What every CEO needs to know about safety

What every CEO needs to know about safety

For many CEOs, safety is their highest priority. It is a table stake for how they want their business run. They hold a genuine concern for the people under their charge. It’s personal.

So when a person is hurt, anxiety levels understandably rise. The pain and suffering of the person and the obvious weight of often, onerous legislation. CEOs look to act but are bombarded with questionable safety programs, based on dated notions of why people do what they do. It’s a tough job at the top.

But there is a better way. Armed with a few key principles, a set of good questions and a growth mindset, safety can be the jewel in the crown of every organisation.

The key principles

The first key principle involves absolute clarity of the core elements of an incident. They are; hazardous energy (something which can hurt you), a person or people and leadership. Understanding the interplay of each element is critical. The principle is “To get hurt, a person must contact hazardous energy or hazardous energy contacts a person or both”. Look at every incident based on these 3 elements.

The second principle is a bit like the advice Bill Gates gave to graduates; “Life’s not fair, get over it”. In the workplace, You can’t get rid of all the hazards so get over it. Hazard removal follows the law of diminishing returns. Apply the 80:20 rule for hazards and look at all the core elements to maximise return.

The third principle relates to how we think about the decisions we make. The reality is, people don’t make conscious decisions, most of the time. Habits dominate our behaviours. Habits come from our automatic thinking, not our logical and rational thinking. Think of most decisions made as the habitual one’s, not the best ones.

The fourth principle follows on from the third, and is about behaviour or should I say, habits. The principle is Being in the line of fire hurts. An understanding of line of fire hazards and habitually looking for them is what matters. Not being in the line of fire ensures injury will not occur.

The fifth principle applies when we are talking about teams. It is Leadership changes everything. Time and again, the history of human endeavours show leadership is the difference between success and failure. From the sporting field, the battlefield and business. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “There are no bad soldiers, just bad officers”. The same holds true for any pursuit involving a group of people. Success comes from effective leadership.

So the principles are:

  1. To get hurt a person must contact hazardous energy or hazardous energy contacts a person or both
  2. You can’t get rid of all the hazards. Get over it.
  3. Habits dominate our behaviours.
  4. Being in the line of fire hurts.
  5. Leadership changes everything

The good questions

Great CEOs know good questions are game changers. They use them to motivate and inspire. When asked with humility, they build rapport and respect. Good questions create open discussion and above all opportunities to learn for everyone.

So what are good questions? They are open questions. The type of questions you can’t answer yes or no. Open questions make you think. They create a deeper connection between two people. They often include the words, “why is that?” or “can you help me understand?”. They get to the core of what is going on. Open questions are good questions. Leaders know they are a superpower and use them all the time.

The growth mindset

As the commander-in-chief of the organisation, the CEO has all the responsibility to ensure the organisation grows. No growth means death.

With the growth mindset, the CEO knows their basic abilities are developed with dedication and hard work. This is how everyone’s abilities are developed. A good starting point is brains and talent but dedication is the fuel and hard work the process.

But what do we grow to improve safety? You guessed it, Leadership. Specifically, grow safety leadership.

Leadership changes everything. If your …….. culture is bad, look at your leadership. Your team’s ……….. performance is poor or they are not solving ……. problems, look at leadership. Place the word “safety” in the previous sentences and you know what I mean.

Develop leadership with a growth mindset. Leaders aren’t born they are grown.

So, Mr CEO….you now have the fundamentals to improve safety in your business. Key principles to frame your thinking. Questions to engage, build trust and seeking out root causes to problems. And critically, growing and developing the team’s and your leadership.

This is what every CEO needs to know about safety.

Improving safety performance through sports science

I was at my daughters first rowing team meeting at high school tonight. She was really excited about what lay ahead this year and the challenges she will face with being part of the rowing team. I must say, based on the aspiration and success of the team that has gone before, as a parent, my advice is to get your daughter into rowing! The discipline, motivation and how to overcome hard work, really stood out.

But I digress. What’s this got to do with improving safety? Well this team of year 8 girls, nearly 50 in total, had a team of 10 coaches! 1 coach per 5 girls or one per quad team and a single skull. Great to see my money being used on the kids.

They introduced each coach one by one. A mixture of semi-professionals and old girls from the school. As I said, all very impressive people. But what came next really surprised but also made me reflect. They introduced the performance coach! yes a performance coach. Their key guy who collects and analyses the data, feeds back the observations and develops individual programs for each rower to optimise performance and maximise chance of success. Wow. We need one of those at work!

That made me think. Hell yeah, we do need a performance coach at work. One who can collect and analyse individual safety performance, feed it back and develop an individual program. Hmmmm…..why don’t we have one of those and what would that look like if we did?

What information would we collect to improve safety performance. We see it in elite sports where it seems they are measuring every little thing. Looking for tiny improvements which give competitive advantage. Team players wear tracking and monitoring devices whilst on the field of play. They are analysed by the second. Often a time sync’d video is watched by the entire team, so you (and your team mates) can see your mistakes in full HD, frame by frame. This is a time tested approach and critical to improvement. Analysis, review and feedback. The breakfast of champions.

But what are we doing in safety, to improve performance? What are we measuring in terms of how we can be safer? Do we even know what to measure? Then reviewing and feedback in the workplace. Is this even possible? I can see a work force deeply suspicious of any video being taken, let alone playing it back for all to share lessons learned!

I feel we are a long way from this. We still haven’t progressed from safety is a compliance issue and any review of performance, especially if it is failure is normally met with penalty. Little wonder workforces are suspicious.

So the question in my head is how would we design a safety performance improvement plan based on the sports science/performance methods? Who would that performance coach be and what would be measured? My high school teenage daughter has one for rowing. Why don’t we?

Safety Leadership – Building daily routines

Hi everyone. Well all 3 of you. Im back. It is time to make this a daily routine. Something I can succeed at. Step by step. Day by day. Blog by blog.

I want to improve my writing. I’m in my 50’s now and my future is in sharing knowledge and ideas, not selling my effort.

I’ve read a mountain of books on how to write. I could read another mountain’s worth and have only improved my reading skills not my writing prowess. Someone once said continuing to read and research is a form of procrastination.

Everything I’ve read though says the same thing. If you write poorly and want to get better, then keeping writing until you do! Simple. Like building any skill. Daily routines.

So, I’m committing to a daily blog. Ship something everyday. I expect somedays it will be great and others not so. I do aim to deliver value in some small way everyday. Well thats my aim.

Most of what I will write is about safety, particularly Safety Leadership. I want to change the way we do safety. Connect with people who are thinking about the next generation of Safety. Create a tribe or forward thinkers and doers.

Let me leave with a question: Describe what effective safety leadership is?

Until tomorrow.

Safety Leadership – The Power of OPEN Questions

Effective leadership involves engaging with people. Great leaders connect with those that follow them and open questions play an important and pivotal role in that connection. So much so, I would venture to suggest that without the skilled use of the open question, you will be less effective as a leader.

I have deconstructed the process and created a mnemonic to help you remember the important elements of the open question. The mnemonics is OPEN and it stands for:

Observe – What is going on with you and with others?

Purpose – Your intent and what impact you want to have?

Empower – Understanding and removing the road blocks for people to be successful

Nuture – Developing leadership capability in others

The main premise you must understand is how you, as a leader, affect the other person. How do you inspire and motivate rather than just tell. Every time you interact with the people you lead, you affect them in some way. Open questions give you the power to leave them inspired and motivated.

People learn to be leaders.  The way to learn to be a extraordinary leader is to practice the leadership skills every day, look for feedback on your performance of the skills and adjust your performance to improve.  The more you practice and learn from each practice, the faster you will improve.Do this until is becomes habitual. 





Safe Habits – 5 Keystone habits

I have spent the past 2 years observing people that DONT get hurt and interestingly there seems to be a pattern. A set of actions that these people do habitually, without thinking that I believe keep them safe. I have called them keystone habits. Let me jump straight in then provide some context for each habit:

1. Plan your day/task

2. Follow procedures/rules

3. Take action

4. Know your limits and ask for help

5. Recognise when distracted and self correct.

Plan you day

Study after study show that successful people plan their day. They plan the work and work the plan. Prioritising what is important, preparing for distractions and picture what success looks like. They have a clear vision and use their time in the most effective manner possible.

Follow procedures

Those that use correct procedures or checklists, to form routines are less likely to get things wrong when under stress and pressure especially when the procedure or checklist are deliberately practiced. A pilots routine in an emergency a great example.

Take action

Knowledge is great but action makes it happen. People that can habitually see a hazard and do something about it create an environment that minimises hazards and hence opportunity to come into contact with things that can hurt you.

Know your limits and ask for help

This habit has self awareness and courage all wrapped into one. Knowing how far you can push yourself before you break and being able to ask for help before you do, to get the job done leads to successful outcomes. This is an important combination for success.

Recognise when distracted and self correct

Probably the most important and the most difficult of all the safe habits is being able to quickly identify your distracted state and self correct. People that can remain focused and pay attention to hazards have all of our abilities as human beings to avoid such hazards working for us.

Essentially, each of these habits create opportunities to think about and look for the line of hazards in a habitually way. That thinking is done by the fast part of your brain and pretty much at your disposal whenever you need it. And that is the reason why they are keystone habits. They are automatic, omnipresent and appear when we most need them.

At the end of the day, the laws of physics tell us to get injured contact needs to be made with hazards energy. Don’t contact hazardous energy, don’t get injured. The keystone habits are those fundamental actions that we as humans make to stay safe.