Why Your People Are Your Most Important Metric

In the workplace, health and safety strategies specify the need for actions that management expects. Efforts to meet such expectations are employed and measured to ensure a successful journey. Though it is doubtful you are at war where you work, Sun Tzu’s approach involved first looking at the battlefield in detail (your organization), evaluating the enemy (poor performance), understanding any strengths or weaknesses (gaps in the management system) as well as the capabilities (resources) required to win. Once all of this is done, it’s merely a question of deciding what must be deployed and monitored for victory.  

Though they are not exciting parts of the process, the acts of measuring and evaluating how well the organization has implemented its health and safety strategies are the measure of management system success. Metrics are measures used to track, monitor and gain an understanding of the effectiveness of business processes. Such measures are … Read more...

Adopting ‘Lean’ Safety Takes You Beyond Compliance

How to embed safety into every minute of every day—and continuously improve it.

Robert Hafey, a 25-year lean practitioner and consultant with 10 years specializing in safety, is working to change how business leaders think about workplace safety. He’s trying to help them understand how much more effective “lean safety” is, compared to “compliance safety.”

Writing in a recent issue of Target magazine, the quarterly publication of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), he explains the difference. Compliance safety, he writes, “focuses almost exclusively on following OSHA or other regulatory agency rules.” In organizations that focus on compliance safety, he explains, “practices are ‘pushed’ from regulatory agencies to safety professionals, who then take the new or changed requirements to their management team and eventually to those who perform the work.”

While this approach is right as far as it goes, Hafey asserts that this top-down directive approach often causes safety … Read more...

Change Your Culture by Making Employees a Part of Safety Strategy

New webinar explains why employees support proposals and programs they help to create and offers guidance on achieving employee buy-in for your safety management initiatives.

For excellence in any operational category to be recognized, it is imperative employees make decisions and behave in alignment with the intended strategic direction. Strategy is a framework of choices an organization makes to determine how to capture and deliver sustainable value. How value focused are your efforts, and do the customers of your safety strategy agree with this? 

In a new September 25 EHS Today-hosted webinar, sponsored by Intelex, Terry Mathis, the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm, explain why safety is not a standalone strategy within a business; it must be an integral part of the overall operational plan. The webinar is scheduled for 2 pm on Sept. 25, and registration is open now.

Mathis … Read more...

Flip the Leadership Pyramid

There’s much to be said for the “power of We.”

Over the past several years, I have written articles and lectured on numerous occasions about effective leadership and management systems. There’s inherently one important idea always floating in the back of my mind, and it serves as the foundation for most any actionable content I create.

I learned about the inverted leadership pyramid on the first day of my first corporate-level job in the mid-1990s. I had assumed the role of Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) leader for a large chunk of the company’s business portfolio. My boss, a guy who would become a mentor and coach, sat me down and drew a triangle that displayed Vision & Mission / Strategy & Goals.

It looked like this: 

It was the standard pyramid used to explain the organizational structure. He drew dividing lines; splitting the triangle with the upper one-third reserved … Read more...

What Can We Learn from the Organizational Cultures of Different Industries?

Many industries have no clear boundary between safety and quality culture. In fact, they are often very closely integrated. Quality failures and nonconformances that require rework have been correlated with increased accidents and recordable injury rates in manufacturing organizations. These injuries are frequently the result of fatigue, workplace pressure, and the pressure from extra work due to quality failures.

Among the important collective of people, processes, and tools, people are the primary point of failure in increasingly automated systems. Unlike machines, we are subject to fatigue, information overload, and stress that can have a serious impact on our ability to work safely and efficiently. However, people are also the place where dynamic sensemaking, decision-making, and situational awareness reside, which are vital ingredients in complex and high-reliability organizations (HRO).

Culture is therefore an integral element of every organization. In the new Intelex Insight Report Integrating Quality and Safety in Organizational Culture: Read more...

True Engagement Starts with Speaking Digital Natives’ Language

I attended a great conference in 2017 at the spiritual and literal home of England’s national rugby team, Twickenham. The event was the Verdantix EHS European Summit. I was lucky enough to be invited to participate on a panel that generated audience questions about the under-leveraging of Health, Safety and Environmental metrics and whether more data is desirable if organizations were already struggling to handle and gain meaningful insight from what they had. This was a solid topic and it played into one of the key conference themes of Big Data.

All was going to script, and then it happened… a senior director said the following, or something close to it:

“It’s all well and good this discussion of data, systems and associated metrics, but if we don’t find better and more innovative ways to engage our people in safety, nothing is going to change! Our performance depends upon it!”… Read more...

Good Systems Are Essential to Great Safety Cultures

There’s no easy and quick fix when it comes to building a safety culture.

Every organization is unique and dynamic in nature, and each has its own personality. Added to this is the reality that success in Safety is, for the most part, determined by the Safety professional’s customer – the organization’s workers themselves – and for most of us as Safety pros, our list of customers is long and varied. And each has a different definition of success.

Parallel to this thought is that there is no “one right way” to build a safer culture. Rather, it is a number of elements that must be employed to build robustness within the safety process. Simply put, organizations that demonstrate world-class performance employ a strategy with elements that control loss-producing variation throughout the work system.

Controlling process variation is not a new concept. Many successful operational effectiveness programs have been … Read more...

Tightening Processes is Key to Worker Safety

Variations that exist within system processes may be putting workers on a path to making poor decisions while performing their work and invariably compromising their safety. That’s an assertion made by Scott Gaddis, the Health and Safety Practice Leader for Intelex Technologies and a 25-year veteran of environmental health and safety leadership and management.

It’s important to tighten process methodologies to ensure there’s little room for interpretation by workers that forms bad safety habits. In his recently published Intelex Insight Report, entitled, Unleash a Better Safety Culture by Controlling Process Variability, Gaddis notes that, in many incidents where a worker performs an unsafe act, the decision that often led to err was likely influenced by other uncontrolled variables residing within the work system itself.

Dan Peterson, in his book, Human Error Reduction and Safety Management, writes that “Human error is involved in every accident and there are many reasons … Read more...

Safety Leadership: We’re Focusing on the Wrong Things

PostedsAfter a presentation I gave recently a gentleman came up to ask some follow-up questions, which is pretty normal. But then something interesting happened. He hesitated, looking like there was something else on his mind. So I asked if there was anything else I could help with to which he responded with a story about how he’s working with this site’s safety committee to develop an incentive program to get people to work safely. But it doesn’t seem to be working. Workers aren’t really engaging with the program and the rewards don’t seem very interesting to them. He wanted to know if I had any ideas on how to make the program more successful.

Now, I certainly have some ideas on the subject, but I asked the first (probably rather obvious) question that came to my mind – have you asked the workers about it? After all, what I think … Read more...

Why Workplace Fairness is Critical to Building Safety Culture

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Many workplace leaders underline the importance of having a “safety culture”, but beyond the statements, policies and procedures, what are the key elements that make a workplace culture truly safe?

A prerequisite to creating a safety culture is to establish a culture of fairness characterized by respect and dignity for each workplace participant. This is because a culture of safety requires that employees believe they will be treated fairly and are safe to speak up about mistakes or safety risks.  Unintentional errors and unsafe acts will not be punished but used as learning experiences.  Furthermore, reckless or deliberate unsafe acts and unjustifiable risks will be punished.

Unsafe cultures are characterized by the fear of speaking up about safety hazards or risk because of fear of reprimands or sanctions and the related threat to one’s psychological safety. Unsafe workplace cultures also include those that view safety as a cost rather than … Read more...