Zero Injury Targets…Really?

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” Harriet Braiker

If perfection is the only success, your company employees and managers will all feel like losers…is that really what we want people to feel about their safety efforts? Better in my opinion to “measure what you want to create” In this case “safe production of your goods and services.”

Measure What You Create Not What You Avoid


Safety is MUCH More Than Becoming a GOOD Ducker!

Stop Preventing & Start Creating

Imagine how hard it was for Edwards Deming in the 1950’s to change the thinking of North American manufacturing from counting their failures and rejects and focusing on 100% reject free to actually measuring and celebrating what they should be creating…product excellence. Deming was so frustrated he had to move to Japan…where many years later the Emperor of Japan presented him with the second highest order of medal available in Japan, honouring him for almost single handily turning Japan’s economy around.

Somehow some in our profession have missed the 80’s revolution where almost all areas of business shifted to measuring what they were creating…product excellence. Here in Safety Management some are still counting and “preventing errors”…how unfortunate, no wonder so many people in the safety business can’t get into a boardroom. We don’t fit with the modern thinking of management. If you want to see a management team get behind something…start measuring them on what they do and not what they avoid. The fact is that measuring the absence of a negative (incidents, injuries and related costs) can sometimes happen entirely by being lucky. There’s nothing more harmful you can do for an executive management team than give them a bonus for being lucky. They soon realize that their inactivity could result in a bonus anyway…so they focus their efforts on what they can do something about…production creation.

“Measure and celebrate what you create not what you are trying to avoid” is the fundamental lesson in business. Create and measure safety excellence and the activities that make a place of work safe and healthy. Measure what you do to make it a safe place to work and you will have very few downgrading incidents to count as an outcome. Then if you do have a downgrading incident…learn from it and continue to strive for safety excellence (and for goodness sake don’t take away everyone’s “safety award”). Celebrate what you do not what you avoid because you’ll never really know if you created the “accident prevention” or if it was just luck. Hard to fake the creation of safe environments and behaviours…none of that is just LUCK.

Of course you can’t get a management team to say they don’t want 100% accident free…but that doesn’t help them achieve anything. Get them to focus on 100% of their safety creating goals (inspections, observations, employee engagement, procedure development, etc.) and eventually you’ll have very few, if any incidents to count…Deming would have wanted it that way.

Measuring the Positives

What are these positives in safety management, some call them leading indicators. I believe that these leading indicators are all too often misunderstood. It’s a simple concept really. What things are present to make me believe that I will get the desired outcome. In Deming’s approach he would say if you want to build a perfect car then focus on perfect parts. So if your goal is to safely produce your product or service then what things are you doing to ensure you achieve that outcome? Safety Tool box meetings may very well be what you think will add to your chances of accomplishing your goal…then simply measure the quality and quantity of your meetings. Machine maintenance checklist, safety observation, safety training, these are all common examples of what we do to make our places of work safe. Measure them often, recognize the effort it takes to make these activities happen and celebrate the positive outcomes.

This is the key to safety excellence.

Safety Isn’t A “Priority”! It’s a VALUE!

The danger of calling “safety” a priority is that the very act of prioritization means logically something is has to be secondary.

The preference should be to call Safety (and other important process issues) values. This way it becomes the “way” the work is accomplished. If an organization is operating outside their values then they are making bad choices for their process solutions. For example I love making money but I’ll only do that “legally”. If any of my ideas for making money go outside that value, then I need to come up with another idea. The same can be true about other values. Safety, environmentally friendly, Legal, financially sound, efficient, effective are all examples of HOW we can choose to work. Now obviously nothing in the human experience of creating work is an absolute pure science. It works within a much larger system of challenges. The problem with SAFETY as a priority is that in most companies it will take only minutes to prove to your staff that it “ISN’T”. Getting people to meet co-existing values happens every day. Every time your construction crew waits for an inspector, every time your corporation gives some of their money to the government for taxes and licences there is a meeting of more than one value. Safety can work the same way.
There’s nothing wrong with having coexisting values. “We at XYZ Corporation will endeavour to provide excellence is services and products through effective, efficient, financially wise, safe, environmentally friendly, etc… production. The list can contain your company values without putting a “top ten” list together. They all need to be considered in the “work plan”. If the solution is efficient and effective but puts the corporation at risk of damaging the environment…then you haven’t found the solution yet!


Look for the part about Priority (2.02 seconds)


Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator Fined

The Provincial Court of Nova Scotia recently convicted James Della Valle, an occupational health and safety coordinator at the Cape Breton Island Housing Authority, of failing to take precautions to protect the health and safety of employees and others at the workplace. The court imposed a $1,000 fine.

Interesting Article:


Every Company is Somewhere in Their Safety Culture Evolution

There are some simple truths in the world of safety management. Some of those truths are based on the natural order of logic and practicality. We know that every company that is getting excellent safety results for their safety management efforts didn’t start out that way. They had to take a journey of discovery and creation that got them to where they are now. I call it the Safety Continuum. I first introduced this observation in my book The Emperor Has No Hard Hat – Achieving REAL Workplace Safety Results.

Every company at this very moment is somewhere on their journey to safety excellence. They are somewhere in their Safety Continuum. Some are just starting and are busy gathering the fundamental tools they need on their journey. Companies typically develop their safety program by documenting their intentions to operate safely in a safety program policy manual. The manual usually contains the company’s internal responsibility system details, as well as the forms to use and the directions to follow to accomplish the desire of being a safe company. Some companies are refining and refitting already somewhat successful activities. Some are at the point where, because of what they are actively managing, their places of work are going very long periods of time without injury and illness to their workers. Wherever your company is in your evolution, there are natural steps for you to take to increase your effectiveness and efficiency.

The Famous Bell Shaped Curve

I’m not aware of any scientifically supervised studies that would independently prove exactly where different companies are at in their evolution. I do know that your employees know where you are, and if asked they will tell you. This is the power of the perception survey. Given the opportunity to answer anonymously, without fear of reprisal, employees will tell you the truth about what they think and do about safety. For this to be successful, you would have to establish a safe environment for them to tell you the truth. If it wasn’t safe to tell the boss there are short comings, then the short comings will be there, but never openly discussed. It’s a bit like having everyone in a room with an elephant and nobody is talking about it. If you look at the illustration (see Figure 4), the graph does not represent any real data- only the theory that the normal distribution bell-shaped curve is alive and well in the world of safety management. This representative picture of the theory tells us that some companies aren’t managing safety very well, and some companies are excelling. It also indicates that the vast majority of companies are somewhere in the middle of their journey. I’d like to believe that in our industrialized society with our laws and our moral compass, the curve is skewed to the positive side and that more companies are further along heading for excellence than are not.


Willful Non-Compliance

 I can tell you with some confidence that some portion of the corporate populations are purposely not complying with the minimum safety standards. The people running these companies are, quite frankly, idiots, and I would love nothing better than to read that the local OH&S government enforcement agencies are writing these companies orders to improve and prosecuting them for violations. I hope that the ones not getting the point will have their actions escalate to a point where they are put out of business. I have no compassion for theses criminals.

Reluctant Compliers

 The next groups of folks are those people running companies that are what I refer to as reluctant compliers. I have a get deal of compassion for these folks who don’t yet realize that doing safety for the government is not the best way to operate your business. They simply  don’t have all of the fact to realize that managing safety actually makes your company thrive. They are just in need of a bit of information and some coaching. All will be better for these folks in the future.

Compliance Based

 The third group is made up of those people running companies who have evolved passed doing just the minimum, and realize the real value of managing safety. They are spending some of their resources to improve their capacity to do their work in a safe and healthy manner. These folks are finding binders with safety elements and procedures. They are minimizing their safety hazards and training their people to work safely. These companies are on the road to excellence. Even if there are some rocky roads ahead, they are at least heading in the right direction. I believe the vast majority of companies are in this phase of their evolution. In fact I believe if you are reading this book you are no doubt thinking about this stage or the next one. You see, when you reach this stage and have built all of your procedures and developed all of your policies and completed all of your audits (perhaps for several years) you will become dissatisfied with your progress because it will have stopped. You can only get so much out of this stage. Your frustration will grow with your lack of progress. You will have nagging injury trends and be frustrated by not knowing what you can do next. It’s for this group of managers that I wrote “The Emperor Has No Hard Hat – Achieving REAL Workplace Safety Results”-those folks looking to improve.

Chasing Excellence

 The fourth group is the collection of companies who have decided to actively chase safety excellence. They have developed their plans and have realized they need to change what and how they manage safety. They’ve started to integrate their efforts. They are working on the Integrated Safety Management System (either my model or another one). They have moved from saying that safety is number one to realizing that safe production is number one. This is a very exciting group to work with as they are inspired and on the path to excellence. They see major headway as a result of their efforts and have started working longer and longer time periods without any downgrading incidents. Injuries and damage are finally in control and there are lots of reasons to feel good about what they are doing. Employees are truly engaged in creating safety. Safety is practical! By the way, these companies are GREAT places to work. We know that because their employees will tell us that they are!

Safety Excellence

 The final stage exists when you know that how you handle safety is essential to your company’s success. Your company actually starts to share stories of everyone’s successes, and these stories start helping other companies recognize the potential of thinking about and managing their safety efforts in a positive way. You’ve arrived and are what many would consider world class! Now you need to constantly learn and improve your safety culture.

So don’t feel frustrated. Recognize that you need to try and move forward, and you will see that today isn’t forever and that doing different things will get you different results. You’ll realize that there are some very practical things that you can do to improve you safety outcomes.