ISHN 50th anniversary: Burning Questions - questions of the moment
These are the questions of the moment from safety leaders...
Can safety be an “overnight success”?
Injury rates can drop fast, sometimes for no other reason than the Hawthorne Effect. That is, pay close attention to something for a period of time and the mere presence of the observer will change behaviors. But for how long?
What’s the legacy of baby boomer professionals?
During the work span of boomers, the profession evolved from compliance cops to advisors, facilitators, in-house consultants and change agents in some cases. This is especially true in large facilities with full- time safety and health staff.
Where are tomorrow’s high profile safety leaders?
Oh they’re out there.
Despite what you hear (and it’s true) about a shortage of professionals following baby boomer retirements, thousands of young pros are working their way up the ladder. It takes longer today to attain high visibility because many companies don’t allow for the time it takes to do volunteer/ professional society work as in decades past.
The transition is ongoing, and less likely to be seen in small to mid-size companies. Boomers also raised the education bar for professionals, and with many going after both CSP and CIH credentials, gave birth to the generalist. Boomers embraced non-compliance topics like culture, engagement, leadership, the outsourcing of industrial hygiene, and behavior-based safety, and spent a small fortune on consultants.
Safety culture or safety climate: What’s the difference?
Culture and climate are too often misused. They are not interchangeable. The climate of an organization can change as quickly as the weather.
A man is killed on the job and a chill descends on the workplace. Organizational culture runs deeper and takes longer to change. It’s “the way things are done around here” – deeply embedded in the history of the company.
Is fatigue a risk factor for your people?
Seventy-six percent of the workforce is tired most weekdays, and 15 percent have fallen asleep on the job at least once per week, according to a study by the Virgin Pulse Institute. In another study, nearly two in three (66 percent) admit they’ve made mistakes at work because they were tired; about one in five admit to missing a meeting (21 percent) or a deadline (16 percent) due to tiredness; and two in five have forgotten items they need to do their job (41 percent).
Why are so many senior leaders still apathetic about safety?
Time and money. CEOs, COOs, CIOs, VPs and so on never took the time to study safety, and time pressures for their attention push safety to the back burner in favor of more financially relevant issues, of which there are plenty. That is, until something in the plant blows sky high and the exec gets that 3 a.m. phone call.
Will professionals take to social media?
Yes. As pros get more and more of their daily news and alerts from mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – replacing desktop computers – it’s inevitable. The avalanche of apps shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.
Can anyone be a true safety leader?
Depends on your definition of a leader. There are natural leaders with ambition, and people thrust into leadership positions without ambition.
Leaders influence others. An employee who models safe work practices is a leader without saying a word. “What you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying,” said the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Is cyber risk something for you to assess?
The perceived risk of cyber-attacks is so great that for the first time this year, it was categorized by 1,400 business leaders worldwide as one of the top 10 risks, among economic slowdown, increasing competition and property damage, according to the AON Global Risk Management Report. In the annual PwC, CIO, and CSO survey of more than 9,600 global executives, 41 percent of U.S. respondents had experienced one or more security incidents during the past year. And that number is rising. Respondents reported financial losses, intellectual property theft, reputational damage, fraud, and legal exposure, among other effects. With such high stakes, most would agree that information security deserves full attention at the highest levels of the company. Top five cyber risks according to Travelers Insurance: human error: lost and stolen laptops and smartphones; hackers; Trojan horse emails sent to employees that when opened let loose viruses; extortion by a rogue employee; and social and political “hacktivists” who damage brand reputations.
Is having a “safety vision” over-rated?
To articulate a vision is common in safety. The key is execution and delivering results.
Are we suffering a sitting epidemic?
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys report that 50-70 percent of people spend six or more hours sitting every day. Americans are sedentary an average of 21 hours a day and active for 3 hours a day. Daily exercise is not enough to counteract excessive sitting. If you are physically inactive, you are at “significant risk;” and if you are physically active, “you are still at high risk.” Key fat burners shut off the minute we sit. Every two hours spent just sitting reduces blood flow, raises blood sugar and drops good cholesterol levels by 20%. Excessive sitting is cited as a key risk factor in 4 of the 7 U.S. killers: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers. It is also linked to obesity and early mortality rates.
Where are safety’s hellraisers?
People who raise hell tend to be products of their time. When 20-30,000 workers were being killed on the job in the early 1900s, these books were published: Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle;” William Hand’s “The Law of the Killed and Wounded;” John Spargo’s “The Bitter Cry of the Children;” and William Hand’s “Making Steel and Killing Men.” The “Death Calendar” with shocking images of injured and killed workers was published in 1906. Not all hellraisers are angry men in the mold of Ralph Nader or unionist Tony Mazzocchi. Think of Alice Hamilton, Frances Perkins and Rachel Carson. Today safety advocates are more likely to be raising hell about work conditions overseas and in global supply chains.
Is wellness worth your time?
Wellness programs are popular among employers. An analysis by the RAND Corporation found that half of all organizations with 50 or more employees have them. Wellness programs have grown into a $6 billion industry because employers believe programs are “very” or “somewhat” effective. Researchers found that participation in PepsiCo’s wellness program lowered health care costs, but only after the third year, and all from the disease management components of the program. Wellness programs that target specific diseases that may drive employer costs might achieve savings, though perhaps only after several years. When more broadly implemented and focused on lifestyle management, as many wellness programs are, savings may not materialize, and certainly not in the short term, according to an analysis of research by The New York Times.
Will the ISO 45001 Safety and Health Management System have a big impact?
It’s scheduled to be finalized sometime in 2017. Years will follow before a critical mass of companies become certified to it. Most will be from outside the U.S. Many U.S. companies already have management systems in place. Small and medium size firms without resources will only buy into 45001 if clients require it.
Why is safety training a perennial challenge?
Most folks who complete their formal education have seen enough of the classroom. That apathy isn’t challenged by dry lectures and off the shelf videos. “Compliance training” is something like diversity training – a requirement not seen by many employees as enhancing their skills and getting them promotions. Even well-meaning, creative safety trainers with good tools can be squeezed by time constraints and a culture of “just get it done.”