"To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others".
--Anthony Robbins, American Author
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, soft tissue injuries including sprains and strains, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, hernia, and tendonitis were responsible for 31.6% of lost work days in 2004. What can mangers do about these injuries and losses? Some mangers accept these injuries as a cost of doing business. Other mangers wonder if there is a magic bullet that will prevent these injuries. And then there are the managers who ask the right questions and take practical steps to reduce soft tissue pain, injury and losses.
The Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard found at 29 CFR 1910.120 was published as a Final Rule in the Federal Register on March 6, 1989 (FR 54:9294-336) and went into effect one year later on March 6, 1990. The HAZWOPER standard was incorporated into the Construction Safety Orders at 29 CFR 1926.65 on June 30, 1993. The EPA also promulgated the standard in 40 CFR 311. OSHA was required by congress through the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), Title I, to promulgate a standard for the protection of workers during hazardous waste operations, including emergency response to releases of hazardous substances. The HAZWOPER standard covers three distinct groups of workers.
Lift Truck Safety in the Distribution Environment: A Behavioral Approach to OSHA 1910.178 Lift trucks, known in common parlance as forklifts, are used in a greater variety of industrial and commercial settings than nearly any other type of industrial vehicle. Anywhere materials must be moved--in warehouses, industrial shops, construction sites, and beyond--lift trucks are a common sight. Their utility and familiarity, combined with their relatively small size and non-threatening appearance, can give operators and nearby workers alike a false sense of security. They may incorrectly feel that driving a lift truck is no more complicated than driving the family car.
Inherent safety is a term that describes a system, technology or process that, through various design features, is able to operate in such a state that various failures modes do not present a risk to people, property or environment. The concept was initially introduced by Trevor Kletz of ICI in the 1980's. He applied the term to the study of chemical accident prevention, expressing it as, "Inherently safer plants are plants which can withstand deviations from normal operating conditions without having to rely on safety systems." The term continues to be used in the context of the chemical processing industry (CPI), primarily in the context of acute events. It is a concept that has great value well beyond the CPI.
Much can be learned and gained from listening to the heartfelt and emotional stories communicated by "injured workers" who have sustained serious on-the-job injuries. I also believe the testimonials from what I call career "injury-free" workers can hold similar or greater value if we seek them out. Their stories don't reach the headline news or radio channels. However, their testimonials non-the-less are very compelling and the attributes or characteristics injury-free workers possess can be learned and if personally put into practice on a daily basis will provide a pathway to achieving a similar injury-free outcome.
We all have read, heard or listened to personal stories or testimonials from workers who at one point in their working career sustained a serious injury on the job and in turn learned how it impacted not only their work and personal life, but the lives of their families, loved ones, work mates, friends and employers. We see through their emotional stories how their devastating injuries hold lasting effects long after the injury-producing event has taken place. Some injured workers are willing to share their story and lessons learned in hopes of preventing us and others from experiencing similar consequences.
At the other end of the spectrum are those individuals who have worked their entire career injuryfree. I always wondered was it luck or something else that allowed such individuals to achieve this milestone in their life. Like injured workers, injury-free workers I felt would also have a similar compelling and powerful story to tell which all of us could learn from, but absent the tragic consequences.
Focus on Injury-Free Workers
Ten Years Worth of Conversations
A single informal discussion I had back in 1997 with a thirty-five (35) year career "injury-free" maintenance worker in a manufacturing plant left me wanting to learn more about he and others like him as to what they believe caused this desired outcome. Something we all aspire for, an injury-free career.
Over the past ten (10) years I have attempted to seek out, meet and interview workers in many different industries who have worked their career injury-free. I defined, for the scope of my informal study, an injury-free worker as one who has not had a documented injury beyond simple first aid treatment. Whenever possible injury records, discussions with management (primarily employee supervisors, Human Resources & Safety Department Staff) and co-workers along with service/safety recognition awards were used to substantiate and verify injury-free status.
I have come across injury-free workers during my many visits to manufacturing facilities, construction job sites, warehousing operations, etc. to conduct such activities as safety management system audits, perform training, attend safety meetings, conduct design safety reviews and the like. I have met injury-free workers from both within my company as well as those external to my employer. Injury-free workers have held such job titles as machine operator, maintenance mechanic, service technician, construction laborer, delivery truck driver, warehouse forklift operator to name just a few.
Corporations can no longer run, hide or ignore the path of disasters. The Swiss Re Sigma report "Number of Events 1970-2005" indicate a steady increase in the number of both "Natural Catastrophes" and "Manmade Disasters" worldwide (see Exhibit 1) since 1970. This trend of rising catastrophes and disasters is indirectly confirmed by the number of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared disasters since 1967 (see Table 1). Disaster statistics declared by FEMA by decade. The 2005 hurricane season was the busiest ever recorded with 23 named storms, 11 of which resulted in FEMAdeclared disasters.
Increase your impact while conveying your next safety message. In an entirely new presentation, you will discover the techniques that the best communicators around the world use to make their presentations effective. You will learn the secrets to increase participation in your meetings and your safety process. This session will give you the skills to motivate employees to achieve a higher level of commitment to safety.
Free Life-Saving Information
Let's face it! First, we are in one very strange business. We have information that we know will save lives and yet we have to beg people to listen or do what we teach them. It is so backwards from the rest of the world of information and education. Day after day, people spend thousands of dollars attending seminars that they believe will improve their life. These could be on making money or better investments or how to have a better marriage. On the other hand, if someone in the safety business held a seminar on how to do a job safely and charged an admission price the room would likely be empty. What is wrong here and what is the missing element?
I have had the privilege of interviewing many safety professionals and members of their audiences. Also, I have been in the audience of many a presenter. The content is rarely the problem. The information they are giving is life-changing and often, if followed, life-saving. Yet, audience member after audience member is having trouble staying awake or getting excited about what they are learning. One of the key problems is training. The safety person has been trained in safety, and many of them have come from the trades to which they are teaching safety. They know their job in the plant or in the field but now they have stepped into a new role, the role of trainer, teacher, and speaker. How much training have they received in this area? Probably not much since they were required to stand in front of a class in high school and give a report. Add to this, the fact that many people are uncomfortable in front of an audience. Everywhere I go, people perceive the problems they are having are quite often communication issues. Given this, it always amazes me that little or no time, effort, and money is invested to improve the communication skills of those in the workplace. Even if someone doesn't give presentations, improving their communication skills would improve their performance.
Although battling inertia to transform a safety culture is a difficult and daunting challenge, it's an achievable goal. The following example illustrates how an organization applied effective strategic planning -- with volunteer cross-functional committees -- to enlist the support of upper management, prioritize safety-improvement goals, and establish a change process that will help them to achieve a sustainable zero-incident workplace. Most organizations may say they value life and limb, but the brutal reality is that many find it difficult to commit necessary capital, processes, and empowered employee resources to safety. A multi-year plan to improve quality, production and delivery (customer service) is expected by most organizations. A strategic approach to achieve greater market share keeps departments headed for common goals.
What is the business management strategy in which organizations set high standards of environmental and social performance? In the early 1990s this was called social responsibility, meaning the establishment of business practices that positively impact people and the environment. More than a decade later, this is referred to as the triple bottom line: where the integration of social, environmental and economic considerations creates the healthy bottom line of a sustainable business. Today the triple bottom line has been embraced by world-class companies. Business success at these companies is evaluated based on economic, environmental and social performance indicators.