Let's Get Rational
DID YOU KNOW. . .?
- More than 450,000 fatal heart attacks occur each year.
- 95% of people who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest in the workplace do not survive.
- For every minute that passes without a defibrillation shock, a person's survivability decreases by about 10%.
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DID YOU KNOW. . .?
- Your company-specific MSDSs must be "readily accessible" to your employees.
- Improper compliance with the Hazcom Standard is one of the most frequently cited violations!
Provide your employees with the ability to search, view and print your MSDSs without having to install software. For a yearly subscription fee, Corbus can host your MSDS data and provide unlimited MSDS access via the Web using NetMSDS(tm). This cost-effective solution eliminates the need for hardware/software purchase along with related licensing issues. Reduce the need for IT support at your facility and free up your server space. Get the details at www.corbussoftware.com.
RAE Systems Receives Its First Patent of 2003 for Non-Dispersive Infrared Gas Sensor Technology
The technology is deployed in the MultiRAE IR gas detector, a handheld, five-gas monitor with the capability to simultaneously read and display combustible gas levels, oxygen, and two toxic gases. It incorporates a photoionization detector (PID) for detecting toxic levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for the most complete protection in hazardous environments.
The MultiRAE IR's versatility enables it to replace a wide range of monitors, saving money on additional equipment purchases, training and maintenance costs. This instrument can be used as a personal monitor, a hand-held sniffer, or an area monitor for HAZMAT, emergency response, confined space entry, or industrial hygiene work. It can even be incorporated into RAE Systems' Wireless Data system, which allows it to be placed in a hazardous location to send real-time information back for interpretation by coordination personnel who are safely removed from the dangerous situation.
For more information about RAE Systems, please visit www.RAESystems.com
LET'S GET RATIONAL. . .
"Is anyone willing to share methods to encourage operations to accept full ownership of safety?" asked a safety pro on the University of Vermont's SAFETY list serv.
Along the same lines, a loss control rep vented to ISHN in an email: "How do you work around owners who just don't want to comply with your recommendations? They say, 'We've been doing it this way for years.' I've stopped having safety meetings because management didn't attend. . ."
Two snap shots from the trenches. . . prompt us to ask: Do you ever feel like the driver of a horse-drawn wagon, straining the reins to pull a change in direction regarding your workplace's thoughts, feelings and actions about safety?
That analogy comes from Dr. Albert Ellis's school of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). It's what REBT counselors do when trying to change self-defeating beliefs of unsettled, unhappy clients. In this edition of ISHN's e-newsletter, we look at how Dr. Ellis's psychological methods might solve safety challenges, like the ones mentioned above.
NO WARM AND FUZZIES
Developed by Dr. Albert Ellis in 1955, rational emotive behavior therapy is based on principles that should appeal to many safety and health professionals. It relies on empirical science, facts, not "warm and fuzzies." It's called a reality-based approach, a grounded and direct intervention. (We'll explain later.) And it requires those trying to bring about change - counselors or safety pros - to take an active, not passive, role.
Dr. Ellis, who will celebrate his 90th birthday this September, has authored more than 65 books and 700 articles using REBT to help people overcome destructive emotional reactions and change to more realistic, rational ways of thinking and living.
"There is virtually nothing in which I delight more," said Dr. Ellis in a posting on his Web site, "than throwing myself into a good and difficult problem."
Many safety pros would say, "Amen."
The basic problem, to Dr. Ellis's way of thinking, is that we sabotage ourselves with overly demanding, factually inaccurate, irrational beliefs. "I simply must succeed." "You should definitely treat me fairly." "I absolutely must be liked."
We have unreasonably high, rigid expectations for ourselves and our world, and get angry, depressed or anxious when they're not met.
Safety, likewise, can be sabotaged by overly demanding "commands". Think about how some employees and supervisors react to the absolute "shoulds" and "musts" of many safety rules and policies.
Note the inflexible tone of these typical slogans:
"Put safety first or you will not last."
"Safety is not just part of the job, it is the job."
"Working safely is like breathing - If you don't, you die!"
"Nearly safe is not nearly enough."
"Practice safety in all you do - everyone depends on you!"
"Safety is a frame of mind, get the picture."
REBT holds that we take sensible goals (like "I want to be happy" or "We should work safely") and transform them into unrealistic demands and commands ("I absolutely must be happy." "You absolutely must work safely.") One of the tenets of REBT is this: When we impose rigid expectations on ourselves, other people and the world - through "shoulds", "oughts", and "musts" - we experience a backlash, distress.
It's the price of being unbending, unreasonable, and unrealistic. It's being irrational.
Makes you think of OSHA over the years. Now there's a department that has imposed rigid expectations, you could say - standards filled with all sorts of "shoulds" and "musts". And look at the reaction: OSHA is probably the most distressed and despised agency in Washington.
Dr. Ellis has identified scores of what he calls irrational beliefs that set up many of us for failure - disappointment, distress, or disillusionment. But he has boiled them down to three.
1) I absolutely must perform well, do important things well, and be approved by significant others, or I'm worthless.
2) I absolutely must be treated fairly, kindly, considerately by others, or you're rotten.
3) I must not find life's conditions very hard; conditions must be absolutely as I want them, or my life is horrible.
Let's examine how these beliefs, hardened over a lifetime, can interfere with accepting ownership for safety. Here's what many people have come to believe about safety from the time they were in grade school, on up through their early jobs, and continually reinforced by peer pressure:
1) Safety can be a hassle. Lockout procedures, checking MSDSs, obtaining confined space permits, wearing uncomfortable PPE. All this can make it harder to reach quotas, get bonuses - to do what managers and supervisors often deem as "important things".
2) Safety is a turn-off. Being safety-minded is not necessarily the way to get yourself treated kindly and fairly, or to win approval. Talking up safety can get you tagged as anything from a wimp to a nazi.
3) Safety is hard. Safety, with its rules, procedures, policies and penalties, does not always make for ideal working conditions.
Thoughts like these run counter to what we believe to be most important to our being - how we perform, how we're treated, how the world treats us. No wonder people exhibit a low tolerance for safety. And these beliefs about safety certainly can be self-defeating and destructive in the workplace, leading to accidents, injuries or worse.
The goal of rational emotive behavior therapy is similar to what many of you try to do to ensure safety: Nothing less than changing the flawed bedrock beliefs of people who have spent a lifetime rehearsing, living and feeling them.
REBT counselors want clients to be more tolerant of life's frustrations, for their own long-term benefit - for their own health and happiness. "Don't be so hard on yourself. Be more accepting."
Safety pros want their "clients" (employees, supervisors, and managers) to be more tolerant of safety dos and don'ts (which can be frustrating) for their own long-term gain - for health, productivity, and profitability. "Don't dismiss safety. Be more accepting."
REBT uses a combination of three methods to bring about new, more rational, healthier beliefs. It's actually the same tried-and-true combination used by safety and health pros:
Cognitive - The objective: overcome resistance from "not knowing." So you raise awareness through training and education, and for safety pros, by using slogans, posters, newsletters, and everyday conversations. You try to talk, inform, reason people into working safe. "I work safe because it's sensible, rational."
Emotive - The objective: overcome resistance from "not willing". Tactics can include role modeling, scare tactics, and appeals to relationships and quality of life. For safety, this means management setting the example, attending meetings, wearing PPE; having injured workers tell coworkers about their accident; using motivational speakers; and using love of family and pursuing life's pleasures as emotional levers to avoid injury on the job. "I work safe because I feel like it."
Behavioral - The objective: overcome resistance due to "not able." Behaviors are shaped through observation and feedback, catching people doing rights (and wrongs), offering small rewards or penalizing procedures. "I work safely to gain, or avoid, certain consequences."
Dr. Ellis states what safety pros already know: Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors overlap, they are inter-related. Make inroads in one area and you begin to influence the others. So there's no one way. It takes an open-ended, revisable, flexible, non-rigid, multi-dimensional plan. And it takes time, energy and persistence.
DISPUTING THE NORM
Perhaps the signature technique of rational emotive behavior therapy is called "disputing." Again, it's something many safety pros can relate to. REBT counselors actively dispute their clients' overly generalized, extremely demanding irrational beliefs. Just like safety pros at times must dispute their organization's overly generalized, harmful beliefs, or cultural norms, about safety.
REBT can be confrontational. So can safety. "The job of a safety manager is to create dissonance," said former Procter & Gamble safety manager Gene Earnest some years ago.
But the idea is not to force-feed change. "A very harsh dictator style that forces safety on people does not work" in creating ownership, said one pro on the SAFETY list-serv.
No, the goal is to get people to see that it is in their own best interest to adopt healthier beliefs. Call it enlightened selfishness.
Borrowing from REBT, a hypothetical safety conversation might go like this:
"Everyone wants to stay alive, be free from pain, enjoy themselves, and provide for their family, right? Well, look at safety as a means to an end, a way of getting what you want. Yes, safety can be inconvenient, time-consuming. But tolerate the rules, accept the responsibility, make it your choice, because it will get you what your want."
For employees, getting what you want means sustaining an income and leading a healthy, satisfying life, free from pain and trauma. It means caring about coworkers and plant conditions, because they could cause you injury and pain. For supervisors, it can mean making quota, keeping the lines running, keeping the operation productive. For managers, it can mean improvements in morale, quality, production, and profits.
This personal approach makes sense to many safety pros:
"The sad fact is that people don't really care about what happens to someone else," says one. "We are what we are. The troubles of the tribe over the next hill are of no concern to us," says another. "Every person is tuned into radio station WIIFM - What's In It For Me," said a pro on the SAFETY list-serv. "You need to show the personal benefits of safety" to get ownership.
"People will usually respond the way you want them to if they see personal value in it," said another pro's posting on the list.
Dr. Ellis couldn't have said it any better.
NOTE OF CAUTION
It's no easy task, as mentioned earlier, to get inside someone's head and change beliefs nurtured for years. REBT counselors have spent years in training. One reason behavior-based safety has proven popular is that it focuses on behaviors, which are more obvious than thoughts. In BBS, you define the safe behaviors you want, observe, offer feedback, and chart progress. A straightforward process.
What do your employees believe about safety? Don't psychoanalyze beyond your means.
You can try to find out through climate or perception surveys, sensing sessions or focus groups.
Next, how do you change beliefs that imperil safety? It takes a skillful blend of knowledge, empathy, support, self-assuredness, stubborn persistence, knowing when to confront, when to relent. And in the end, you can't do it for someone else. They have to change their personal beliefs about safety, own and accept safety on their terms, for a new way of thinking about safety to be lasting. Otherwise, you'll be constantly looking over their shoulder. And what will they do when you're not around?
For more info on Dr. Ellis and rational emotive behavior therapy, you can visit the Albert Ellis Institute at www.rebt.org
Dave Johnson is the ISHN E-News editor. He can be reached at email@example.com, (610) 666-0261; fax (610) 666-1906.
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Shakespeare need not apply, but ISHN is looking for authors to publish short articles (1,000 words) in our monthly issues.
Topics include: safety success stories, close calls and personal experiences, training tips, use of software, engineering controls (machine guards, lockout-tagout), gas detection and air monitoring, confined space safety, personal protective equipment, and OSHA compliance issues.
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