for you, then review your safety plan, but do not use the “Moses Approach”.[8]
    Consult your key stakeholders in safety, including SHE Reps, at their place of work – a kind of “Road Hear” (not “Show”) or “lekgotla”. Get them to tell you about their safety expectations, key safety issues, any quick hits and what they want to see happen. These sessions should be facilitated by a skilled, independent person and the outcome should be communicated back to all stakeholders, within a week or two.

ps. I am able and willing to facilitate either of these actions for you and to share some tools and techniques to manage the process. (T&C’S apply)


[1]   “Ukuhlanya” = “insanity” in isiZulu

[2]   Albert Einstein, German physicist (1879-1955)

[3]   Seth Godin – sundry, thought-provoking posts

[4]   “Einspruchsrecht” = “the right of people to partake in decisions which affect them”, a German expression

[5]   “Beyond Management”, by Etsko Schuitema

[6]   Analogy from “Switch”, by Chip and Dan Heath

[7]   Spring-boarding on DoSomething, which is a stellar success, a fast-growing non-profit that’s engaging with millions of young people around the world.

[8]   “Moses Approach” = where leaders huddle together in the boardroom to work out the new vision, strategy, plan or some other directive, based on assumptions, and which they expect the troops to eagerly embrace without having been consulted about what is actually required.


Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

Copyright: Jürgen Tietz
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GM – Pay Back the Money

♦♦♦    Pay Back The Money    ♦♦♦

Nkandla Lessons (#2)

The subject here is investigations (not politics or the behaviour of people / parties in parliament). Nonetheless, there is one thing to be said for young, outspoken Julius Malema. He promised in his election campaign that “parliament will never be the same again” and that “we will represent the worker”. He is most definitely delivering on his promises with his red overall brand and challenging the ruling party on all fronts!

picture of newspaper article entitled Pay Back the Money

The fundamental lessons that one can learn from the Nkandla[1] saga in terms of investigations are:

  • A problem does not go away because it is ignored.
  • Don’t hide behind “we are waiting on the investigation / report”.
  • Investigations are best done by an independent, unbiased and trusted resource.
  • Launching a new investigation because you don’t like the outcome of a previous investigation will only make matters worse.
  • Follow the 3F-Principle. Investigations should be done Fast. They should be Fair to all parties concerned and the action taken should be Firm.
  • For an investigation to be credible, there should be transparency and full disclosure.

Furthermore the parties involved have to take responsibility for their actions and decisions and face the consequences.

Unfortunately, in the last 20 years or so, the involvement of legal teams in incident investigations has bedevilled the real objective of safety investigations, i.e. to find the root causes and take action to prevent a re-occurrence. Instead, enquiries bear more resemblance to court cases, where people and companies feel prosecuted / threatened and hence have the need for a solid defence in their corner[2].

[1]   NKANDLA is a new project management acronym which stands for:
                Nobody  Knows  Anything  Nothing  Done  Like  Agreed

[2]   Marikana and the ‘Arms Deal’ are two shining examples of this.


  • Follow the 3F-Principle for incident investigations in your company. Do the investigation Fast, be Fair to all involved and be seen to be Firm.
  • Make the outcome of the investigation known to all employees and act promptly on the recommendations.


Oscar’s Defence

Your Safety Nkandla


As always, I welcome your comments and feedback!

Copyright: Jürgen Tietz
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SoSSB 10P 10 Pro-active Action



Safety Tip #10 in the series


The purpose of this series is to give struggling-but-eager SHE professionals and practitioners, who are working for financially-constrained companies, pointers on how to get the safety awareness message across to both management and workers, on a shoestring budget.

“There is nothing which moves people more than ACTION,
and nothing which is more powerful than prompt, PRO-ACTIVE ACTION.”
Jurgen Tietz
Bias towards ACTION is what counts …
Bias for Action by Jurgen Tietz Safety Speaker

  “Acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.”
   Synonyms: farseeing, forward-looking
   Antonyms: half-baked, shortsighted
   (Merriam-Webster Student Dictionary)

  Corrective action is taken following incidents and investigations.
  Often  wait-&-see-&-hope-for-the-best  instead of  take-charge-&-own-SAFETY.

One of the problems is that safety professionals are swamped with admin and paper work. Reports, statistics, emails and then, of course, one of the number one time wasters: meetings.


Analyse your activities.
  How many fall into the re-active category?
  Most people do 95% plus in response to things, audit findings, requests, etc.

Analyse the decisions taken in your safety meetings.
  Which are re-active vs. pro-active?
  How many of those are actually closed out and completed?

  Near Miss = Near Hit

“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
Will Rogers
This wiki has more on the basics of “Being Pro-Active”:
If you would like more detail on “Using Leading Performance Indicators”,
or would like a copy of my story on Being A Mainstay, request it here.
Want to comment on this SIMPLY SMART SAFETY™ Tip or share your insights with me?
You are more than welcome to do so here.
© Copyright:Jürgen Tietz
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