Companies who take pride in their safety practices could be making one fatal flaw and it’s compromising their ability to protect employees, despite their best intentions. Most leading companies (even with robust safety practices) measure against fatalities or recorded incidents causing harm in any given year. That’s just the type of lagging indicator that results in preventable damage each year. Eric Thompson, HSE advisor and longtime safety enthusiast says the key to making real progress is found in leading indicators.
Safety is about behaviour, not procedure.
Eric Thompson says that his start in safety, back in 1991, gave him a passionate interest in the niche after he saw first-hand the traumatic effects of workplace injuries on families, friends and loved ones – most of which were preventable.
Further to his anecdotal experience, Eric soon found studies that claim over 99% of workplace injuries are in fact preventable. Eric, not one to take data at face value conducted his own research of over 10,000 incident reports and he too found the same evidence; 99% of workplace injuries are preventable. Moreover, he found that in 96% of those cases, a person knowingly does not make the best choice regarding their own safety. It is thanks to this revelation that Eric changed his thinking about safety. He says that from then onwards he considered himself to be a behavioralist, not a safety person.
Move aside reactive metrics, proactive measures are coming through.
"Though many companies are becoming more proactive in their approach to safety, success is still measured in a reactive way (the frequency rate) at which incidents occur. This lagging indicator basically tells you how many people your hurt for that period.”
Eric suggests that the future of safety will be measured by leading indicators. A good leading indicator is the number of opportunities to communicate unsafe acts or conditions. To make that sort of leading indicator work, employers need to provide employees with a venue to communicate opportunities to improve. The more the employees participate in the proactive identification of unsafe opportunities, the byproduct will be less recordable incidents.
Safety begins from the top down, but when it starts to thrive, is when the program becomes owned and driven by the front-line
HSE Director, Eric Thompson
Empower the front line.
Champions and ambassadors are a critical piece to front-line adoption and the success of a safety program. A common mistake organizations make is to create, develop and implement an entire safety process without considering the input of the front line, then, “throwing it over the fence” at the employees who need to use it.
Simply telling employees they are valued is not enough. Organizations need to include employees in the creation and implementation of safety practices and then celebrate the success of the program at each step. Leading indicators often fail when employees are asked to participate in the creation of the leading indicators but never see the results of it.
Make safety personal.
Eric tells us that one of the best ways to get buy-in and help the front line see the value in your programs is to make it personal. Remind them of the loved ones who are counting on them to return home that day, remind them of the workers who never made it home. It is difficult to tell anyone what must be done without showing the true value first.
Eric Thompson has been in the safety industry since 1991. He is currently the HSE Director at Dexterra, a leading safety company in Oil & Gas. Eric feels that safety is not a job, but a value – and it’s easy to believe listening to Eric talk about his experience. He admits that he does it for himself as much as for the people he helps keep safe, he says there is no better feeling than a spouse of a friend or loved one telling you they are grateful for the work that is done and ensuring their loved ones return home in the same condition as when they left.
Telelink offers lone worker monitoring solutions, Journey Management™, and emergency response services to leading safety companies all across North America. Telelink has deep ties to the Oil & Gas industry and is recognized for its safety excellence as the only call centre in North America with an ISO 9001:2015 certification. The dedicated safety team at Telelink are ICS certified and take tremendous pride in the work they do.
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