I recently heard a saying that I really like, “the dog with the bone is always in danger.”  Most all of us have a “golden dog-bone” within our organizations – whether it be sales numbers, market share, profit numbers, new product alignment, employee turnover rates, quality, productivity, and yes, safety performance indicators. But what’s your “golden dog-bone” when it comes to safety and how does it allow complacency to creep into your groups?

Some of us rely too heavily on lagging indicators and get much too comfortable with so-called good to great numbers. Leaders who lack a robust scorecard and appropriate coaching, especially with regard to leading indicators, pass down their comfort level to managers, supervisors, and the workers – not a good thing.

In contrast, mature leaders know they can’t relax and get comfortable. Astute leaders know they have to keep engaging and creating more EHS ownership within the workforce. They keep pushing to get better, continuously. Great leaders are always asking and looking for ways to improve materials, tools, and equipment, procedures, and people interfaces in order to raise the bar for safety performance. And they know that some numbers, especially lagging indicators, create a false sense of comfort that is very dangerous – a summit that may signal, it’s time to relax.

Once we feel too secure with our golden dog-bone (whatever it may be) we relax and take a nap of sorts. And when we do, bad things are bound to eventually occur. We are always in danger when “that golden dog-bone” becomes the ultimate prize or goal that we chase and embrace.

So what’s your golden dog-bone in safety?  Is it zero-recordables?  Is it a 35% reduction in TRIRs?  Is it the absence of serious injuries? 

When it comes to creating a culture of continuous improvement in safety, we all have “a golden dog-bone” of sorts, and that bone will put us in danger - if we let it!