Author Archives: freestyle

Some thoughts about how to make you and your organisation safe(r):

  1. Safety is what we do and not a series of projects and initiatives. Be safe!health-safety
  2. Do positive things, think positive thoughts; don’t just use negative ideas. Add something that enhances safety. Don’t just do ‘Stop’, ‘Prevent’ etc.
  3. Don’t strive for zero injuries; strive for becoming a better place with better practices and a good environment. There are several reasons; one is that ‘zero’ could happen by accident, no pun intended, secondly ‘zero’ is a finite figure so once it’s achieved, what next, and thirdly it is a target, or might be seen as such. As stated before, we should be striving for a good place and good practices in a good environment.
  4. Everyone is involved in being safe, not just the leaders. And anyway see no. 8.
  5. Ensure that everyone is interested in being safe both at work and away from work. Get everyone to talk about safe practices and being safe, whether it is leaders or others. And anyway see no. 8.
  6. Do safe things, whether that means introducing something, or changing something or carrying on something. Practice being safe.
  7. If you are a leader, be safe and others will be inspired to be the same. And anyway see no. 8.
  8. When safety is concerned everyone is a leader.
  9. Commit to being safe.
  10. Trust everyone to be safe, and to perform safely. See number 7.

From an idea by Alan Quilley CRSP, Safety Results Ltd, Alberta, Canada

Is safety a priority for an organisation?

Should ‘safety’ be the first priority for an organisation?

My simple answer to the question is ‘No’! I also don’t believe that safety should always be the first item on the agenda at meetings.

If safety is the first priority, then by definition there are other aspects of work that are also vying for a place on the list of priorities. That could lead to something being so important, that “just for that project” it has to be the number one priority.  The unspoken message is that for just this one project something other than safety gets to the top of the business priority list.  I suggest this is NOT a good message!

If safety is first on the agenda as a matter of course, then there is a chance that it might, for a very specific ,’one-off’ particular reason, be placed somewhere else on the agenda at a particular meeting. Or for a really good reason, something else might be so important that it has to be first at that meeting. So safety is NOT FIRST on that occasion and might move down the list as other things have an increased priority. On other occasions it might also be the case that safety is an item on the agenda that we need to get through before the real business is done!  This then means that safety is not first on the list at that particular meeting. I suggest this is NOT a good message!

Finally if safety is the number 1 priority or first on the agenda there is an implication that there is something finite about safety.

What safety should be is part of what the company does!
What safety should be is part of everything!

safety-priorityPriorities change as the environment changes (and as the business changes); issues, goals, and tasks will change depending on other dynamic factors. Safety as a value is defined by the company’s attitudes and beliefs, which might be represented by its corporate vision. Many companies have written statements in which the company describes its safety values, attitudes and beliefs. But do these statements have real substance behind them? Do they actually mean anything? Probably yes, but it would be even better if they were deemed unnecessary.

Behaviours are aligned to a value, an attitude and a belief; thus if the organisation has safety as a value, attitude and belief, then the organisation as an entity will behave in a way that will give it the best chance of avoiding incidents and injuries. Without the need for prioritising safety!

Safety is a value, an attitude, a belief; it is not a priority. (Idea from E. Scott Geller, Ph.D. Professor, Virginia Tech)

The dripping tap – is the workplace performing well?

The tap that drips or not can tell us a lot about the workplace

The misspelt word can tell us a lot about the workplace

What do I mean by that? How can looking in the kitchen or the washroom, to see whether a tap drips or not, help you determine the quality of the work or the performance of the people in an organisation?

If you are talking to a prospective supplier or a new contractor or even to a new client, go and visit the kitchen or the washrooms. “Why?” Because you will get an idea about the whole business; the values, the priorities and the attitude towards getting it right. If a business ignores minor problems at its workplace, and the tap drips, that might indicate that some aspects of the business are not managed as well as they could or should be. And they might be the more important aspects that might be critical to the business.

It may not actually be a ‘dripping tap’. It might be a mistake in a written piece of work. So many times there are minor spelling mistakes or the ubiquitous apostrophe in the wrong place, or maybe some words that change the meaning of a document; if these or other errors occur, and they frequently do, what does it tell you about the more important parts of a business? The inference that might be drawn is that if the minor aspects are not put right then there is a chance the more important aspects are not being corrected. Does the process actually work? Is the contract right? Are the forecasts correct?

the-dripping-tapIn a hazardous industry it is essential for the safety of the people and the efficient running of the site that things are done in the right way, and the quality of the plant is maintained. Without the work being done ‘properly’ there is a chance that something will go wrong. If it goes wrong in a safety critical industry there is no guessing what the consequences could be. And that in itself is another discussion; about the actual chance of something happening.

The ‘dripping tap’ or the ‘insignificant spelling mistake’ can be indications of the quality of the work produced, the efficiency in the way the work is produced, the performance of the people and the safety at that workplace.

Correct the small problems and the bigger issues will often not materialise, or if they do, then they will regularly look after themselves!

Someone made a mistake today

safenett-point-of-view

Someone made a mistake at work today. It wasn’t too bad! It only led to one hour rework of a document that needed to be sent today to one of the smaller clients of the business. No- one was hurt, no-one was affected and once it had been discussed the person who made that mistake is unlikely to do it again. So that’s alright then!

I don’t even know what happened or what the outcome was, but if someone right now asks me whether that mistake could have been prevented, my answer will be yes! It will always be ‘yes’. And I reiterate I don’t know what happened. But the answer would be yes.

How do I know that? Because that mistake could have been prevented. From a personal point of view it’s alright then. I don’t know what the mistake was, but it could have been prevented, and if it had been it would have reduced the extra costs to the organisation. But it only cost an hour of rework so in reality it’s not worth worrying about, because there are more important things to be getting on with that will earn much more.

From a business point of view it is an indicator that the business might not be as efficient or as effective as it could be; the company will not be making as much money as it could do. Even if someone argues that the revenue is the same as it would have been, it will take longer to achieve that same figure. So what can be done about the single mistake that doesn’t appear to be critical, but might be symptomatic of greater problems?

Let’s have another look. Imagine it was a mistake that required a whole day of rework to make it good. Imagine if it was a mistake that was in a document destined for the client who generated the greatest revenue. Imagine if it was perceived by the senior management ‘to matter’! Could this more serious mistake have been prevented. Of course the answer again is yes. And which is the more important to fix? Many organisations will spend time fixing the mistake that will cost them the most and that is viewed, by the seniors, as the more important one. However it could be that if the small uninteresting mistake had been prevented, the more critical, and perceived as more important one, might never have happened.

Who should we ask about whether it was a preventable mistake, and if so then how can we make sure it doesn’t happen again? I would suggest that we ask the person who does that job the most often and the person who just made the mistake and the person who is responsible for that task. Just for starters. They will know why the mistake occurred, and just as certainly they will know how best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Now it’s up to the seniors to listen. That might be a difficult thing for them to do. It’s so much easier and far less painful to not change things; to leave things as they are once that mistake was rectified. They have been used to the usual way of doing it and, this is no surprise, are resistant to change.

Someone got hurt at work today

safenett-uk

Someone got hurt at work today. It wasn’t too bad! He’ll only be off work for a few days He could have been hurt badly, but in this case it wasn’t too serious.
So that’s alright then!

I don’t even know what happened or what the outcome was, but if someone asks me whether it could have been prevented, my answer would be yes! It would always be ‘yes’. And I reiterate I don’t know what happened. But the answer would be yes.

How do I know that? Because it could have been prevented.

One of the questions I ask people who doubt my conviction is “can you describe an incident at work that might occur, that results in an injury, that it would be impossible to prevent?”

People’s eyes light up with interest to see if they can think of the most extreme incident that might happen. They want to be the one who stuns me into silence if only because I have posed the question with so much conviction. They want me to respond to their brilliant idea with an admission of defeat. They want to look good in front of their colleagues.

The wording of the question is important. I didn’t ask if there was an incident that would or wouldn’t be prevented; unfortunately there are many of those incidents to which the answer would be ‘no it wouldn’t be prevented’. I asked whether it was impossible to have prevented it.

What I’m leading to is that it is not about it being possible or impossible. It’s about how much effort do the people who can make a difference want to put into preventing it or any other incident occurring. So long as they have done their best then whoever is responsible for the effort that has been made can hold their head up high; they might not clear their minds from the idea of ‘what else could we have done’ if someone is seriously hurt or ‘God forbid’ even killed, but they will know they did their best at the time.
Many organisations have very good numbers when it comes to injuries and accidents, but how do they achieve that when others in the same or similar industry have numbers that are not so good? Because they can! Because they have done their best to do what it takes to prevent the next accident occurring. Have you done your best to prevent that accident that hasn’t happened yet from occurring? At the start of this article someone was hurt at work today. Could you look that person’s family in the eye and say that you had done everything you could to have prevented it occurring.

By the way, it was a very slight strain on the ankle and he was only off work the next day and the weekend gave him time to recover in time for getting to work on Monday. So that’s alright then! But he couldn’t play his usual game of squash with his son, and his wife had to drive to see their friends. Remember that even the smallest injury will affect someone other than the person injured.

However it could have been more serious and he might have been off work for some months, or even worse.

I don’t think the question should be “Is it impossible to prevent the accident occurring?” I think the question that should be asked is “is it possible to do something to prevent the accident occurring?”

And then, to do that something before it occurs.

Is an office any safer than a hazardous site?

safenett-working-safely

Is working in an office environment and achieving the desired result any
different from working safely in a hazardous environment?

If you take that question in its broadest sense there can’t be a difference. Everything we do when we try to work safely can be reflected in the way we work in an office environment.

Working safely involves making no mistakes and ensuring everything we do is risk free. It doesn’t take much to take those same principles into the office where surely we try to make no mistakes and work in a risk free way.

Any differences that do exist can be identified when we try to understand what the mistakes might be, and therefore find a way to prevent them, and in identifying the risks in our particular part of the business and putting in place measures to reduce those risks.

When we discuss safety we consider the person and the dangers to that person; when we discuss the office we must consider the output of the office and the risks to the business.

If we agree they are the same then we should apply the same principles of working to both environments.

The whole discussion is about making NO mistakes at work!

Working safely and working effectively are the same thing but with different perspectives.

How many of us look at them differently? How many of us regard working in the office completely differently to working in a safety critical environment?

Because we have always done it this way!

safenett-new-ways

How many people do something at work just because ‘it’s the way we have always done it’? Because they thought it was established practice. The following paragraph is taken from a report about the trial in South Korea of the crew of the ferry which sank in April 2014 and which caused the loss of over 300 lives.

‘When he took the stand last week, the ferry captain, on trial for homicide along with three crew members, said he was just following established practice in not making safety checks before the vessel set off.’

How many people do something at work just because ‘they thought it was established practice’? ‘because it’s the way we have always done it’.

Not ever has what you do at work ‘because it’s the way we have always done it’ led to the horrific consequences in this case, but what you did
might have led to something going wrong or to something not being done that should have been done. And then further along the process something else will be affected by what you did or didn’t do.

The result might be that someone gets hurt, or that some work needs to be redone. In either case, and this might sound callous in the first of these, the consequences will be a cost to the organisation. Of course in the first case it will also be a cost to the individual and that cannot be quantified however much one tries to put a figure on to an injury. Whenever an established, but incorrect practice is carried out, there is a cost!

What should we do if there is an ‘established practice’ that is out of date, inappropriate or for whatever reason simply not the right practice?

Change the process! It’s as simple as that!

Don’t continue just ‘because we have always done it this way’.

Training with WrightWay Training Ltd

SafeNett has recently travelled twice to the Philippines to work for WrightWay Training Ltd.

The first visit was to conduct a business improvement session at the six monthly conference of an international ship owner and operator. There were 50 delegates present, including seafarers from all departments, and of all ranks. The session was part of a four day conference which for everyone also included time away from work at a Ten Pin Bowling evening.

The second visit was to facilitate the pilot WrightWay Training HELM(M) course at the client’s ‘Center for Excellence’ in Manila. Six delegates from the conference attended this course along with delegates from another crew management company with staff from the Philippines.

Both visits were considered to have been a success by the client.

17th August 2013

SafeNett has just completed the first phase of a project at the UPM Material Recycling Facility, MRF, in Shotton.  Nearly 80 of the more established SMART Solutions workforce have attended four sessions covering a range of subjects that will help to improve the safety and the efficiency of the plant.

The project will be revisited to include other workers and to continue the development of updated plant management processes.

29th May 2013

SafeNett has recently facilitated a WrightWay Training Ltd HELM(M) course at South Tyneside College.  As is usually the case this was a very successful week.  12 delegates all from the same company enjoyed a great week.  Feedback after this course was excellent.  WrightWay are hoping to extend the scope of this course into other industries.