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SCnSP – Why Are People Making ‘Stupid Mistakes’?

♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Feb 2016

WHY ARE PEOPLE MAKING
‘STUPID MISTAKES’?

(Why we do what we do)

graphic depicting the word mistake crossed out

I suppose it is tempting,
if the only tool you have is a hammer,
to treat everything as if it were a nail.

— Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being

     

One of the most frequent comments I get when talking to people about safety is: “Why are people making stupid mistakes?”. In many people’s minds this then extends to the (illogical) conclusion that people who make mistakes are stupid.

Apart from being a generalisation and over-simplification of a complex behavioural issue, one which often leads to stereotyping, it also shines a light on the power of the made up mind.

When we assume that the mistake was stupid, we are ourselves making the first mistake. Until we have established why people did what they did, is it really a mistake or the result of a genuine effort to do the right thing which did not work out as intended?

There are many reasons why things are done differently at the ‘sharp end’ and these are often overlooked when we try and find the cause of a ‘deviation’:

  • We are thinking humans with reason, memories and moods
  • We make adjustments to stay on course, but things can still go wrong
  • A mis- (wrong) take is a behaviour and not a personality trait
  • There is no one size fits all – some are more prone to making mistakes than others
  • We all take risks, the level varying over time and with mood
  • We don’t always read people and situations correctly
  • We are good at finding mistakes, especially in hindsight, and at blaming others
  • Our schooling is based on marking papers by finding mistakes
  • There are many kinds of intelligence and people who are seen to make stupid mistakes in one domain are often highly intelligent in another respect – IQ, EQ, NS … whatever “quotients” or “smarts” you want to use  [1].

That being said, it cannot be denied that there are some actions which are avoidable:

  • Lack of awareness and making assumptions
  • Lack of care for others and property
  • Bad analysis and being willfully ignorant
  • Taking ‘lazy’ shortcuts without thinking about what we are doing
  • Allowing ourselves to be distracted
  • Allowing worry and fear to cloud our judgement
  • Not making time to stop and think about the consequences of our actions
  • Too much haste and too much noise to see clearly

ACTION

  1. Be careful before blaming ‘the PEOPLE factor’ – don’t assume the person / people made a mistake. Without people making adjustments and controlling processes, virtually nothing in this world would function on its own
  2. Don’t look for and label things which do not conform to your standards as a ‘mistake’ or ‘near miss’.
  3. Shift your mindset from ‘preventing things from going wrong’ (re-active) to ‘ensuring things go right’ (pro-active). This is in line with ‘catch people doing the right thing’ and giving recognition  [2].
  4. Encourage and reward employees to share what they have to do or adjust to ensure ‘things go right’ (production, quality, costs, etc.), especially when the rules don’t work and no one is looking or checking up.

[1]    Types of intelligence (smarts) – Nature / Musical / Number / Reasoning / Existential / People / Self / Body / Word / Picture

[2]    Safety I & Safety II by Erik Hollnagel

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D1STEM – Through the Eyes of the People

♦ SERIES ♦    DO ONE SAFETY THING EACH MONTH    ♦ SERIES ♦
If you do just one thing a month to change the safety mind-set, in one year you will have done 12 things to raise safety awareness. Every month you will receive one such SAFETY TIP.

THIS MONTH:    Through the Eyes of the People

At least once, if not twice a year, ask each senior manager to spend half a day in an overall or with an apron, at a plant, doing a job as a learner. Make sure the managers wear a red arm band and are looked after by an experienced operator.

Ask the managers to view safety through the eyes of the shop floor people and to give feedback to the team as well as to the safety meeting.

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Get loads more SAFETY TIPS when you buy my KNOCK-OUT SAFETY TIPS! CD from my DIY SAFETY COOL TOOL™ range of products. More info available here.

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Copyright: Jürgen Tietz

SoSSB 10P 04 People

♦ SERIES ♦♦   SAFETY ON A SHOESTRING BUDGET   ♦♦ SERIES ♦

PEOPLE

Safety Tip #4 in the series

  ◊  PREVENTION   ◊  PURPOSE
  ◊  PREPARATION   ♦  PEOPLE
  ◊  PROBLEMS   ◊  PAT-ON-BACK
  ◊  PLAN   ◊  PROGRESS
  ◊  PEN-TO-PAPER   ◊  PRO-ACTIVE

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.

Today’s topic, PEOPLE, highlights your role and the benefits of involving your HIDDEN RESOURCES in your walk-abouts.

Involve the relevant people when doing your walk abouts.

DO NOT disempower the people who should own safety by leaving them out of the equation. They should look, see and hear what you are seeing – the GOOD, bad and ugly. How else are you going to get them to accept responsibility for taking ACTION? Otherwise you end up with a culture of “let’s wait for the report / list of things they found wrong” and thus no commitment.

Your role (Prevention and Pro-active) is to influence, advise, encourage / motivate and lend a pair of fresh eyes / ears.

SHE Rep

The hidden resources are the SHE Reps. They can play a vital, value adding role to your safety efforts and the walk-abouts are one of the best ways to give them ‘on the job training’. Just imagine, if you had another 50, 100 or even 300 switched-on, contributing (preferably pro-active) safety resources!

Involving all has the benefit of a low-cost learning experience for your SHE Reps, and, with more eyes actively “seeing”, more opportunities for PREVENTION!

Want to comment on this SIMPLY SMART SAFETY™ Tip or share your insights with me?
You are more than welcome to do so here.
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Do Your People have the RIGHT Safety Tools?

 

This is a load of 125 customised and branded toolboxes for Assmang Chrome, Machadorp.

They play an indispensable role in the VUKA! VUSA!™ Boot Camp for Safety Reps and front line supervisors.

These boot camps empower the delegates in a most unique and novel way to become pro-active towards safety. They take the delegates from being passengers, and in some cases dead weight, to being in the driver’s seat behind the steering wheel.

The results of these boot camps speak for themselves.

Feel free to contact me for a proposal.

Jürgen

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YOUR Amazing PEOPLE Doing Amazing Things

In these times of Crime, Corruption, Malema and Money woes, I feel blessed.
I have so many opportunities to meet Amazing people doing Amazing things in some Amazing industries!
I am a firm believer that Zero harm and Zero injuries is possible, but when I see these Amazing things, I remain astounded that we do not hurt many more people.

We should never forget that it is People who make safety happen, whether through design, operation or use. It is first and foremost people and their attitude towards safety.

Here are two recent examples. A red hot 3 ton casting of Chrome in a smelter and a furnace operator tapping Platinum.

Stand back, look at your operation and try to see YOUR amazing PEOPLE doing amazing things and support them in the quest to do it safely

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.

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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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SCnSP – Rework Your Safety Approach

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Feb 2018
     

Re‘-Work Your Safety Approach

Including your H&S Rep Training

Empowered Safety Rep

     

Let’s re-examine the real reason why safety is important.

We want our employees to return home to reunite with their families, every day. We want our assets and plants to remain in a safe and productive state. We want to re-use our resources and be relentless in reducing waste and effluent. Our operations need to be refined to reach the goal of reliably producing environment-friendly products.

Often, one of the causes of problems with safety is that we repeat old mistakes, over and over and over again. We need to recollect and learn from the past. One of the ways to do this is by conducting managerial reviews as part of our management system and standards.

The ‘RE‘ words

These are really important for safety because they’re action words and safety is not a once-off exercise.

RETURN  to the basics of safety.
REDISCOVER  the power of people – driven by a safety vision.
REQUEST  involvement and participation by all in safety.
REVIEW  your safety approach – reactive or proactive?
RECONSIDER  your safety recipe – approach.
RENEW  your safety systems and approach.
REFRESH  your approach – no papers, posters and pamphlets.
REINVENT  how you engage your people in safety.
REFLECT  on your attitude towards safety.
RECOGNISE  safe  behaviour and results.
REINFORCE  safe behaviour.
REWARD  Disruptive Safety[1] – better, faster, cheaper, safer.
RECHARGE  your safety efforts – our safety batteries are limited.
RETHINK  the repercussions of taking chances.
RECALL  incidents and remind employees of the consequences.
REVISE and REWRITE  your procedures to include safety.
RE-EXAMINE  what is preventing safety success.
REMOVE  causes of / reasons for unsafe behaviour.
RECTIFY  unsafe conditions promptly.
REPAIR  broken or damaged equipment or assets.
RESTORE  safety equipment and devices.
REPRIMAND  reckless behaviour.

Note

The word REACT is not in the above list because that is the most important behaviour / action to avoid in safety. A reactive approach focuses on compliance and corrective action only, rather than on prevention and doing the right things.
Also note that the words REVIEW, RECONSIDER, RENEW and REFRESH are all key to Disruptive Safety™ and that is why we have created The Safety Rep’s Survival Guide and are running in-house workshops.

Picture: Disruptive safety call to action icon

Ask yourself and your team:

Are you giving your internal customers (company employees) what they need or ordered, or are you merely flogging them stuff you think they should have or do, i.e. things they didn’t ask for, don’t understand or accept, can’t use and don’t value?

Don’t brush this off. This is a critical question if you want to get buy-in from the people you serve. It’s easy to assume that co-workers / employees don’t know what’s required in order to keep them safe. How do you know what it is that they do or don’t know if you haven’t asked them?

Listen and respect the input from those who ‘push the buttons and use the tools’. Accept their recommendations and legalise their actions = make them safe. This is where your H&S Reps play a critical role, provided they have been properly educated and empowered.

[1]   Disruptive Safety™ promotes a futuristic approach to safety which shifts the safety paradigm from ‘Preventing wrong’ to ‘Ensuring right’. Read more

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Nigel Risner, my international professional speaking colleague, who granted me permission to adapt the ‘RE’ concept for purposes of this safety tip.
[www.nigelrisner.com]

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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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The Safety Rep’s Survival Guide  –  what it is and why you need it

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

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SCnSP – Obsolete Safety – Part 2

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Nov 2017
     

Obsolete Safety (2)

the right people
+
the right questions
=
useful answers

communication

     

Ask better questions.
Ask the right people.
Don’t make assumptions.

These are some of the points I made in Obsolete Safety (part 1).
So here are some questions for you and your leaders.

QUESTIONS re SAFETY (the overall culture):

  • Who owns safety?
  • Who drew up the safety strategy / policy / budget and lifesaving rules ? Now: Ask the first question again.
  • What happens when your employees walk through the gate (both when coming to work and going home)?
  • How are you measuring safety, via the rear view mirror (looking at the past) or the windscreen (looking to the future)?
  • What keeps you awake at night, in terms of safety?

QUESTIONS re H&S REP’S specifically:

  • How happy are you with the contribution / engagement of your H&S Reps?
  • How proactive are your H&S Reps?
  • How happy are you with the people volunteering as H&S Reps?
  • Can your H&S Reps solve basic safety problems at the coalface?
  • How happy are you with the two-way communication in safety?

Picture: Disruptive safety call to action icon

It’s easy to dismiss this with a “Been there, done that.”
However, I urge you to do it again and this time, ask the right people.

Run a few fully facilitated focus groups. Mixed groups consisting of EXCO members, managers, supervisors and H&S Reps work best, but your existing culture will determine whether or not you can do that. Take care to not fall into the trap of ‘analysis paralysis’, though. Talking to even a small number of people will quickly give you the answers.

Give serious consideration to the Disruptive Safety approach [1] to transform your workplace safety.

[1]   Disruptive Safety™ promotes a futuristic approach to safety which shifts the safety paradigm from ‘Preventing wrong’ to ‘Ensuring right’.

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Disruptive Safety™ and The Safety Rep’s Survival Guide  –  what it is and why you need it

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

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SCnSP – The Weak Signal

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Nov 2017
     

The Weak Signal

signals

     

We’re surrounded by signals all the time, from radio, TV, mobiles and, nowadays, wi-fi. It’s getting to the point where there’s so much noise that we only hear the louder, specifically-targeted messages. The weaker signals just get lost, unless we move to a better spot so as to hear more clearly.

This analogy applies to many relationships, whether it is in the family through parenting, or in organisations through leadership, or in politics (Gupta). When there is power, or a hierarchy, at play, the situation often becomes one-sided. The one who is in power talks and expects the others to listen – a case of “Do as I tell you.”

In an organisation, the leadership has the strongest signal. They have direct access to wi-fi and call centres, while the people who ‘push the buttons and use the tools’ can only use the much weaker signals. The wi-fi is made up of policies, procedures, papers and all sorts of instructions. It’s all top down, one-way communication and often complicated by conflicting and inconsistent signals such as “Safety First and Zero Harm, but meet the Production, Costs, Quality and other Targets first”.

The Suggestion box, BBS observations, H&S Rep reports and other tools and techniques used to connect with the people who ‘push the buttons and use the tools’, are the equivalent of the call centre. You hear clearly: “Your call is important to us, and will be attended to shortly … For quality purposes the call will be recorded … We are currently experiencing high call volumes … Please hold … ”. In the end, the call is logged but seldom leads to ACTION.

The weak signals are always there, if we care to listen carefully. Everytime there’s an enquiry or investigation into a serious incident or injury, we hear these weak signals clearly. They often start with “We” followed by “told; observed; reported; requested; asked; complained; warned you” and similar action words. Often the organisation’s culture weakens the signals further by virtue of the fear of speaking up or taking a stand, all kinds of threats, blaming and shaming, a lack of action and priority or being taken seriously.
These weak signals require little effort to pick up on at the time but, if lost in the noise, can lead to serious consequences.

Picture: Disruptive safety call to action icon

Take a careful look at the different signals inside the organisation. The Critical Success Factors for a better reception are:

  • Create a climate which rewards weak signals, even if they turn out to be false signals.
  • Make it personal with a name / photo.
  • Provide prompt, direct feedback.
  • Show that the weak signals are being taken seriously and are making a difference.
  • Give the people who ‘push the buttons and use the tools’ a REAL VOICE – a voice which will be heard and taken seriously – a direct line to the CEO’s or MD’s. The climate will change dramatically. All employees, without exception, own a mobile device, often even a smart phone and are using free apps like WhatsApp. So what’s stopping YOU?

ESSENTIAL LINKS

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The Safety Rep’s Survival Guide  –  what it is and why you need it

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

Search the S.H.E. ATM  –  for safety and wellness answers, tools and methods

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