ISHN Guest BlogSince the release of my latest book, ”Would You Watch Out For My Safety?“ in March of 2011, I have had the privilege of sharing its message with thousands of people.  During that time, I have discovered a few things I thought I would share with you today.
First, virtually everywhere you go you hear leaders imploring their employees to watch out for each other. The most common phrase I hear is we should be, “Our brother’s keeper.”  This safety comment has its roots in the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:9. when Cain asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The clear implication is we are, in fact, responsible for those around us.
Employees want to help – but don’t know how

For more than 23 years, I have heard corporate executives and safety team members encourage their employees to, “Be Your Brother’s Keeper.” There is no question they know what they mean when they say it and, likewise, their audience knows what they are being asked to do. I even believe from all the employees I have interviewed over the years they even are willing to watch out for their fellow employees. They just have never been taught how.
Why are observed hazards or behaviors ignored – or are they?

Because of this lack of knowledge or skill, over and over after an injury or incident, people report they observed the person doing something unsafe or they saw the hazard that injured them.

Even though they recognized the hazard, they did not tell their fellow employee about it. Was it because they did not want to “Be their brother's keeper?”
Once again, it is important to realize the reason people may see an unsafe hazard or behavior and not take action is not because they don’t care about others; it is because they don’t know how to take action.
Action, not knowledge, is the key! No one is safe unless someone takes action to tell them about the hazard. The challenge is people have never been taught techniques to share safety in such a way so they would feel comfortable.
Reasons people have never been taught the “How To”

There are several reasons people have never been taught how.
The first reason is people assume sharing safety with others is simple and easy. It has been assumed, “Be your brother’s keeper” is self-explanatory. After all, the concept comes from the very first book of the Old Testament. Leaders assume when someone sees someone at risk they will say something. This has been a false assumption.
A second reason is in some cases they have been taught how to point out a hazard or an unsafe behavior but the focus was on making the person being protected feel good about the intervention. No one in the field of communication has focused on making sure the person intervening feels good or comfortable.

The truth is unless people learn a technique to share safety so they are comfortable they will not take action. Several years ago, I read about this challenge in a friend's book.  Ever since, I have worked to develop techniques so people will feel comfortable when they share a safety concern.
The temptation to wait

Some leaders decide to wait until the next annual or quarterly safety kickoff meeting  to bring me in. The fallacy of that approach is in the meantime unnecessary injuries are occurring. With every injury, two people are hurt. First, the one who sustains the injury and second, the one who suffers regret because they failed to intervene and prevent the injury.
Yours in Service,
John Drebinger

For more information, call Diane Weiss at 209-745-9419; Email: regarding personal presentations, and call Sandi Gilbert at 209-747-2770; Email: regarding books and other skill development methods.