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Reducing SIFs

By Josh Williams, Ph.D. For more than 25 years, I’ve heard senior leaders speak passionately about having zero incidents. This is often done with heartfelt messages and personal commitments to make it happen. This is a good thing in many ways: It’s aspirational to strive for zero incidents. This fosters a mindset of internal control and taking charge of your own destiny, which should be reinforced by leadership. This often leads to the development of leading indicators like leader time in the field and action items completed (from worker feedback) to prevent incidents. Incidents typically drop if proper actions are taken on the front end. However,

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By Josh Williams, Ph. D. Much of the focus on improving organizational safety today focuses on influencing safety behaviors (e.g., Behavior-Based Safety) and improving organizational systems to reduce human error (e.g., Human Performance). These are both critically important to advance safety culture and prevent serious incidents and fatalities. But what about employee safety attitudes? During training sessions, I’ve often asked employees to tell me which of the following is most important with their coworkers: experience, intelligence, or attitude. Initially, I expected that most employees, especially those with more tenure, would tell me “experience.” However, employees have overwhelmingly said “attitude” regardless of their

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. For too many organizations, safety is reduced to a scoreboard of recordable rates. Life is good when rates are low. The sky is falling when rates are high. The absurdity comes in when comprehensive root cause analyses are done with recordables like bee stings and tick bites. Employees have to figure out how they could have prevented it. Managers get worried that their numbers will go up and that may put them on the radar screen with executives. What are we doing here? When everything is important, nothing is important. Leaders need to better distinguish between incidents with serious

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Safety leadership can be tricky. Conscientious leaders regularly review safety incidents but often fail to distinguish between more minor incidents and those that can kill you. The primary focus is often “on the numbers,” especially when bonuses are tied to recordable rates. This can result in smaller incidents (tick bites) being blown out of proportion and very serious incidents (falling from heights) being treated like any other incident. Here are a few things to consider. There is natural variation in incident occurrence. For instance, you may be managing safety poorly but still have reasonable outcome numbers for

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. There is a large body of evidence showing the benefits of safety culture advancement including improved: safety motivation and participation (Neal & Griffin, 2006), employee commitment (Clarke, 2006), perceptions of leadership buy-in (Brown & Holmes, 1986), and other organizational factors like job satisfaction, likelihood of staying with the job, and decreased stress (Morrow & Crum, 1988). I would like to share a few examples of client case studies showing why safety culture improvement matters. Improving safety culture is also associated with fewer workplace injuries (Barling et al., 2002; Clarke, 2006; Gillen et al., 2002; Zohar, 2000, 2002).

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. As the poet Alexander Pope famously wrote, “to error is human.” This is especially true in work environments where people have done a particular job for many years. They may get complacent. Basically, employees start to operate on autopilot despite a myriad of hazards around them, especially if they go years without getting hurt. This is compounded when a large group of employees and field leaders become desensitized to the risks around them. Unfortunately, serious injuries and fatalities often serve as the wakeup call to remain ever vigilant about safety on the job.   The 2-minute rule encourages employees

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