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...

3 Things Overheard at the 2016 Petroleum Safety Conference

Banff Centre

Last week, the ENFORM Petroleum Safety Conference (PSC) brought oil and gas safety professionals together once again to connect with each other in beautiful Banff. Held once a year, the conference draws hundreds of participants and vendors with one purpose in mind: honoring the moral – and legal – obligation of ensuring employee safety in the oil and gas industry. Presentation topics ranged from cultivating safety culture to the challenges of addressing human error in safety programs, leaving everyone in attendance with lots of inspiration and food for thought. It’s a terrific conference to attend, made only more spectacular by the backdrop of the Rocky mountains.

I had the opportunity to attend this conference for the second year and to talk with many attendees. While everyone there had interesting stories and a unique perspective to share on the state of safety and the oil industry, I heard three common themes:

Read more...

How to Save $1.2 Million in Workers Compensation Dollars

Blog Image_PaceIndustries_450Pace Industries is North America’s largest full-service aluminum, zinc, and magnesium die casting company. Founded in 1970, Pace operates 12 divisions with 21 facilities and over 4,200 associates across the U.S. and Mexico. Today, their safety performance is a source of pride and a competitive advantage within their industry. But Pace Industries has learned a lot along the way.

Pace Industries focuses on building a strong safety culture in a number of ways, from committing to personal safety pledges to investing in safety by providing appropriate resources, training and education. “We challenged our leadership team to give our EHS personnel more responsibility,” says Kenny Sandlin, Vice President of Health & Safety at Pace Industries. “To give them authority, to empower them, but also to give them resources. Intelex was one of those resources.”

Barriers to Safety Excellence

Not too long ago, the majority of Pace Industries’ safety data was still … Read more...

Electric Utilities & Safety Culture in an Aging Workforce

Electrical power-line installers and repairers regularly appear on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of the top ten most dangerous jobs. According to the Fallen Linemen Organization an average of 45 linemen a year lose their lives on the job in the U.S. alone. This is despite a workforce that is predominantly made up of seasoned professionals. But it looks like there may be a big shift in demographics in the near future – how this will affect safety in the industry remains to be seen.

Long-Time Utility Workers Nearing Retirement

West Penn Power stands as an excellent example of the challenge currently facing the electric utility industry. At West Penn – one of FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania utilities – the median age of a line worker is 45. According to the company, in the next five years 30% of the utility’s distribution line workers will be eligible for retirement. And … Read more...

Etihad Airways Awarded the Intelex Performance Excellence Award for User Adoption

Etihad Airways flew home from the User Conference with extra weight in their luggage –the Intelex Performance Excellence Award for User Adoption, that is. To win this award, a client must demonstrate extraordinary levels of effectiveness in their user adoption process, demonstrating the innovative and structured ways in which they have ensured high levels of adoption in their company.

At Etihad, user adoption is critical to their mission. Etihad’s CEO tackled user adoption by first focusing on corporate-wide messaging centered on safety culture. Then they rebranded their Intelex system, EYIntelex.com, for a consistent user experience. Etihad also created a main landing page featuring links to training materials, user manuals, and a new e-learning platform, to assist new users.

To reach Etihad’s global audience of over 20,000 employees, which is made up of pilots, cabin crew, engineers and ground staff in 80 different locations, the team had to be creative. Given … Read more...