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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.

ACTION

  • 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.

RELATED READING

Oscar’s Defence

Your Safety Nkandla

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Safety or the Money?

After some 15 years, we had to re-thatch the roof of our cottage, “Isidleke” (meaning “the nest” in Zulu).

There is something truly African about a thatched roof … the smell of the freshly cut grass, the natural yellow colour, as well as the rough, yet smooth, texture and a natural, but unholy mess of grass all over the show.

There is another aspect to thatching projects.

Although it requires a lot of skill to do a neat thatch, it is a low level skill and the profit margin is very tight. Hence, it is entrepreneurs with few resources who are in the thatching business. The bakkie used is often a clapped out “skedonks”, leaking oil onto the driveway, and don’t even get me started on the tools and equipment which are enough to send any safety professional into a flat spin. The safety standards are all but non-existent – working at heights without any safety harness and PPE – going against all safety rules.

Now, here is the dilemma.

If you, the average home owner, insist on safety harnesses, professional scaffolding with inspection certificates, full PPE and all the rest of the good safety procedures, you will not be able to get a contractor who will do this job at an affordable price. The result? Most will get the job done by a contractor who offers a reasonable price and good quality and simply hope for the best.

I have no actual figures, but, on researching this, found very few reports of “falling from heights” accidents in the informal sector, which surprised me.

It is tough to walk YOUR talk in SAFETY, if it touches YOUR purse, and this often holds true for most companies as well.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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SCnSP – I wanna lend a hand, send me

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Feb 2018
     

“I wanna lend a hand: send me”

(Matemela’s Call)

I wanna lend a hand send me

     

I have yet to find a company which doesn’t put “Safety First” or something similar, like “Zero Harm / Injuries”, as one of its core values. They all do – nobody disputes that safety is central to running their business. However, when it comes to putting these slogans into practice, it’s a different story.

Imagine you are an H&S Rep who volunteered or was appointed, without compensation, to represent the workers in terms of safety. Amongst others, your functions are to inspect the workplace, identify potential hazards, investigate complaints and link up with management. You’re really keen and you “wanna lend a hand” to improve safety in your work area, but all you can do is inspect the work place, report the safety issues and attend safety meetings. Other than that, most of the time, you have to go back to your co-workers empty-handed, armed with just the excuse of: “We don’t have the time and /or the money” … to fix this or improve that, implement that suggestion, do more training, or a litany of other issues which co-workers may have raised.

What does that say to your H&S Reps and their co-workers?

In leadership, honesty and complete integrity are absolutely critical, because people only follow someone they trust and respect. To earn trust and respect you have to show honesty and integrity. People know and see the truth. They can handle the truth, even if it isn’t good news.

Employees look at the time and money you spend on safety to judge how serious you are. Don’t say “Safety First” and then in the next breath “We are freezing our safety expenses”. Admit it. Companies always find the time and the money for what is truly “first” or important to them.

Picture: Disruptive safety call to action icon

Heed the call of your H&S Reps, which our new president, Matemela Cyril Ramaphosa, has so aptly verbalised in Parliament: “I wanna lend a hand, send me“.

Give them the “balls and tools” they need to make “Safety First” a reality. Get them educated and empowered with our in-house workshops.

ESSENTIAL LINKS

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SM – Site Colonoscopy

♦♦♦    SAFETY MATTERS    ♦♦♦
     

Site Colonoscopy

When last did you conduct one?

     

Without exception, all companies have the capital E for environment in their SHE abbreviation for their safety efforts, but are they serious about the E? The E sounds good in the safety policy and looks smart on the wall, but when last did you conduct a plant colonoscopy? How frequently do you go to the backend of your process, there where the waste and effluent spew out? Normally only the janitors, cleaners and contract waste removal companies see that part of your operation. We are good at shifting the burden of looking after the environment onto someone else – let them deal with our ‘nasties’ and we merely pay the price.

Conducting a plant colonoscopy means starting at the back and looking at what and how much waste and effluent, including gaseous effluent, we generate and, particularly, at how safe and clean these handling facilities are. Often they are a real mess, because these facilities are seen as a necessary evil that we do not want to waste our money on. A colonoscopy also means flushing out the whole system by taking a good look at drains, bunds, drip trays, drain valves and pumps, filters, bins and silos. Are these fit for purpose in effectively catching or separating the waste and effluent? Look for spillages and leakages and track where these are routed to.

Do you accept waste and effluent as part of the process? How much effort is put into reducing off-cuts, run-offs and spillages, or at least collecting and reusing them in the process? We allow people to use the hose pipe to wash stuff down the drains. Do you recycle materials outside your own process? Collecting and recycling paper, plastics, glass, metal and oil is a simple matter of attitude and some bins and containers, often provided by the recycling companies.

We are all responsible for protecting the environment, not only at work, but at home as well. If you mess, you clean up. We should all re-duce, re-use, re-cycle and prevent waste and effluent in the first place.

ESSENTIAL LINKS

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Let me help your staff reflect upon, recommit to and be responsible for championing your safety culture.

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D1STEM – The New Normal

♦ SERIES ♦    DO ONE SAFETY THING EACH MONTH    ♦ SERIES ♦
Aug 2016

THE NEW NORMAL:

For worse … or for better?

Picture: Quote: Steven Covey: Leave the world a better place

The senseless killing we have seen over the last couple of years seems to be getting worse and worse. Now anyone (even teenagers) with one or other ideology or grievance and a gun, knife or explosives seems to think it’s okay to follow these “acts of terror” examples that are being set by groups and lone wolves. I can’t predict the future, but I fear it’s going to get much, much worse before we see an end to it. I don’t think there’s an instant solution. Even world leaders are at a loss as to what to do.

As unfortunate and worrying as this situation is, it needs to be put into perspective. The reality is that, in spite of the horror, these attacks remain isolated and involve the killing of a few people, not unlike lightning strikes. Without in any way downplaying or ignoring the pain suffered by the families and friends of those affected, I have to say that the way the media report on these events, you’d think we’re dealing with hurricane Katrina, which, by the way, caused hundreds of deaths and untold destruction. I’m not an advocate of SABC-like censorship, but some “breaking news” broadcasts tend to distort our perception of reality and significance. Another example in this category are air crashes. The number of deaths caused there pales into insignificance when compared to the approximately 3,500 people killed daily, worldwide, on our roads [1]. That reality isn’t making the headlines often enough, which says to me that we have just grown to accept that this is the way it has to be.

I don’t believe there are magical solutions to any of these problems. However, I am a strong believer in concentrating on your circle of influence, rather than your circle of concern [2]. So, my link to safety is this: Let’s not spend too much time pondering and discussing what we can’t change. Rather, let’s focus on the “everyday” mass killers – the road accidents and fatigue, HIV/AIDS, TB, diabetes, malaria, stress and depression (suicides), and the like. These are wellness issues where we can make a difference, right now. With the right life skills training at schools, I’m confident that we can re-establish a culture of tolerance amongst our children. Let this be our “new normal”.

ACTION

This month, look into how much effort, time and money you are directing towards wellness education at your company and in your community. A little can go a long way to making a real difference and showing that you care. It’s also well within your circle of influence and nothing is stopping you from spending a good portion of your budget on wellness [3].

[1]  “Number of road traffic deaths”, WHO 2013 GHO Data.
[2]  “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey.
[3]  Green Card (recognition) goes out to Assmang Khumani Mine (and Susan Fourie in particular), for doing just that with their Peer Educator’s TB play.
[Picture]  Source: wikicourses.wikispaces.com

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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 – Mirror, mirror on the wall

♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Apr 2016

Do you use your safety mirror as a tool, or as a reflection of what you would like to see?

     

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL …

What is stopping me?

graphic depicting caller on the phone

     

Using a mirror in safety is nothing new. We’ve all seen the mirrors in toilets with the caption “Who is responsible for safety?”.

I’ve been using the metaphor of a mirror as a tool for many years. I hold up a mirror to the audience, asking them: “What do you see?“, followed by: “Is it good or is it bad and who is responsible?” [1]

I also use my ‘What Is Stopping Me‘ (WISM) Mirror to challenge people to look into the mirror and ask themselves that question! And what’s the answer? Usually, people will say “time”, or, “money”, or, often, both will be cited. But these are resource issues. The reality is that it is really a question of importance and priorities: you will always choose to spend time and money on things that are important to you.

There is of course another use for mirrors.
“Most people can’t resist a mirror. It makes the wait for an elevator more palatable, and we can’t help checking – how do I look? In many ways, though, this is futile, because we can never know how we look through other people’s eyes. Even the best quality mirror tells you very little. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to focus on this sort of grooming if you want to understand what customers or friends (or employees or leaders) are going to see. Far better to watch what they do.” [2]

This holds especially true for you as a safety professional. Are you looking into the safety mirror to see how your safety is doing? You should be rather spending time on your feet, talking to people. ‘Look to see’. The perception of employees and the leaders, is what you should be seeing.

ACTION

Take a good look, to see, how you are using your safety mirror? Do you use your mirror as a tool, or as a reflection of what you would like to see?

[1]    “How to put a face on safety

[2]    “The Foggy Mirror

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GM – Out of the Blue

♦♦♦   ROAD SAFETY   ♦♦♦

Out of the Blue

accidents are caused

I have been preaching: “Accidents don’t just happen – they are caused by someone choosing to do the wrong thing or choosing not to do the right thing“. This could be via design, maintenance, use, disposal, or an outright, deliberate choice to break the rules or to take a short cut.

But, what if you are the victim of such action, an innocent passer-by, in the wrong place at the wrong time? Here is a story of a young couple on holiday in the USA:

“Tonight we had a really, really close shave. I was driving and we’d just pulled up to a petrol station, when, I kid you not, literally a few seconds later, an out of control car came hurtling out of nowhere from the intersection, smashing us into the petrol station pump. The driver, it later turns out, was very high, drunk and out of his mind. Some very nice gentlemen from the Louisiana State Troopers got hold of and arrested him a bit later.

We got out of the car ok. Jess, being on the passenger side, is a lot more bruised than I am, but luckily no battery sparks or the like and luckily the pump’s fail-safe kicked in and the flow of petrol, except that from our car’s tank, was automatically cut off immediately.

It was very close though … the terror of having yourself and your wife slammed into a petrol pump by an oncoming car. Also, I can now fairly confidently say, never rent the cheapest cars that are short a safety feature, airbag or reinforced side door here or there; and please award a Nobel Prize for the person who invented side airbags.”

Photo showing the vehicle smashed into the fuel pump at the gas station

Accidents happen every day. The reason this particular accident touched me deeply is because the young people involved are my son and his wife.

As with so many road accidents, natural disasters / events or crime incidents, they can (and do) happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone, for no reason at all. There is little that the ‘victim’ can do about it. Well, let me rephrase that: there is little the ‘victim’ can do about preventing the random event.

You can, however, take pro-active measures to minimise the impact of an incident and the ‘luck factor’ [1]. Unfortunately, unless you’re with the Navy Seals or have access to sophisticated behaviour modification training, there is little effective training to deal with being a victim of such an event. Thinking and being aware are your best defences. Of course, there is no fail proof solution, but here are a few things we all, as individuals, can do:

ACTION

  • Think about ‘What If’ scenarios, the consequences and what you can do to minimise the risk should any of those scenarios materialise.
  • Look at your ‘Near Hits’. Ask what happened, why it happened (dig down by repeating this question a number of times) and, most importantly, what you can do to prevent it from happening again – or at least to reduce the damage or injuries.
  • Be alert to your surroundings and actions. Use the traffic light rules:
    • Be aware of your green = safe situations, like being at home and relaxing in a safe environment.
    • When leaving home and getting onto the roads your awareness level should change to amber = pay attention, slow down and look for possible danger.
    • When drawing money at an ATM or approaching a hijacking hot-spot or in a crowded area, you should be at a red level of awareness = eyes in the back of your head.
  • Don’t be merely a ‘passenger’ – speak up when you see someone taking a chance or breaking the rules, like going down the killer road of F-S-D = FATIGUE-SPEED-DEVIATION (including drink / drugs).  
    “The mirror we hold up to the person next to us is one of the most important pictures he / she will ever see.”
    — Seth Godin
  • When buying or renting or merely borrowing someone else’s stuff, consider the safety features of that piece of equipment – guarding, trips and fuses, alarms, isolation features, air bags, etc.

In a future safety tip, I will deal with due diligence, HIRA and the topic of building safety into the design of plant and equipment.

 

[1]  Luck and safety don’t belong in the same equation. You cannot drive your safety efforts by relying on luck.

RELATED MATERIAL

Taking your eye off the ball / road / task

It’s My Mistake

Road Safety – Take Safety Home

Walking the Circle of Safety

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GM – Bird Feeder and Squatters (WED 2015)

WORLD  ENVIRONMENT  DAY
5 June 2015
Jun 2015

BIRD FEEDER and SQUATTERS

Bird feeder in the garden in 2001 with loeries

I have been feeding wild birds for 40+ years, because I like to attract a variety of birds to my home. Unfortunately, their natural habitat is being destroyed by urban expansion. Some of the new developments plant trees, but this can never make up for all that is lost to tar and concrete.

Over the years, I have watched the number of birds decline. I used to see 5 to 10 grey Loerie birds, at one time, at the feeding station. Nowadays, I hardly ever see even one. I am now plagued by “flying rats” (feral pigeons) who squat at the feeder.

UNEP World Environment Day 2015 logo and slogan

What can you do at your company?

Planting of trees is always a good thing, but we need to reach more people, especially the next generation. We have to influence the younger ones and how they feel about the environment. One way to do this is to sponsor a competition for the kids at the schools in your area and / or the kids of your employees. Ask them to write a slogan or short paragraph of WHY and HOW we can “Save the World”.  UNEP has a list of ideas, from A to Z.

Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference.
— UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

So, even if you haven’t organized an activity for today, then Just Do Something later.   You can use my  “Do One Safety Thing Every Month”  concept:  pick out suitable ideas from the UNEP list  and set up a  “Do One Environmental Thing Every Month”  program.

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