Time for Gratitude

thank you,ke a leboga,ke a leboha,ngiyabonga,ndo livhuwa,ro livhuwa,siyabonga,enkosi,dankie,ngiyathokoza,inkomu


As leaders and safety professionals we forget to show GRATITUDE. We are looking in the rearview mirror, focusing on what went wrong, why we missed our targets and, often, who to blame.

At the end of the year, it is time for us to be grateful for what we have and to count our blessings. Think about the number of activities and tasks that are being completed by all your people, without any incident or mishap. They run into the millions. Let me put this into perspective.

The vast majority of these activities are done out of habit (routine), without conscious thought. That is where your training and systems are paying off.

Consider a simple task, like driving a vehicle. I get into the seat (hopefully after walking around the vehicle and doing my pre-start check), fasten my seat belt, check the mirrors, start the engine, switch on the lights, engage the reverse gear, look left and right, release the handbrake, check the mirrors again, apply gas, steer the vehicle to the right and left and turn, apply the brakes and then take a breather — all this just to get out of my driveway at home!

To complete the task of getting to work safely, I will have to perform hundreds of activities such as this and more (using indicators, changing lanes, accelerating, braking, keeping an eye on the traffic, stopping, etc.). Each one of these I accomplish successfully, without incident and without conscious thought, but each one has the potential of leading to an occurrence which could result in damage, an injury, a fatality and, most definitely, lost time.

Now, multiply these hundreds of activities by the tenfold of tasks or jobs that each of your employees completes every day, by the number of employees, contractors and visitors on your site every day, and finally, by the number of working days this year, and you will have to add a large number of zeros to your figure of gratitude.

This also puts into perspective why ZERO HARM is such a tough goal to achieve.

Please count your blessings and let your people know how indebted you are to them for having done so well, as you cannot even express this ratio:

number of incidents and near hits
number of activities completed

Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Show me the good stuff

I use my mirror technique to customise my presentations for each client.
For this technique to work, I need photos of the GOOD, bad and ugly stuff.

Hunt down the GOOD stuff and find the safety champion and give him/her the recognition.

This enables me to ask the audience:

“What do YOU see?
What is wrong?
What is GOOD?
Who is responsible?
Is it the player or is it the coach?”

This is a most powerful technique to engage the audience and to get them to take ownership for what they see. Play the video on my S.H.E. ATM screen to see what I mean.

Sometimes, however, for security reasons, clients do not allow me to use my own camera. In these cases they offer to let me have their photos. I invariably find that all they can give me is photos of the bad and ugly things. Photos of poor housekeeping and maintenance, waste and spillage are typical examples, because those are the obvious ones. Also, the photos are normally taken of the plant, equipment, stores, workshops and similar areas. It is seldom that I am given photos of personal work spaces like office desks, cupboards, toolboxes, rest areas, chairs, etc. We somehow focus on the negative, on the breaking of the rules and poor behaviour. People find it tough to share with me photos of GOOD areas which are clean, neat and tidy and where the rules are being followed.

I also do not get photos of improvements, where a safety problem has been fixed. Taking before and after photos is something safety professionals do not do.

When I take my own photos, I hunt down the GOOD stuff and find the safety champion so I can include him / her in my photo. Recognising people in this way is a most powerful tool for motivation.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,

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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,


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Safety Common Sense

One of the most ‘common’ problems in safety is ‘common’ sense. 

What is common sense?
In general, we mean by this ‘something everyone knows’ or ‘common’ knowledge. 

In my book, common sense is a lack of thinking of the consequences when taking action.

It is NOT that we don’t understand or know. It is merely that we don’t pay attention or think about what can or will happen as a result of our actions. We are not alert, function in auto pilot or are plain careless. After an incident, we will often say that we should have ‘seen this comng’. But we did NOT, because we didn’t pay attention and think about the consequences.

In our attempt to overcome this ‘lack’ of common sense, we often put ridiculous safety rules and precautions in place, just to be safe, thereby undermining people’s attitude towards not only safety, but rules in general. (In this regard, see also “Speed Limit Syndrome“.) Rather, we should encourage people to think on the job, which will enable common sense to prevail. 

Here, with the compliments of Richard Hawk, a safety expert in the USA, is a link to a video clip which illustrates the business of common sense.

BTW, Richard puts out a monthly newsletter, well worth reading, about how to add humour to make the safety messages stick. 

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Working In The Bush

When working in remote areas, there is often a lack of facilities and technology. I sometimes have to present in a workshop or shed, with poor seating and layout, no lighting control and a “boeredag” sound system. This can be a real challenge, but it keeps it FUN and exciting for me. I got some good advice from a fellow speaker, Wolfgang Riebe, who said: “Do the best you can with what you have. Don’t make life difficult for the organisers. Your job is to show up and deliver a knock-out presentation”.

Like here, where I am presenting in a tractor shed on a farm.   

 I find what lacks in the form of facilities and equipment is more than compensated for by the people. The organisers and the audience are so grateful that I am there for them that they bend over backwards to help me. 

Give me these people any day, rather than an extravagant, high tech conference venue, where I am made to feel as though they are doing me, the speaker, a favour, by allowing me on their stage and giving me a lapel mike!


 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Where do you draw the line and what is PEOPOLOGY?

Still on the path to Safety As A Value

In the safety game, what is the role of the coach and what is the role of the player and where do the roles overlap?

All is revealed in my latest group mail on Safety Culture and Safety Performance. And … drumroll … BONUS … for the first time ever, I make my complete article on SAFETY CULTURE, which includes my PEOPLE Model, available to you, the reader, for FREE. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Oh. And if you want to know what peopology is, I give you an overview in the full article.

ps. There is a book on the subject, with lots of valuable tools and techniques, wrapped in sundry (often humorous) anecdotes. You can get the details here.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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“My Brothers’ Keeper”

Picture this.
A convoy of 47, lined up and ready to go.
Or better, hear the beat of the engines, as 47 Harley Davidson motor bikes rrrrroar down the open road.

This was the first pack ride for Heidi, my wife, and I.

What an awesome experience, riding with mature and responsible bikers. I felt comfortable and secure driving in the formation of a pack. There is safety in numbers. When the front riders see a danger on the road, like potholes, they alert all the other riders, by means of hand signals, to ‘watch out’, ‘slow down’, or some other precaution. This is truly ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ in action.

The ride kicked off with the road captain briefing everyone about the road conditions and some of the dangers to watch out for. As a newcomer to pack riding, I got a safety talk from Piet, who, by the way, is a Jumbo Jet pilot for SAA!

It was an absolute pleasure sharing a ride with like-minded, safety-conscious bikers. I love the self-discipline, attitude towards safe riding and the concern they show for each other, as well as the fellowship of the Harley riders.

I wish I could transfer this to some of my clients.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Safety in Action

I’ve said it before, and I’m going to keep saying it: I love it when I see safety in ACTION. To me the key to ACTION is *doing*, not talking-about-doing. Too many companies (i.e. people, because companies are made up of people doing things) take ages to make decisions and get into gear.

I recently had an experience with ESKOM Gauteng Operating Unit which set a new record for me. (Northam is now a close second). I got a call at 10h00 one morning to do a safety talk to new employees the next day. So, within 24 hours, I prepared and customised my talk for this particular audience and was on stage knocking-the-socks-off the new ESKOMITES.

I could not have done this without the most efficient and prompt help of some people from the Gauteng Operating unit. Just goes to show again, if you are SERIOUS about Safety, you do take ACTION !!!

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Who is driving?

Last December, Ashref Ismail of the Road Traffic Management Corporation indicated that approximately “68 percent of all major accidents at any weekend are as a result of drunk drivers”. In other words, alcohol is a major role player in road-related deaths.

When attending a party or function, designate the drivers who will not consume alcohol. You could make a name tag or button reading “OFFICIAL DRIVER” to clearly identify those persons. The tags or buttons can be handed out at the entrance to the venue.

 Be safe – the SIMPLY SMART way,


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Find the ‘Silver Lining’

I was retrenched in 1998 and it was the best thing that has happened to me, from a career point of view. Let me explain.

When I ‘lost’ my job, I had to find something else and I ended up doing my own thing. After a brief stint as an independent consultant, I wrote a book “Anecdotes on Life Skills“. In order to sell the book, I started speaking at conferences. I soon realised that I have to find my niche when speaking to audiences and began to talk about my passion – SAFETY. Apart from meeting amazing people doing amazing things in amazing industries, I get to see some out-of-the-way places as well.

When speaking in Vryburg, I passed a small place called Jan Kempdorp and remembered that this is the place where my father, father-in law, grandfather and many others from Namibia, were interned for 6 years during World War II. At that time it was called Andalusia. On my way back to the Kimberley airport, I stopped off in Jan Kempdorp to see if I could find anything about the old concentration camp.

Concentration Camp - Andalusia   Oom Koos, Jan Kempdorp

However, nothing was left of the camp, but I did find a most interesting museum and the caretaker, oom Koos van der Heever, who managed to find a newspaper article about the concentration camp in Andalusia.

So, you see, that is why I feel blessed and grateful that I was retrenched!



ps. If you’d like more information about my book, or would like to purchase a copy, contact me.

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