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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?

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GM – World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2012

WORLD  DAY  for  SAFETY  and  HEALTH  at  WORK
28 April 2012
Mar 2012

 

Theme:

 Green Jobs:
Promoting Safety and Health
in a Green Economy

 The ILO celebrates its annual ‘World Day for Safety and Health at Work’ on 28 April to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on emerging trends in the field of occupational safety and health and on the magnitude of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities worldwide.

It is also the day in which the world’s trade union movement holds its International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers to honour the memory of victims of occupational accidents and diseases …

… In many parts of the world, national authorities, trade unions, employers’ organizations and safety and health practitioners organize activities to celebrate this date. We [the ILO] invite you to join us in celebrating this significant day and share with us the activities you organize. 

  This year’s theme

 … There is a shift in the world to a greener and more sustainable economy. However, even if certain jobs are considered to be “green”, the technologies used may protect the environment but not be safe at all.

… A true green job must integrate safety and health into design, procurement, operations, maintenance, sourcing and recycling policies, certification systems and OSH quality standards. This is especially relevant for sectors such as construction, waste recycling, solar energy production and biomass processing. 

Content courtesy of ILO.
More information is available on their website.

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SCnSP – Illusion/Paradox of Control

♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦

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 we re-examine the “power to influence” (control) as opposed to the “capacity to have an effect on” (influence) with respect to Safety Behaviour.

The Illusion / Paradox of Control

(Are we in control of Safety Behaviour?)

Illusion and Paradox of Control text as a graphic

I have written about this before – the issue of control and influence. It is such an important aspect of our work in safety that, when I read Seth Godin’s post[1] on the subject, it stimulated me to put a safety spin on what he wrote.

We have this “idea that we are in control“, that through policies and procedures we can ensure zero harm. It drives our Safety Management efforts. It fuels our “compelling belief” that this year we will reach our safety targets. It opens the door to consultants who try to convince us that if we just use their system, we’ll get exactly the silver bullet we have been looking for.

It’s like we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. I mean, the reality is that “we’re never in control, not of anything“. Instead, we should strive to view all our efforts as a means to try to influence safe behaviours. As in the “service business“, this is “a tough sell” for the safety professional.

Seth ends his post with these punchlines:

  • When the illusion of control collides with the reality of influence, it highlights the fable the entire illusion is based on.
  • and
  • You’re responsible for what you do, but you don’t have authority and control over the outcome. We can hide from that, or we can embrace it.

I would like to end my post with these thoughts:

  • 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. [2]
  • and
  • When you no longer push the buttons or use the tools, you should become a servant to those who do! [3]

ACTION

Think about what you do.

How much of what you and your team of safety professionals do is:

  • Tell, command, prescribe, lay down the rules / policy / procedures, set the standards, …
  • Audit / police against the above.
  • Collect, report on information to justify what already has happened.
  • Reactive to incidents, accidents, near hits (misses), short cuts, …
  • Sitting in your office behind a desk.

Or are you

  • Embracing the reality of influencing with trust and integrity.
  • Listening, supporting, helping, caring, recognising, respecting, empowering those you serve.
  • Encouraging them to take responsibility for their own safety at work and at home.

[1]  “The Illusion of Control“, by Seth Godin

[2]  from “Beyond Management“, by Etsko Schuitema

[3]  from “Life EduAction“, by Jürgen Tietz

RELATED READING

“Year-End Take Safety Home Message”

“Influence of Frontline Personnel”

“Your Safety Dream”

“People”

“Safety as a Value”

“Fire! Fire! Fire!”

“Ukuhlanya”

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SCnSP – SARS and SAFETY

♦♦  SAFETY CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦

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.
    WARNING    Make sure you’re sitting down for this one.

SARS and SAFETY

(How easy are we making safety?)

building sign for Edenvale branch

I love SARS!   Actually, I love interacting with SARS by going to their offices in Edenvale or using their eFiling system. Yes I know, SARS means that I have to pay, but they make me feel like a valued customer they want to see back for ‘repeat’ business – quite unlike the experiences which I have in many of the mass retail outlets, where I am treated as if I am a nuisance, standing in a queue.

At SARS I get treated with respect and my issues are taken seriously, with a genuine effort to satisfy my needs. From Luthando at the reception, allocating my ticket for the audio visual queuing system, to Zandi the tax consultant, verifying my details and doing an online query. There is also a notice, offering assistance with filling in the tax forms for you. I get an email / SMS notification when there is a tax issue I need to deal with. It is truly an absolute pleasure dealing with the SARS staff.

How easy are you making safety for your people?

Do you see them as clients to whom you are providing a service?
Do you treat them as if they are customers who have a choice regarding where they can buy their safety services from?
Do you offer assistance with filling out safety incident reports?
Do you have a hassle free help line in their first language?
Do you talk and listen to the people?
How open is your door and does the mat at the feet say “Welcome” / “Vho tanganedzwa” / “Wamukelekile” / “Welkom” ?

Or … are you too busy with processes, procedures, policies, papers, posters, reports and compliance audits?

ACTION

  • I challenge you to take this question seriously by asking people, at all levels, including the ‘key customers’ (line managers), how they feel about the service you are providing to them.
  • Ask people, especially at the shop floor, what they understand about the different safety concepts, ratios and safety lingo.
  • Ask your ‘key customers’: “How can I HELP”?

Take a leaf out of SARS’ book.
Make taking safety seriously easy for your people.

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GM – Oscar’s Defence

♦♦♦    Oscar’s Defence    ♦♦♦

for Safety Incidents / Accidents

 

Leaving the question of the extent of Oscar’s guilt and the consequent sentencing aside – that’s Judge Masipa’s job – one cannot ignore that this case is a classic example of not taking responsibility and of making excuses and assumptions.

This “disease” is too often mirrored in people’s behaviour when it comes to safety. We find people giving excuses instead of acknowledging their role in mishaps, which would help us to find the root cause of incidents or near hits (not misses!).

Excuses often given include:

  • I did not know / think / ask / hear / see . . .
  • I assumed . . .
  • I didn’t do it on purpose.
  • I can’t remember
  • Before I could think, I had . . .
graphic with words I'm Responsible

Accidents don’t just “happen”. They are the direct result of someone choosing to do the wrong thing or to not do the right thing. This includes thinking of the consequences of one’s actions before taking action!

Why do people make excuses rather than owning up? In some companies, it is because there is a culture of intimidation and / or people fear being penalised.

Incident reporting is mandated, but companies also want to know about near hits – this information is critical as an aid to finding and fixing root causes permanently, so that similar incidents don’t happen again.

To encourage disclosure and ownership, one needs to promote a safety culture of focussing on the incident and not making somebody pay for what happened. Of course, there will always be exceptions to this principle, as in a situation of deliberate sabotage, pure negligence, tampering with safety devices and equipment or blatant contravention of safety procedures.

ACTION

  1. Review your policies and procedures, so that there will be no penalty when reporting or owning up to a genuine mistake.
  2. Contact me for a Simply Smart Safety™ Power Survey to help you understand what the current safety culture looks like in your company.

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GM – GUPTA Lessons

♦♦ SPECIAL EDITION ♦ SPECIAL EDITION ♦ SPECIAL EDITION ♦♦

My thoughts on this hot topic!

GUPTA Lessons

Wedding debacle GUPTA lessons

(for Leadership)

As leaders, there is much we can learn from the recent GUPTA wedding debacle.

GUPTA = Generally Underestimated People Taking Action

  1. If you want to catch people’s attention, do something creative, unique and novel with lots of passion. Treat your people like VIP’s. You don’t have to charter a plane, use a blue light circus, or hire the Lost Palace at Sun City.
  2. Even with all the money in the world, you still have to follow protocols, policies and procedures. You cannot just “do things on the fly”.
  3. Involve all the right people, plan it properly and communicate with everyone affected, in writing. It’s about team work!
  4. Your people are watching you 24/7. Your leadership microphone is never switched off. Your followers judge you by what they can see = your behaviour and ACTIONS.
  5. ACTIONS have consequences. People choose to do, or not to do, something. People choose to take chances or short cuts.
  6. If we are serious about it, the truth will eventually come out.
  7. Kungumsebenzi wami“. Take responsibility for your actions, including your decisions. Don’t blame others. Have the guts to own up and face the music. You earn respect by saying: “I made a mistake and I am accountable for that”.
  8. As a leader, you have to account for the actions and behaviour of your followers. Don’t just ‘punish’ the officials or workers involved. What about their superiors?
  9. ACT fast and be fair. If it is possible to salvage the situation, then do so and give feedback to your people.
  10. Learn the lessons from your mistakes and share these openly. Making a mistake is human, but repeating the same mistake is stupidity – which cannot be cured.

 

ACTION

For unique and novel ideas of how to treat your people as VIP’s, download my COOL TOOL™ Safety Cookie™ overview here.

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SCnSP – Action Speaks Louder Than Words

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Apr 2013

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

     

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Picture: Toolbox

     

I always say to people:

There is nothing which moves people more than ACTION
and nothing which is more powerful
than prompt, pro-active ACTION.

I then follow this up with:

Talking about the smart tools you have in your toolbox
is not the same as getting the job done.

We are masters at being re-active, especially when we have problems or if the old system / plan is not delivering results. We are good at:

  • Setting up too many initiatives and thrusts and over complicating things.
  • Talking and making new plans or setting up new systems.
  • Writing new policies and procedures.
  • Putting things on papers or posters (just a piece of paper).

Many years back, I had a mentor Jan Lys, who was a real “Staatmaker” (a person you can depend on). He taught me the following piece of wisdom:

Be the master of your deeds,
not the slave of your words.

Many of us are poor at:

  • Taking ACTION, pro-active ACTION – doing and implementing and measuring progress / results.
  • Breaking plans down into small doable stepping stones with milestones.
  • Communicating and engaging people and giving feedback.
  • Completing / finishing – “It’s done when you’re finished; it’s complete when it doesn’t come back to bite you for 5 years” Thomas Leonard
  • Perseverance, sticking to the basics and improving on the results.
  • Making our change efforts lead to real, sustainable transformation.

ACTION

In line with what I am preaching, here is something for you to do, but only if you are serious about taking ACTION.

Design a survey, best in the form of a ballot paper, to ask all your people what they think about the ACTION you are taking in safety.

It is most important that you ask those people who ‘push the buttons and use the tools’, as they see the ACTION taken where it counts, namely where the rubber hits the road. Ask them to be brutally honest with you. Keep it simple and only identify whether the feedback is from a ‘player’ or a ‘coach’ and from which area or function.

When you are done, follow the 3 F approach – Feedback, Fast, and Fair. Tell your people what the results of the ballot are and, most importantly, what you are going to do about it = ACTION you are going to take!

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GM – Under the Knife

♦♦  CULTURE   &   SAFETY PERFORMANCE  ♦♦
Feb 2013
     

Under the Knife

World Class Safety: Health & Hygiene

Picture: operating theatre staff

     

I have “signed my life away” and I feel like doing a full audit of all the tools, equipment, labelling, but . . . . it’s too late. I am flat on my back on the hard, cold and narrow operating table at Linksfield Hospital.

There is something frightening, yet reassuring about these masked faces.

Frightening, because the doctors have literally got my life in their hands. Thoughts of: “What if . . . .” flash through my brain.

Reassuring, because I know that I can ‘rest assured’ that I am in the best hands, the hands of genuine professionals.

I try to stay alert as nurse Rebecca gives me some oxygen, “just to be safe . . . .” and hooks me up to the monitoring instruments. I see Dr van der Spuy inserting the ‘plastic’ needle of the drip. The last words I hear are “You will feel . . . .” I am asleep in an instant.

Back in the ward, after recovery, I feel so good that I have to pat for the plaster or bandage. Perfect pain control! I have time to think about my hospital stay.

I am sharing this story of my operation with you because a hospital is a prime example of World Class S.H.E. – SAFETY, HEALTH and ENVIRONMENT. I am not talking about a third world bush clinic here, but of a facility and standards we all should strive for in our own operations, be it a factory, plant, mine or office complex.

  • Highly skilled doctors and nursing staff, serious about their work and following strict procedures, without taking short cuts.
  • Non-negotiable rules, such as those regarding hygiene. No one would even contemplate entering the operating theater without a sterile gown, slippers, gloves and mouth guard. Protection (PPE) for both the patient and the medical staff!
  • Working together as a team. No fooling around or taking chances. Clear cut roles and responsibilities – surgeon, anaesthetist, theater nurse, ward sister, cleaner, with no room for error and a spotless environment.
  • Identification and labeling is taken dead seriously, down to a milligram for medication. Identitags and bar coding for the patient with full particulars like ward, bed, responsible doctor, planned procedure, and double checking everything with sign-off (my brother’s keeper), to avoid any misunderstanding.
  • Pre-admission (pre-start) check lists. The anaesthetist would not dream of putting a patient to sleep without a face-to-face examination.
  • Monitoring and record keeping of blood pressure, pulse, temperature, medication, without fail. This is all part of discipline and genuine patient care, including hand-over to the next shift and the following of “doctor’s orders”.
  • Continuous improvement (‘plastic’ needle), especially in procedures and equipment, is part of making it safer for the patient and thus improving SHE all round.

ACTION

My challenge to you:

Use this write up for your next couple of toolbox talks. Furthermore, use it as a model to audit your operation. Forget your existing safety checklists and standards for a moment. Think out of the box and utilize this write up as a wake-up call. Get your senior leadership to ask: “If our operation were a hospital in which we carried out procedures and people’s lives were at stake, what would we do differently, right NOW? How SERIOUS would we be about adhering to our own policies and procedures?”.

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The Power of Gold

One of the most powerful motivators is RECOGNITION, and yet few of us use the full potential of this simple technique, because it’s a tough habit to practise. This is best illustrated using the Olympics as an example.

For most of the competitors. it is about making it onto the podium and bringing home a medal – preferably gold. They will have practised for countless hours, taken part in many events and pushed themselves to extreme limits.

Most of us have no idea just what it takes to get into the Olympic team. It is literally blood, sweat and tears combined with dogged determination, self-sacrifice and a single-minded goal mentality. Not because they are being paid for it, not because of policies and procedures, and certainly not because they have to (comply) … but because they want to be the best… the best they can be and to make it onto the winner’s podium.

That is what drives them – the ‘Power of Gold’.

Obviously, there are only a few who reach the Olympics level, but the principle of RECOGNITION applies to all levels of competitive sport. The ‘Power of Gold’ is imprinted on us from the time that we compete for the first time in primary school.

From a safety perspective, the ‘Power of Gold’ does not mean recognising only those safety achievements that are outstanding. To leverage this power, we should make it a habit to identify good safety behaviour by making the time and effort to tell the individual or team what you have taken note of and why it is important. This is why I encourage event organisers to use my “Isibopho” red / green card and whistle.

STOP, and say thank you when you see someone doing the right and safe thing. Just imagine if all your employees were to practise this habit on a regular basis – the ‘Power of Gold’ would be priceless, taking your safety culture to a different level.

WARNING – It goes without saying that recognition only works if it is genuine and deserved. Do not make it a hollow and meaningless gesture. Also, even if the person being recognised is uncomfortable when you give them genuine ‘hugs and kisses’, don’t let that put you off. Do it anyway. Keep it brief, specific and appropriate.

BTW … This is not a new concept. In the book ‘The One Minute Manager’, Kenneth Blanchard devotes an entire chapter to the ‘one-minute praises’.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

Jürgen

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