Boredom – Improving required safety training

Recently we were asked the question: How do you get your senior leaders (general manager, plant manager, etc.) to invest in online safety compliance training? After all, a number of execs will say stick with the “old school” classroom lecture and video. What are dos and don’ts when selling senior leaders on technologically advanced safety equipment and systems?  Keeping in mind leaders might not think technological innovations have come to safety products and learning systems. Or they will want to know the ROI.
I can’t tell you how many poorly delivered safety training sessions I have had the displeasure of attending.  It used to be the same old acetates, then the same old videos, then the same old Power Points.  Nowadays it is cheaper and faster to do online training that includes diagnostic responses and tracks participation. However, the end result still seems to be boring, repetitive, mindless time spent putting a check in the box of government required training which does nothing discernible to improve the safety culture or the downstream safety metrics. If I were trying to sell upper management on safety training I’d like there to be an ROI, and the above type of training delivers negative numbers here. 
Rather, Caterpillar’s approach would be to determine:
·        The Purpose of the training: Keep our people up to speed with basic safety requirements while engaging them in the process of delivering the training so that we all can live a better safety culture of correct.
·        The Outcomes of the training:  
o   Course content analyzed to fit the needs/realities of the various departments and levels of the organization
o   Course delivery method appropriate to fit the needs/realities of the various departments and levels of the organization
o   A diagnostic that indicates comprehension of the important concepts
o   A tracking mechanism that satisfies the entity requiring the training
o   Appropriate hourly and salaried leadership participation and accountabilities from across the organization which reinforce the importance and reasons for this training
·        The Process to achieve this training:  We will bring together a Rapid Improvement Workshop to analyze, focus and execute the best kinds of safety training which deliver competence and eliminate the mind numbing boredom that is so common to safety training.  We will estimate the cost and sell the solutions to upper management who are tasked with ensuring we are not only in compliance, but also delivering value for the funds invested in this training.  There will be mixed mode training which will include a spectrum of appropriate approaches for the various levels and needs of our organization.  This spectrum will encompass work cell hands-on training to automated online computer techniques.
It is not a matter of online computer training; it is a matter of delivering value added results for the monies invested. This includes eliminating the many downsides of what currently is in use and not working well at all. Let us not just automate boredom.

The Doc 

Obstacles and Barriers – Safety improvement opposites

One of the fundamental necessities of good safety are the barriers we erect to protect our employees from injury. The level-one barriers include things like glasses and gloves, arc flash protection, guarding and a whole litany of other physical protections that must exist between our employees and the job site physical realities. There is also a need for non-physical barriers like well thought out processes and procedures our hourly and salaried personnel practice every day when faced with situations that could harm those at the workface. These well thought out, well executed processes must have another kind of active barrier; safety accountabilities that are appropriately practiced in a timely manner by all levels of the organization. A manger has a different kind of active safety accountability from that of the line supervisor and hourly technician or operator. One more nontraditional barrier that protects our employees and the community that uses our services and products is a culture that continually engages in efforts to improve what they do. An excellent safety culture goes way beyond implementing physical barriers. Multiple active mental and physical engagement approaches are also necessary barriers that protect our organization’s people and customers.  
The other side of the coin in safety reality is that there are numerous obstacles that must be overcome. The more obvious are physical in nature, like housekeeping, tripping hazards, ineffective guarding and the like. Often the more difficult obstacles are mental in nature. These include poor attitudes, a resistance to doing anything differently than how we have done in the past, a satisfaction with status quo, etc. Both these kinds of obstacles to safety improvement must be overcome. And like the barriers discussed above, an effective safety culture must pursue the mental aspects of both what enables and what impedes the relentless pursuit of excellence.

The Doc

Popeye – Improving safety performance

We all have training, background experiences, desire, abilities, duties, DNA. In short, we are our own culture that is made up of a complex formula unique to ourselves. We are called on to use this personal, private mass of talent on our job, at home, on vacation and elsewhere in the lives we lead. This call to action can occur at a moment’s notice or as a part of a carefully contrived plan that takes significant time to develop and execute. Sometimes the call to duty is just a reuse of our abilities and makeup and sometimes there is a unique nature in what is to be accomplished. And thus the rub; what happens when we are expected to break out of our traditional approach, our comfort zone, and do something new?  Can we get out of Popeye’s cartoon character “I am what I am and that is all that I am” syndrome?  Do we only regurgitate the same old safety chime that has been digesting forever and in reality is just passing through our system?
Are we only capable of delivering the same old videos, check sheets, policies and procedures, observation system, regulations-based condition fixes, ad nausea? Is our solution approach really just the classic definition of insanity? As safety performance gets better and better there is a need for new approaches which can help our organization break through the performance plateau that the same ol’, same ol’ cannot solve. If we want to achieve a performance level beyond the no longer acceptable results delivered by the classic tools we must go beyond regurgitating and start engaging the people across our organization. As you are faced with a plate of problems, consider how to engage others in using their talent mass to deliver creative solutions which have the capability to clean up what remains spit up in front of us. The spinach of the past has but the power of vomit in solving the unique issues which face today’s safety professionals.

The Doc

Puma – An untapped safety resource

While living and working in the Pacific Northwest portion of the United States I met a puma face-to-face for the first time. In this part of the world puma is another name for mountain lion, or cougar, or panther – all describing this large wild American predatory cat. I was at a roasting for a long time supervisor, Herman, who had finally reached retirement age. As he took part in the lighthearted fun one of his associates asked about his wife’s nickname, “The Puma.” Why was she called this, and what was her real name, anyway?  Herman brought his wife on stage and introduced her as Dorothy and then explained how she became The Puma. Early in his career each work day ended at a local bar where the production leadership discussed the day’s events over adult beverages. One evening Dorothy brought in his three young children, cleared away seats next to him at the bar, sat his kids down next to him and then loudly said something like, “Children this is your father and this is the only way you will ever get to know him!” She spun and walked out of the bar leaving him embarrassed with his three youngsters. She thus got the handle The Puma and quickly got the father back home with his children as well. 
Recently one of our customers related a similar story that brought home the often overlooked power of a spouse. In this case an employee broke an important safety rule and experienced a close call that could just as easily have become a serious injury or fatality. As the organization’s leadership reviewed the event with this man, he was informed that his serious infraction could very easily be turned into a discharge. However, instead he would be allowed to continue work if he took a half day off with pay to think over the situation and during this time at home review the event with his wife.The next day he would report back to the manager and discuss what transpired. 
The report out revealed the worker’s wife became extremely upset not only at the possibility of a severe injury, but also the fact that one of the reasons this man had joined the organization was because of their excellent safety reputation. “So why would you take this chance when you knew better for all kinds of reasons?”  It had an indelible impact on him that changed his path and, as he voluntarily shared this with his work group, their future safety culture as well. I know of organizations that mail appropriate safety materials to employees’ homes, addressed to their spouses. This is because there is a noticeable impact on the employee and their families as a result of engaging the spouse in the importance of a 24/7 safety culture. Is there a way you can engage your organization’s spouse-Pumas and thereby improve your safety culture?
The Doc

Piñata – Prioritizing your safety efforts

Recent travels took me to areas around Mexico.  While there I enjoyed watching the children at a birthday party being blindfolded and trying to hit a piñata with a stick and thus get all the candies and small toys to shower down on them.  It was a fun time that also brought back memories from my youth and the sound advice my papa used to give me.  In this case I can still hear him say, “Son, never hit a piñata that has hornets flying out of it.” 
How does this apply to safety?  I have yet to work with a group that did not face difficult issues.  Which ones do they decide to work on with the scarce resources at hand?  Normally the groups start with a risk assessment which in turn sets up a loose listing of priorities.  Yet there are seldom enough resources to tackle them all.  So now what?  My opinion is that you must work on the fatal risk issues first, but which one of the many do we tackle now, and then how do we prioritize the many lesser risks which follow?  Here is where I apply my father’s wisdom and begin with the ones we know we can solve.  In so doing we steer away from the hornet nests until we have the experience, knowledge and trained resources which can successfully take on and overcome the more difficult, resource crippling risks that must someday be resolved.  Build a successful team that can enter into the fray and make a win for everyone without being severely stung in the process.

The Doc