Happy New Year! To celebrate the beginning of my 15th year contributing articles for ISHN, I’d like to offer ten prime ways to get people involved in injury-prevention efforts. Over the years, I have discussed each of these in prior ISHN contributions, but it might be useful to have this Top Ten List in one place. They could, in fact, serve as New Year’s Resolutions for the safety pros who want to achieve more employee participation in their injury-prevention campaigns.

10) Make safety personal — How do successful advertisers sell their products? They display individuals similar to their potential customers enjoying the benefits of their products. In contrast, many organizations try to motivate safety involvement with group statistics like total recordable injury rate (TRIR) or workers’ compensation costs. This takes the focus away from what people relate to — other people.

9) Teach & motivate with personal stories — A well-told, personal story activates vivid imagery. Listeners can put themselves in the position of the story-teller and feel relevant emotions. When the story is linked to a related lesson, learning is facilitated and remembered.

8) Accompany scare tactics with action plans — A personal story about an injury, pain and suffering is emotional and motivational. Listeners visualize themselves in the same predicament, and experience fear and anxiety. They are ready to take action to prevent such a tragedy in their own lives. This is the prime time to teach an injury-prevention technique.

7) Activate & support success seeking — Scare tactics and prevention strategies activate desirable behavior, but can also lead to an undesirable attitude or mindset. When the focus is on avoiding failure, one’s sense of personal control and freedom is stifled. And if the prevention efforts do not work, you can get failure acceptance, apathy, and feelings of helplessness.

The antidote: Substitute success seeking for failure avoiding. We should define our injury-prevention efforts and results in achievement terms. Get people talking about what they do for safety, and discuss outcomes in terms of milestones accomplished instead of losses avoided.

6) Motivate with positive consequences — In so many situations, attention to failure rather than success is more prevalent, and penalties are used more than rewards to manage the behaviors of children and adults. Why? Because mistakes are noticeable, and punishment seems to work.

But recognition for desirable performance is key to a success-seeking attitude. So, as trite as it sounds, become a “good finder.” Look for the good things people do and support that behavior with positive consequences. But, remember, the power is in the delivery. Sincere one-to-one words of genuine appreciation are usually more influential than financial rewards.

5) Focus on the process — In safety, the focus is typically on negative outcomes, from OSHA recordables to compensation costs. With our attention on the negative and reactive scoreboard of total recordables, it’s easy to take our eyes off the “ball” — the proactive process things we need to do daily in order to prevent workplace injuries.

For over a decade, my Safety Performance Solutions partners and I have been teaching corporate cultures a DO IT process, with “D” for define desirable or undesirable behavior to target; “O” for observe the target behavior; “I” for intervene to improve the behavior; and “T” for test the impact of your intervention. This process defines the journey needed to come closer to the ultimate destination of an injury-free workplace.

4) Use behavior-based feedback — Behavior-based feedback provides direction or motivation, or both of these, depending on its delivery. I only want to make the point that behavior-based feedback is necessary for performance improvement and competence building. Since people want to be more competent at what they believe is important, opportunities to receive feedback invite participation.

3) Set SMART goals — “Zero injuries” reflects the vision of dedicated safety pros. It is a destination, not a goal. Goals are journey tools.

SMART goals are empowering because they facilitate a process that people believe is achievable, effective, and worth the effort. This is reflected in the words represented by the letters of SMART: Specific, Motivational, Achievable, Relevant, and Trackable.

2) Use empowering language — For more than three decades I have been complaining about unfortunate language used by safety pros. Words like “behavior modification,” “accident investigation,” “loss control,” “compliance training,” “root cause,” and “occupant restraint” come across as failure-oriented and freedom-limiting. They set the stage for fault-finding over fact-finding.

Our language both influences and reflects our culture. Take a careful look at our safety language and make necessary adjustments. For example, substitute “incident analysis” for “accident investigation,” “contributing factors” for “root causes,” and “safety belt” for “occupant restraint.”

1) Ask the right question — Consider the effects of questions like “Who did that?” “Why was that hazard not removed earlier?” “What is the root cause of this injury?” and “Why didn’t you follow the OSHA guidelines?”

These questions project the problem beyond the person asking the question. They deflect a solution to someone else.

The perspective changes with this question, “How can I help?” It’s not “Why did that have to happen?” but rather “What can I do to help correct the mishap?” I recommend you start with the question, “What can I do?” and proceed to do whatever is within your domain of influence to focus on the positive and make your injury-prevention process more achievement-focused.