for Center for Behavioral Safety LLC
This quarter, Dr. Boyce is out working with clients just like you and has asked me to serve as guest-author for his column. He sends his best regards to all who have supported his behavioral science-driven processes throughout the years and encourages others to give them a try.
Safety is not a product, a service, or even a well written article. Safety is a behavior interacting with its environment. As production increases, so do potential near misses. Moreover, even accidents, when analyzed properly, often reveal both system and operator factors contributed to the event.
Rarely is a computer program blamed on itself. Never has a computer program chosen to take 100% responsibility for its own behavior and reprogrammed itself to change its course of action. Before we hear any objections to that statement from Elon, Bill or even Woz, let us clarify by saying that an operator created that system, put it into place and ultimately is responsible for maintaining that system. If the software program changed its “mind” and charted another course, it was only because it was designed to do that by its operator.
At the Center for Behavioral Safety, our principal, Thomas E. (Ted) Boyce, Ph.D., instructs workers, their supervisors, managers, and even CEOs on how to apply psychological principles at work to better understand human behavior and gain an advantage in leadership, communication, and yes, even safety practices. This can be done either online or in a classroom.
Classroom-based learning can be performed as a lecture or combined with other types of experiential arrangements taking many different forms. We were contacted recently by a local colleague letting us know that she was now training folks using hands-on experiential training by taking small groups in sailboats out on the San Francisco Bay.
Ahoy! I love a good sail. Especially on a lazy, warm, sunny afternoon without too much fog and no smog clouding my view of nature. Sadly, I would not be a good candidate to take her training if the safest times to be in a boat would be very early in the morning, during a foggy chill and for a short period of time. One must always be alert, and no lollygagging on duty.
Lauren, I know, has been around the block a few times with environmental services and working with ports and transportation. I know she would not let me captain up for a three-hour unsupervised tour. I would have to delegate much to make sure I had enough time to take in the sights and sit for a spell with an ice-cold cola contemplating life. We all know the rocking motion of the boat on the water makes for sweet dreams.
What is it about the sun and the fresh air that makes being outside for long periods of time so dangerous? Don’t drive with the top down in your convertible from Santa Rosa to Palo Alto. Why not? Towards the end of this journey when we cleared Daly City and continued meandering on 280 South, even the sights of the Flintstone house and the Crystal Springs reservoir are not enough to keep one from dozing. Your body is telling you that it’s had enough of the environment and needs a break.
You’ll never catch me working on top of the Sales Force Tower for the same reason I’ll never go parasailing. I do not have the risk-prone gene. I do not get thrills from doing those things. Nevertheless, it’s good to get outside. We know that sitting in an office for eight hours is bad for our health; that’s an obvious one. We also know from traffic school that second left is more dangerous than far left, but to be the safest, according to statistics, you should drive in the first left of the far right.
Here is a fact that is not so obvious: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 84% of U.S. employers are now doing in-house training. We do not have data on the sources of training each company chooses from or the type (face-to-face, online, field, etc.). We do know that the availability of online courses and even those you can create yourself are staggering in number, as they can be inexpensive and sometimes free.
While your HR team scratches their heads comparing benefits from over 20 different online training platforms or are still searching for an in-house director of learning, consider making sure that your training system is meant to develop and not just to inform.
No one should eat pizza for dinner for three nights straight (although Dr. Boyce has tried and succeeded at that a few times). Your health is a factor in your safety. Nor should all your training be only online or only face-to-face, although that may seem convenient. Research has suggested that multiple modalities of training are best for increasing retention and even behavior change.
Let’s get out and explore. If your vendor just sold you a $50,000 piece of mechanical equipment, free training should accompany it. If they forgot to let you know about availability or are too busy to schedule the training, keep on them until it’s done.
In addition to Lauren Eisele’s Captain Morgan’s Sail Charters, we also heard about Over the Wall (training) philosophy coined by Andy Papathanassiou. For those of you who do not know who Andy is, he is the “pit crew coach”/athletic director for NASCAR’s Hendrick Motorsports. What’s more exciting than boats and fast cars? We are all about training both teams and individuals.
A couple of years ago I was speaking in front of two very enthusiastic groups in Santa Clara County. There was a woman in the second group who I would have normally said was being heckling — although she did this in a professional way. My workshop was about individuals taking responsibility for safety at work. I’ll ask you the same question I asked them: “You’re not getting paid to do so, but would you arrive 15 minutes early for work on occasion and walk around your office building to make sure all exit doors were securely closed?”
If checking common area doors was not in — or was even well out of — your job description, the common answer would be “no.” But, in that moment, to those to whom I was speaking this idea or concept struck a chord. These conference attendees were in downtown office settings which are densely populated and at risk for theft, terror or other unwanted entry hazards. Thus, if someone who is not actually responsible for doing so randomly comes to work a few minutes early and checks common area doors, that may prevent issues, and in some extreme cases, it could even save lives.
We are told to rely on security staff for security related issues. However, I have not always relied on security to manage security related concerns, as I believe doing so would put me at risk. As much as third-party or in-house specific type of staff are paid, they are not as interested in your health and safety as you are.
Let us return to this heckling (but professional) woman. She kept repeating: “We have a secure system that uses a swipe card in the elevator, so we never have to worry about who is coming and going. It’s not my responsibility to manage that system, so how can I stay safe and be assured that others are doing their job (by coding those cards properly)?”
During the workshop we were able to come up with a solution that the participant agreed to act on. Out of about 120 people that day, her comments alone kept popping back up to me hours after I had left the conference. I finally thought about a building I worked in where I helped code security swipe cards to keep “authorized” people in and “unauthorized” people out. I finally remembered talking to the security swipe card dealer once.
The conversation was so casual, it was barely a blip 20 years later. He told me that at that time, the failure rate on the swipe cards was about 13 percent. Meaning that some unauthorized folks would get in (!) That fact was known to the card company, had been made known to our management company, and likely was known by the card company’s insurance broker. A plethora of people knew, but I had not been told until more than eight months after I was working there, because access cards were not really my full-time responsibility.
That conversation had taken place before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and on the other side of the country. I can only assume that swipe card failure rate has improved since then. Since I have not been involved with high-rise security for some time, I did not remember this little-known factoid. I’ll bet that some criminals do not forget, because knowing that failure rate makes them more successful.
Bottom line: The only way to keep from falling into a state of inertia is to do things differently. Be purposeful. For example, if you don’t share articles from Mining Quarterly already, we encourage you to do so. Then, try something else out of your wheelhouse. In the end you will keep getting better about not eating pizza three nights a week.