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6 Tips to Achieve the Best Results for Your Safety Efforts

In any business venture, we get results through careful planning of activities and through measuring not only the results but the activities that the people undertake to get those results. The creation of safety excellence is accomplished in exactly the same way.

Leadership – “What You Do Speaks So Loudly I Cannot Hear What You Say”

This important and highly observant quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson says a great deal about the importance of the behaviour of company leaders in establishing the safety culture of that company. So if you’re a owner, manager or supervisor please read on and we’ll explore the significance that leadership behaviour and conversations can have on your company’s safety success.

Say What Is Important Through the OHS Policy

We all have one. In our company’s OHS Policy we’ve signed off our commitment statement to the safety of the people who work for us. It probably says something like “The safety of our employees is of primary concern to us in all of our operations.” It may even say something like “Here at XYZ Construction, Safety is a priority”. Whatever it says, it actually doesn’t mean very much without the behaviours and actions that we take to support these statements. Saying safety is important isn’t nearly as important is actually demonstrating that safety is important. In fact, you can do much to undo these wonderful policy statements with a simple action to demonstrate that in fact Safety isn’t as important as it appears in your policy manual.

Policies Need To Be Demonstrated To Be Effective

To be taken seriously as a leader your words and deeds need to match. If you want your employees working safely then you need to demonstrate that their safety is valued by you through your actions. For example, when you’re on the project site and you see one of your workers or contractors working safely, take the small amount of time it takes to acknowledge the job as being “well done”. When humans do great work we like to be recognized by others!

I do a lot of public speaking. In both large and small sessions when my presentation is over there is nothing more personally satisfying to me than to hear the crowd applauding. Even better for me is when after the session a participant makes a personal comment about how they enjoyed the presentation. People usually don’t take the time out of their busy lives to tell me a lie. If they stay to talk to me after the session about their experience I know that it is important to them. If it wasn’t, they would have left! This feedback not only feels good but makes me want to do it again. I believe we all appreciate a sincere kind word about our performance be it at a public event or just a simple job well done comment from the boss or a coworker. Making people proud of working safely increases the chances that they will do it again.

A Good Job Is Defined As…

As leaders we need to define for our employees what makes a good job. Certainly “on time & under budget” gets re-enforced in most organizations. We’re all clear that in any job, wasting time and money is NOT the way to do the job. Companies that are successful in making their places of work safe and healthy are those companies that have made it clear to their employees and contractors that the way we know we’ve done a good job is that it’s a quality job done safely on time and within budget. These are simply expressed and re-enforced by management.

Once the criteria for a good job are defined we then need to communicate it to the people who are doing the work. We do this through meetings, phone calls, reports and one-on-one conversations. You’re already having these interchanges with your people so if we include “safety” in our discussions we’ll increase the chances that we’ll get safety as an outcome. Case-in-point, ask an employee “When can you have that project completed?” This obviously points the employee in a direction of calculating the time it will take to do the things they have to do. This could include “safety”. We certainly hope it includes safety. Ask the question a different way and our employees are then guided to ensure safety is part of the solution. “When can you get this project be safely completed?” is a much different question and one that forces the employee to think through the project knowing that to do the job well, it must be done safely.

We haven’t given up production, we haven’t established a competition between safety and production, we’ve made them mutually dependant on each other. Of course we want all production done as efficiently and effectively as possible. Including the criteria of safely to our goals and every day conversations and communications establishes a culture of safety being included in what makes a good job around here!

Safety By Walking Around

Leaders “on the ground” talking to the folks who are actually doing the work! What a concept! There is no more effective way to communicate what is important to you than to in a face-to-face conversation with your company’s employees. Here are a few conversation openers that will get your employees thinking about their safety:

“What can you do personally to make your work here safer?”

“Is there something that we can do together to help make it safer here?” or

“Is there something that you and the people you work with can do together to make it safer here?”

All you need to do then is “listen” and help them do the things they tell you are important to their safety. Seems simple enough but honestly there is no more effective way to discuss safety than to make it personal. “Someone should do something about this” gets us nowhere and you know as well as I that the every elusive “someone” never seems to get around to it!

If you do try some of these activities and conversations with your staff there is a great chance that you’ll more effectively lead your safety efforts. Most importantly if you really mean that safety is important then your employees will actually SEE that safety is important by what you do.

Professional Tip #1- In a debate…please don’t use this phase…it makes you look STUPID!

I ‘m in a discussion where in response to a question about the logic of another participants use of the term “common sense”, someone chimed in with: “You need a serious review of your medication sir and I kid you not.”

The “I kid you not.” really isn’t adding much…do you agree?

This is the ultimate ZINGER in a debate amoung fellow professionals. It helps gain the confidence of your reader.  It shows you’ve thought through your position and can defend it…NOT!

File this in the MAJOR FAIL! drawer.

Common Sense…such a silly concept! “As for commonsense, noone knows what that is, other than a non-defined term to justify one’s own perception on life.” – Dr. Robert Long

For those who have common sense perhaps a reading of a small list of some of the many common “errors” will demonstrate that their self-opinion of their own common sense seems a bit foolish. Of course ego may get in the way of a valid evaluation…so if you find yourself saying “I knew that” to all of these common mistakes…sleep well tonight.

Time to Rethink Our Zero Injury Goals as a Measure of Safety

Alan D Quilley CRSP

February 2009

 I’m probably going to go to “Safety Guy Inferno” for this, but I’m going to say it anyway. You see, I’ve come to realize that having ZERO injuries is not the best definition of safety. In fact, setting Zero as the ultimate safety goal actually demoralizes the very people we need to motivate to make our places of work safe.

Oh I can already hear the email programs opening to send me a flood of nasty emails about my not believing “all injuries can be prevented”. Let me make myself perfectly clear: “I believe that all injuries can be prevented “so stop typing that email and please read the rest of the article.

 Some Fundamentals

Here are some of my fundamental beliefs and some of the logic that tell me that Zero injuries isn’t a definition of “safety” and that we need to re-examine what we talk about and what we recognize as success. I believe with great certainty that injuries are a result of energy hitting us with a force greater than our bodies can withstand or that our bodies don’t get the energy we need (food, water, oxygen). If that’s the case, then a state of “safe” will be achieved when we can reasonably expect that uncontrolled energy can’t hit us and that the energy we need is there for us. It’s very much about the act of not taking risks we don’t have to when we are trying to produce a good or service.

So if we set the goal of Zero injuries and we don’t have any injuries then we must have reached our goal. Wait, I understand being happy about the result but I know that this is simply not logical nor is it even wise to say that we have been “safe” because we’ve had no injuries. Since we all know by now that not being injured while we do risky work happens a great deal of the time. This is akin to giving someone an annual safety award for being a “good ducker” and not getting hurt when all the time they have been taking terrible risks. A definition of “safe” is not the absence of injury. So how can Zero be our definition of safe?

Now if a group of humans doing work for a period of time without any injuries is a result that we want then one could argue that it was “safe”. However we have tons of examples where people have worked long periods of time without incident then a catastrophic event happens. Often, through investigation, we find out that there were terrible risks being taken for some time before the incident occurred.

 Now What?

So continue to strive for ZERO, but motivate through measuring and rewarding the activities we do to create safety. If you get to a period of time when injuries are not happening, ask yourself if you know (with confidence) WHY you got that result. Is it because you’ve actually managed the work so any risks you are taking have been controlled to the point where no unnecessary exposure to energy is happening? Then I believe you can say with some confidence “We’re SAFE!”

Feel free to debate among yourselves. I know that Zero injuries for a period of time doesn’t necessarily mean your company is a safe place to work. Now if you can tell me with some certainty how you got there…I’ll believe you!

Here’s a very simple example of the comparison when using outcome injury measures:


Company   A

Company   B

Construction Site Construction Site
2 Story Building 2 Story Building
Worker Falls on Concrete Worker Falls on Fresh Snowfall
Fatal Injuries No Injuries
WCB Premiums – Up WCB Premiums – No Change
Bad Press No Press
OH&S Conviction No OH&S Conviction

Which Company Is Safer?

Motivate Safety Activity – The Results Will Come

So let’s re-examine what we are motivating people to do because what gets measured gets done. Let’s measure our “creating safety” and not just our success in “avoiding injuries”. If rewards and bonuses for your staff are based on Zero injuries, we’ll motivate people to hide injuries or we could be rewarding luck. Even worse we could have a large group of people working very hard on making their place of work “safe” and because of a somewhat minor situation lose their celebration of all their accomplishments. If we’re doing the right things and rewarding the act of producing safely…not many of us, if any of us, will get hurt!

Good luck and remember “Be kind to each other, we’re all in this together!”


A Sure Formula For Frustration…Enter into a conversation/debate with a Pseudo-intellectual

Pseudo-intellectual’s Impact on Most Logical People

“Pseudo-intellectuals are people of average intelligence who are enchanted with highly intellectual topics and discussions such as philosophy, socioeconomics, destiny of humanity, etc. Unlike a genuine academic, a pseudo-intellectual’s main reason for being interested in these topics is because it makes him feel intellectually superior to his peers. He usually despises main stream culture, accuses those who disagree with him as being ignorant, and when his ideas are challenged, he often retaliates with “That’s a straw man argument!”

…or my personal favourite but just as silly…”that dog won’t hunt.”