The union steward had just recounted an incident where a supervisor asked one of his workers to step into standing water to work on corroded gauges near the coker. The work needed to be done immediately as it would delay ongoing maintenance on the fractionator to take on different stock feed.
Not many people walk around throughout their day with a risk assessment in hand. We should, however, always have an informal risk assessment tool in our mind that allows us to perform at least a cursory assessment until we can dig deeper or in a more formal way.
It wasn’t until recently that we started understanding that people with different personalities tend to naturally pay more attention to safety attributes like work environment, people, equipment, processes, etc. based on their personality tendencies.
Hearing loss isn’t the first injury that comes to mind when an arc fault occurs. The light and heat emitted by the massive electrical explosion – the arc flash – can cause life-threatening and life-altering burns to the skin, compression injuries and loss of limbs if workers are left unprotected.
Rules are so easy to make that safety offices are often accused of being a “Rule Mill” because they continuously produce their rule-of-the month. Why do we create so many rules? One particular cog in our mill that causes us to create rules is incidents. When we suffer an incident, we want to throw every tool in the arsenal to keep it from happening again.
Twenty-five years ago, as a young safety professional, I struggled to find a set of leadership practices I could call my own. In 1996, I wrote about many of the leadership practices I was already using but found more clearly established in Servant Leadership (Sarkus, 1996).
The term “Safety culture” has become like the term “engagement” in popular management writings. There is no common agreement on the term. We are left with (mis)interpretations of terms like “safety culture,” which lead to haphazard attempts at changing organizations toward improvement.
With more experience traveling the real world seeing safety programs in action (or inaction) I realized that words matter. They not only communicate, but they can shape the very approach you take to your safety programming. They can get you stuck or they can liberate your safety culture.