One of the stories I like well in Shane Snow’s book, Smart Cuts, is about the Hospital Surgical Center applying NASCAR principles in its operating room procedure. I remember that when I read it, I had an epiphany as to why some culture change/behavior-based safety programs have failed and others had thrived. My mind shifted to a story I heard Dr. Thomas E. Boyce recount about a site he had worked with that lacked the administrative support for their BBS steering group. In fact, that subject (a lack of administrative support) can be one of the major stumbling blocks to successfully implementing any employee-led steering team process. In the story of NASCAR being applied to surgical room, the team successfully figured out the administrative aspects of the process, including where to physically place their supplies (including computers) so that their performance of work became seamless.
In the surgical room, the result of proper administration was more efficient performance and more lives saved. Such planning often requires more than one attempt and a commitment to gathering data. Many mine sites and other organizations simply do not have time nor space nor commitment. At one site, our client said they would dedicate a room and an admin to the process. That’s less common than it should be. At another client (likely because the team became “the admin”), their dedicated computer or iPad for data collection was placed in the open in a space where they transitioned from one task to another (as in the operating room story). The fact that some accidents or injuries occur when some are transitioning from one task to another has not been lost on me. This is relevant for those in offshore oil where the injury rate has reported to have been seven times higher than another American profession – not on the rig itself – but while traveling from the main land to the platform! Thus, doing something about “safety” in between one task and another is critical.
Several years after I read Smart Cuts, I found myself attending a presentation from a NASCAR guy who had innovated the performance of those who were waiting behind the wall to change the tires. Since the speaker had been a former football player, he applied the sports mindset/principles thinking to the task at hand and wound up innovating the industry by routinely helping pit crews save several seconds of time at each pit stop. While the man recounted the story, and showed a brief video, I vividly imagined the scene and saw another innovation that would likely save even more time without compromising safety.
One thing I always ask myself when I want to innovate is: Why wait for ____________________ (fill in the blank) when you can just ____________________ (fill in the blank)?
Did you do it? What came to your mind?
This process worked for me when I was managing apartments. We would always wait to do a move out inspection. By the time that happened, the tenant did not have time to make repairs but was caught in a situation where they didn’t realize they would be charged so much money for the condition of the apartment. As a result, I thought: why wait (for) to do move out inspections when you can (just) simply do a preliminary move out inspection and let a person know in advance what they will be charged if a certain repair (for example, carpet cleaning) was not done by the date of the final inspection. I created a “preliminary move out inspection sheet.” This worked well for us and those who had been living in a space for even five or more years, or who had many roommates. The result was less time for the maintenance staff to organize the maintenance and repair, and less surprising cost to the tenant.
When I shared this story with Dr. Boyce, he reminded me that preplanning work, preventive maintenance of equipment, and regular job hazard analyses are all correlated with lower injury rates in mining and other industries. He further explained that a foundation of observing behaviors is the leading indicator of the potential for injury. To quote him, “Why wait for an injury to trigger a process adjustment or safety innovation when you can simply observe what people are doing and adjust today (before the injury occurs)?” This has been his mantra for nearly 25 years now.
If you like this article, Dr. Boyce and I request that you share it with someone who works in mining and someone who works outside of mining where the injury rates are higher. Do you know what those professions are? They are forestry, agriculture and transportation. In fact, any miner in a successful culture change/behavior based safety program ought to have a “brother” or counterpart in another dangerous profession that you can share information and innovations with. Dr. Boyce reminds his audiences of a poem that starts: “I could have saved a life today, but chose to look the other way …” How would you feel if you, too, were able to save a life?
“Why wait for an injury to trigger a process adjustment or safety innovation when you can simply observe what people are doing and adjust today?” — Thomas E. Boyce, P.h.D., president and senior consultant, Center for Behavioral Safety