Zero is more than a measurement. It is a philosophy.
Zero has become a divisive term. There are those who believe in Zero and there are those who believe that Zero cannot be sustained. Speak out loud your belief in Zero and you open yourself to attack from those who believe that Zero cannot sustain - and vice versa.
Both sides look at Zero as a result. But Zero is more than a measurement. It is a philosophy. If you truly believe in safety, you ultimately believe in Zero.
“Safety Second” doesn’t roll off the tongue as a strong corporate value. “Be almost safe” doesn’t inspire anyone to take safety seriously. But how often do you see organizations celebrating “almost safety?” Industry-average safety performance does not inspire anyone to embrace safety as a personal value. Acceptable risk is not acceptable. Companies preach Zero Harm. But do they really mean it?
Hurting someone should make companies angry. Harming an employee should create a state where everyone, from CEO to front-line employee is outraged that “we” (all of us, everyone, each team member) didn’t do our best. There can be no being proud of a safety record that hurts anyone. But instead of everyone taking it personally, there are accusations, blame and scapegoats sought. There is a greater push to determine “who” is responsible instead of “what” we could have ALL done better.
Simply put, there is no good reason to hurt someone on the job. Period. If there is no good reason, then there must be a bunch of bad reasons. The worst of which is, “we just didn’t do our best.”
Zero is most certainly possible - if for an hour then for a year. It takes a shift in philosophy though. To that end and to feed the mindset-shift, here are three ways to make safety Zero cool again:
1Zero is our natural state. It’s not natural to be injured. In fact, it’s unnatural to be hurt. Employee expectations are that they will live long and fruitful lives. Work life has been designed that way - with retirement at the end of work life and the expectation that you will enjoy your golden years. People don’t wake in the morning expecting to get hurt. That’s not a natural way of thinking. And because it’s not a natural way of thinking, there should be no expectation that you are likely to be injured today. Safety is not unnatural. It is your natural state. Zero is the natural number. Anything other than Zero is unnatural.
2Zero is how you start each day. You don’t wake up being hurt. You awake being healthy and safe, in your own bed. It is through a series of choices that you make each day that determines your likelihood of staying safe. Zero is not an end-target. Zero is the start of each day. Zero is where you begin. Protect and defend the Zero you start the day with. Zero is not a mythical target. It’s a thing you already have. You already possess what you are seeking. You should be willing to defend and protect it. You should be less willing to give it away. Zero is not a target to be achieved - it is a starting point to be protected.
3Zero is not found in the industry-average. Zero does not live in industry average TRIF or LTI rates. Sports teams who shoot for the middle of the pack average performance don’t win championships. They get eliminated in the first round of playoffs. Teams with better attitudes and higher sights go on to win championships. Teams that own an “I got this” attitude make possible what seems impossible to others. To rank in the top 1% of safety performance you have to be willing to not only do more than what others are doing, but to do what they don’t even consider is possible. You also have to think in a way that the industry average cannot even comprehend.
Zero requires a philosophical shift in order to make it the expectation rather than the exception. Zero requires an investment into both the hearts AND minds of employees. World-class safety processes and procedures appeal to the minds of employees. What inspiration can you provide that will appeal to their hearts and can-do attitudes?
You cannot ignore the attitudinal aspects of your safety program and expect to be a Zero-Harm organization. Training in safety is one thing - a very important thing. However, inspiring your people to greater heights in safety is quite another. When people don’t believe that Zero is possible, it isn’t.
Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker and author of "The Perfect Safety Meeting" and his newest #1 Amazon Health & Safety Bestseller, "Running With Scissors - 10 Reasons To Invest in Safety In Slow Times." He is an expert in how to get through to people - how to talk with them so they hear and understand. Kevin's presentation "Trust The Process - Instill A Safety Attitude To Build An Engaged Culture Of Safety" will help your organization reach the following goals: better engagement and buy-in to safety, increased teamwork, better communication, lower turnover resulting in increased profits from production. Click here for more information and to discuss your needs with Kevin.(c) Can Stock Photo