Nesting Measurable Activities in Your Organization – Aligning HSE Culture to Management Functions

Excerpt from
“MORE Creating and Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture© Turning Intention into Action”

Consider measuring and nesting expectations and behaviours that CREATE Safety. Include your Management Team! Thoughts? Please share with your team and start the larger discussion of measuring safety and not the lack of it!

Nested Measurements

What Being A Musician Taught Me About Safety


I’ve been a musician for over 50 years! Wow, just typing that has made me flashback to a zillion hours of practice and performance. My memories are flooded with all the friends I’ve made along the way. I often meld two of the important parts of my life together by playing my guitar during Keynote Safety sessions that I present. During those presentations, as I play, I ask the audience to think of how they developed their skills at what they are good at. The conclusion I am asking people to consider is that if it takes certain activities and knowledge to get good at what we do, then why do we think getting good at safety will be as easy as making rules and watching orientation DVDs? Humans just don’t get good at things because you offer to fire them if they break rules (often rules they don’t even understand). Seems kind of silly to me. We know, with confidence, that gaining knowledge/skills is hard work. It’s surprising to me that some companies then reduce “knowing safety” to an arbitrary rule book and threats of termination for errors.

So let me describe what being a musician has helped me realize about Safety Excellence. While you’re reading through the article perhaps you can think of something you are accomplished at (perhaps it’s a hobby, an art or a sport). Please think of all the hard work it took to become excellent at what you do. Then take that approach with helping people in your organization to get excellent at creating safety for themselves and others!

(1) Knowledge
To be a musician you need to know music. How it works and the 12 available notes (in western music). You need to know your instrument and how it works. You also need to know how to adjust it and make minor repairs. Knowing what you are doing is essential if you are to do it well.
(2) Muscle Memory
This is where hours and hours of practice cannot be replaced with watching a YouTube video or a purchased DVD. A musician simply has to practice, practice, practice until their muscle movements are automatic and predictably accurate. Once you have a habit, you don’t have to think about it much to be predictably excellent.

(3) Pattern Recognition
This is particularly important when communicating with other musicians through written music or just playing along with another while watching them play. When the other musician moves their hand to a different chord you can instantly follow because you know what you’re looking at. Probably as importantly you can see when things are wrong.
(4) Practiced Reaction
I’m a guitarist first (although I do play other instruments); it is what I am most competent at of all the instruments I can play. When playing with others and I’m queued to play a solo, it doesn’t take much to signal to me that you want that to happen. I’m quick to react with confidence because I’ve done it more times than I can count. Practice makes permanence. What you have to do is make sure what you are habitually about, is right!

(5) Common Language
Musicians communicate with musicians using a common language. When you know that language life becomes much better when playing with other musicians. “At the chorus play the relative minor for two bars” has meaning to those who have the common language.

(6) Communication Short Cuts
Part of being a musician is playing with other musicians that you may have just met. At “open stages” and “jam sessions” musicians meet seconds before performing and they have a bit of a “pre-song” meeting. “12 bar blues in A…no 5 on the turn around.” Can happen in seconds and to knowledgeable musicians the song will go usually very well. It looks amazing to the uninformed but it’s really not that difficult to a group of skilled musicians. It also soon becomes apparent who doesn’t know what you’re talking about since they will soon be lost in the song.

(7) Sincere Appreciation of Others
I’ve played with a lot of musicians in my 50 years and one thing that stands out for me in that community is the easy way most musicians show appreciation of others. Musicians are highly likely to comment on a performance that is well done! Next time you’re at a concert, the people who are most likely to applaud a performance are fellow musicians! If you don’t believe me, next time you see it ask “Are you a musician?”

(8) Adjusting for Improvement
Back to practice. Musicians who want to be good at what they do try things and adjust from the feedback they can hear and see themselves and from the feedback from others. Once you figure out what you want to do then it becomes a matter of practice, practice, practice! It’s important to recognize that perfection isn’t the goal since that’s impossible. Excellence it always the achievable journey. Strive for it!

(9) Knowledge of the Equipment
If you are making music or drilling a hole in a piece of wood, both will take an expert knowledge of that equipment if you want the process to end in positive outcomes. The better you know the equipment the better able you are to react and adjust as the job requires. Absolute respect for what the equipment can and cannot do is essential for predictable positive outcomes.

(10) Know the Procedures
Last but certainly not least is knowing the steps to take to achieve the goal. Without a road map it will be hard to get where you’re going. Procedural rigidity is NOT what we need; we need procedures that can be adjusted by knowledgeable people who can react to reality otherwise the first unexpected fork in the road could end in disaster. Know what you are doing well enough to drive around the detour with confidence.

(Bonus) Not the Top Ten – It’s Actually Required For All of the Top Ten
Above all, you have to WANT TO! Safety and being a musician are both based on a desire to actually want to be good at it. I’ve often heard it chanted that “Nobody goes to work to get hurt.” Well that in most cases is true. Let’s turn that around and suggest that if we go to work today and we are focused on creating efficient, effective and safe ways to do what we need to do, that would be filled with intention!

So there you have it. Being good at any human endeavor is going to take at least these things to consider. Did it work for you when considering what it takes for YOU to be good at what you do? If it did, perhaps the first thing to do is review your safety orientation process and revamp it to reflect what we know about humans. By the way, you may want to stop threatening people with dismissal unless they absolutely comply blindly to the rules they are given… but that’s for another article.

Please feel free to share this article if you see value in it for others. If you want to read more from the author, Alan D. Quilley:
– The Emperor Has No Hard Hat: Achieving REAL Workplace Safety Results©
– Creating & Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture©
– More Creating & Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture – Turning Intention into Action©
– How to Hold GREAT Safety Meetings – These meetings don’t suck anymore!©

How To Hold Safety Meetings That Don’t Suck!


I was in a discussion over the last few days about “measures of safety” that we can use. After a few posts that were focused on some of the details of leading and lagging measures, it became clear to me that there are really only two measures of most things…quality and quantity.

If we are to achieve Safety Excellence, we need to ensure we do not limit ourselves by only focusing on one of the two possible measures. In the case of Safety Meetings we often measure how many we are holding, which is probably a good thing as a start. Unfortunately, not many companies are actually measuring the quality of their meetings/discussions with staff and contractors.

A few years ago, I tested the premise that we are holding safety meetings that really are not very good. I then conducted a bit of a rather unscientific experiment (no control group). Over the next 12 months, I saw over 6000 people at my public speaking and/or training sessions. I asked them ALL the same very simple question…“Please raise your hand if your last “safety meeting” was AWESOME!” I am confident that you will not be surprised when I tell you that very few hands were raised! Those who did raise their hands responded positively when I asked them a follow-up question, “Was it YOUR AGENDA?” An overwhelming number responded YES! (Insert Laugh Track Here!)

That’s when I gathered my thoughts about GREAT safety meetings, did some further research on what people thought were GREAT meetings and wrote my book, “How to Hold GREAT Safety Meetings – These meetings don’t suck anymore!©”

Holding meetings without measuring the quality can result in terrible meetings. Holding meetings that are measured will tell you if you are having GREAT meetings or if they SUCK! It is a simple process of deciding what a great meeting is, make it happen and then measure to see if you got there. WOW Plan-Do-Check-Act in action. This actually is what Deming was trying to teach us all!

The following excerpt is from my How to Hold GREAT Safety Meetings – These meetings don’t suck anymore!©
“At 30,000 feet, looking down on the world we live in one can see the “big picture. That’s where we need to take the first view of the problem of creating a great meeting. The 30,000 feet view is to sketch out the meeting process from start to finish in big chunks. High enough above the detail to not get bogged down by the detail that will become necessary later as we work the plan. Like any successful effort we`re going to need a plan. This plan is broken down into Five Steps:
1. Start with the end in mind
2. Develop the meeting process
3. Implement the process
4. Measure your progress and outcomes
5. Celebrate and/or refine
Without further delay, let’s start making our meetings FABULOUS…”

If you want to read more about holding GREAT Safety Meetings follow the link:

Read all four book from Alan D. Quilley CRSP:

– The Emperor Has No Hard Hat: Achieving REAL Workplace Safety Results©
– Creating & Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture©
– More Creating & Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture – Turning Intention into Action©
– How to Hold GREAT Safety Meetings – These meetings don’t suck anymore!©

What Are YOU Doing Today To Make Safety Happen?

One of the best questions any Leader can ask of the people doing the work of their companies is “What are you doing today to create safety?” This is an important question to be answered because if it can’t be answered then safety isn’t being created. Safety creation activities are the key to achieving safety excellence. Safety is like any human endeavor, we have to make it happen (or we’re just counting on luck). Here are examples of the two possible scenarios:
Wishing & Hoping Safety
The first of the two scenarios is what I call “Wishing and Hoping Safety.” Folks who manage this way subscribe to the idea that since nothing bad has happened, we must be doing things well. These companies measure their safety success by counting injuries (or lack thereof). When there are no injuries, they assume proudly that they created that situation where no injuries occurred. Trouble is little or no effort has gone into creating the safe situation so it could be, at best, a guess that safety happened.
It’s also highly likely that unsafe things happened today but they were fortunate enough not to pay the price with a resulting injury. An additional dynamic with this type of Wishing & Hoping Safety is there is a high likelihood that when an injury does happen there is blame flailed around in all directions (except back at the blamer). Insults pointed at the injured human like (Stupid, No-Common Sense, Idiot) are all too likely. For more on the silliness bordering on insane use of “Common Sense” and the wise use of Common Knowledge” see:

Time to Replace Common Sense with Gained Common Knowledge

Developing a Common Knowledge

Integrated Safety Management System
The second of the two scenarios, which is much wiser and more stable is taking an Integrated Safety Management System approach. This requires intent, actions and evidence to build safe places to work Best of all it measures the existence of those actions to develop confidence that there is a causal relationship between the actions and the outcomes. Sounds to me like we’re actually starting to manage!
Over time, a state of safety excellence is created and exists consistently and predictably. The company works long periods of time with few downgrading incidents. When they do happen, a calm and measured response is likely. There is empathy for the people injured and a true commitment to uncover what may be something missed in creating safety excellence. The pride comes not from pretending perfection but from an overwhelming commitment to learning from mistakes and continual improvement. Reports of actions taken is the highlight of the statistical analysis since there are very few injuries to count. When a day is finished there are statistical measures on what was done to create safety and therefore likely an incident free day.

So there you have it, TWO states for your company to be in… Wishing & Hoping or creating safety excellence through thoughtful and diligent use of an Integrated Safety Management System. One you need to change as soon as possible the other one you should be extremely proud of!

So tomorrow morning, ask 10 people who work at your company the question “What Are YOU Doing Today To Make Safety Happen? If you like the answers you hear, congratulations. If you hear a lot of pausing and “aww, well, you see…ummm, aww” you know what you need to do. Start asking for the creation of safety activities to be reported.
For more information on creating safety excellence visit Safety Results Ltd.

Buy a Safety Book!

  • The Emperor Has No Hard Hat: Achieving REAL Workplace Safety Results©
  • Creating & Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture©
  • More Creating & Maintaining a Practical Based Safety Culture – Turning Intention into Action©
  • How to Hold GREAT Safety Meetings – These meetings don’t suck anymore!©

An Open Letter To CEOs & Their Management Teams About Safety Excellence

Open LetterHere are the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually DO! Make 2016 the year your company achieves Safety Excellence…here’s how you do it:

1) Make safety look more like your business and less like a “program.”
Safely is HOW we do our work. It’s NOT a program, it’s not a special set of activities any more than efficiency is a program. Challenge the people that work in your organization to create safe, efficient and effective production of your goods and services. Then resource their efforts.

2) You’re paid to get results, not prevent things.
STOP preventing accidents and start creating safety (See Resolution #1)! You’re in the business of adding value to your stakeholders and shareholders. You’re not in the C Suite to Prevent Loss!

3) Zero isn’t a valid Safety Goal – It’s not about safety at all!
Not sure how or when it happened but this ZERO chant has to stop. A company can have ZERO injuries and do absolutely nothing. There’s a problem with celebrating a goal that can happen just by chance! Set SAFETY goals (doing things that create safety) and lose the non-injury goals. The people who work for your company can be working in very unsafe ways. If they don’t get caught by an injury they may believe that you still want them to work that way.

Don’t ask about injuries that didn’t happen, ask questions about what your corporation is doing to create Safety. Measure those things and you’ll get better at safety.

4) The few can’t control the many.
The idea that supervisors are in control of safety and can do all of the safety work is insane. Engage your workers in creating safe work. Give them the time and resources to become your safety leaders!

5) What you show interest in is what is important.
Show your sincere interest in how your company is working safely. Get out of your office and ask a lot of questions about safety. Every time you ask about efficiency and effectiveness, add the work “SAFELY.” For example: “How long is it going to take to SAFELY complete that portion of the project?” Another example is “How much will it cost for us to SAFELY get that part of the project done?” Adding the word SAFELY to your assignments is powerful. Then as a follow-up, when they tell you it’s done…ask them how they ensured it was done safely?

6) Think about START, STOP, CONTINUE.
Want a goal better than Zero Injuries? Ask your people to create activities around STOP, START, CONTINUE. Ask them what they are going to STOP doing to make their work safer. What can they START doing that they are not now doing that could make their work safer? Finally have them identify what they are doing now that is making their work safe and how are they ensuring that they are doing work that way every time they do it.

7) Lead don’t follow.
Leaders inspire. If you want your corporation to be safety excellent you need to create that challenge, resource the efforts and measure A LOT. Giving everyone (including yourselves) safety activities to do and make those responsibilities nested in job descriptions and performance evaluations will do much more than ZERO injuries chants (See Resolution #3).

8) Create Safety Excellence WITH your employees and contractors.
As a management team you need to get out of your offices and sit with your people and ask them what YOU can do to help them create safety in their work. Train them (and attend the training yourselves) how to create safety. Show them your interest by your actions… words are cheap…actions show REAL commitment!

9) STOP just being “Committed to Safety” and actually DO SOMETHING.
See Resolution #8. Make a commitment as a management team to do a list of activities in the coming year that demonstrates that your team has “skin in the game” of creating safety excellence. Then tell your Board of Directors that you have made completion of those activities part of your “at risk pay” performance evaluation. If you don’t do the work you don’t get the bonus!
10) Trust your Supervisors & Employees to be Safety Leaders.
This is the most important of all. Your people are more than capable to create safety excellence in their work. You trust that they will give your production of goods and service… make it a condition of your measurement of GREAT outcomes that they demonstrate that they are doing that work safely. Lack of injury does NOT do that. Actually working safely is the only measure of safety excellence.
I hope this has helped you focus on what you and your senior management team can do to create safety excellence in your corporation. Don’t hesitate, do it now! Your corporation will be much safer than it is now if you do!


For more information on Safety Leadership read “The Emperor Has no Hard Hat: Achieving REAL Workplace Safety Results”. WINNER, Honorable Mention, Globe and Mail’s Best Business Books of 2006.


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When broken down, the value added features of our Workshops cannot be beat.
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