Dysfunctional Practices: That Kill Your Safety Culture (and What to Do About Them) (Unabridged)
A man finds himself on the top step of a stepladder; a woman removes the guard to her machine; a worker is not wearing her safety glasses in the plant; a roustabout uses the wrong-sized clamp instead of retrieving the right tool from the supply truck; a supervisor teaches a new worker to take shortcuts; a mechanic climbs on top of an active machine to find the oil leak.
Why do these folks do these things? Is it because they are stupid? One tendency is to blame workers for safety errors and label their personal failings as the cause of the error. Labeling does not solve problems that cause error and, frankly, it may all be an illusion of human perception leading us to false conclusions. Our human tendencies result in interactions that hurt the safety of our workers and the effectiveness of the systems we put in place to protect them.
These tendencies build dysfunctional management practices that create fear associated with your safety programs. I want to teach you a better way to analyze the behaviors of your employees to understand why they were put in a position to take the risk in the first place. Your system may be perfectly designed to promote risks and create safety traps. By analyzing the context of behavior we can discover ways to change your system to optimize safe behavior and reduce injury. This book presents new ideas and methods using stories we can all relate to.
Human behavior is at the crux of your safety program. Physics and chemistry create hazards ready to be released when things go wrong. Human behavior happens right before that release. Therefore, we look at the behavior associated with the resulting injury and blame the person as the root cause. We label the person “stupid” and feel we have solved the problem. We haven’t. Instead, a dysfunctional practice creeps into our safety management system blinding us from finding the true root causes of at-risk behavior. If our goal is to create a safety culture in which workers are engaged with situational awareness, peer coaching, and reporting, we will fail. Our offensive labeling will create avoidance of the very engagement we desperately need from our workers.
We can’t fix people, let’s not be that pompous. But we can change behavior...we know how; there is a science behind it. Behavior is not a static variable of study. Behavior is a dynamic variable, reacting with each passing moment along predictable paths, like water in a river, but always ready and able to jump its banks and forge new paths.
We will discover that behavior is neutral, not good or bad, right or wrong. We will learn that for every safe behavior you want from your workers, there are a plethora of competing alternative behaviors that can put them at risk. This book is for managers who seek to shape their safety culture to drive out fear and engage their workforce as they drive out risk.