3 Strategies to Improve Safety Buy-in

Posted by Kevin Burns on Oct 9, 2019 11:07:00 AM

We don’t need more safety rules. We need more buy-in to safety.

It feels like safety is in a transition place – where the compliance and punitive consequential measures of the past are giving way to more of a sense of community and teamwork. Where rules-based safety programs are giving way to higher levels of engagement, awareness and participation. Where safety managers are acting more in a consultative role instead of the clipboard carrying, looking-over-shoulder types of the past. There seems to be greater acceptance by employees of the role of safety in the workplace even though that role is still in flux. But there is still resistance to safety by some employees (there is certainly no widespread and universal acceptance of safety) largely due to how safety has been positioned in the workplace.

We’ve never had better safety processes and procedures than what we have today in our workplaces. But workplace disengagement numbers are still disappointing. Only a third of our people feel actively engaged, satisfied and taking an active interest in the work they do. Two-thirds do not. Based on those numbers, which group do you think is at risk of experiencing a workplace incident more? The one-third who feel actively engaged, satisfied and take an active interest in the work they do? Or the two-thirds who don’t feel connected to their work?

If you are trying to connect people to safety before you are connecting them to their work, you are skipping a step. You cannot effectively communicate with someone who is not engaged in the conversation. But you try anyway. You hold safety meetings where, by the very numbers above, two-thirds of the group in the meetings aren’t fully engaged. No one takes notes or writes anything down in meetings or briefings. No one commits anything to paper. Essentially, you rely on their memory. Ever lost your keys or forgot someone’s name? Mm hmm. But you will remember everything from the safety briefing though, right? Forgive my sarcasm.

People who are not engaged in their work are certainly not going to be engaged in safely doing the very work they’re not engaged in, are they? So how can the engagement problem get fixed and build better buy-in to safety? Read on below and watch the video about a unique way of rallying your people around a common cause.

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Safety Is A Marketing Problem

Posted by Kevin Burns on Oct 2, 2019 11:07:00 AM

Safety is not a process problem. It's a marketing problem.

For fifty years, since the creation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, we have been trying to get our people to embrace safety through mechanical means and clumsy attempts to scare them into safety (gruesome stories, gut-wrenching videos, fear and scolding). We’ve tried punitive rules enforcement, checkbox processes and procedures, and endless streams of paperwork. We create mind-numbing, PowerPoint-laden safety meetings and still get exasperated that we can’t seem to create employee buy-in. Had any of the above been the answer, surely something would have been successful by now. But these are all mechanical means and mechanical means don't create employee buy-in.

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Safety Compliance Reduces Engagement

Posted by Kevin Burns on Sep 25, 2019 11:07:00 AM

Driving along the highway, you look down at the speedometer and confirm that you are travelling at exactly the speed limit. Suddenly, you see a police car at the side of the highway with a radar gun pointed in your direction. Despite that you just confirmed that you were travelling the speed limit, you ease up on the accelerator anyway.

You were not speeding but for a moment you doubted yourself. As a result, you suddenly overcompensated creating a higher-risk situation for the other drivers by driving under the limit on a busy road. In that moment, you were more worried about avoiding a ticket than you were confident that you were driving correctly.

A police car handing out tickets is an exercise in compliance. Driving the speed limit voluntarily is done through being engaged in your driving, leaving yourself enough time to arrive on time and by a high level of awareness in road and traffic conditions – as well as caring about your own safety and the safety of those around you. So, what has this got to do with building better engagement in the safety program? Read on and watch the video below.

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Gotta Care About Safety

Posted by Kevin Burns on Sep 18, 2019 11:07:00 AM

One of the questions I am asked most often is: how do I get my people to care more about safety? The truthful answer is that they already do. What you don’t want to hear, is that what you’ve been selling them all of this time isn’t safety.

You’ve been selling them paperwork, and rules compliance, and process and procedure. You’ve been selling them legislation, and consequence, and PowerPoint-heavy meetings and “wear your damn PPE.” You’ve been selling them officers and advisers looking over their shoulders waiting for them to mess up. And, you’ve been selling them “go home safe” as the point of the exercise. You’ve been selling them all of the things that THEY are required to do and very little of what YOU, the company, are going to give them. Now, learn how to improve the level to which employees care about safety by continuing to read and by watching the video below.

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Can Protests Improve Safety?

Posted by Kevin Burns on Sep 11, 2019 11:07:00 AM

There is a marked difference between a rally and a protest. Simply put, a rally is usually in support of something. A protest is in opposition to something. If you want to be part of showing your support in favour of something, you rally.

At a rally, generally, everyone is well behaved and orderly. There may be some chanting, but it is usually done in unison to wave the flag of support for a specific cause. You may also find that the rally is better organized - with a sound system, an agenda and speakers to address the rally.

At a protest, however, the energy is different. The chanting is louder and full of emotion. There is shouting, fist-pumping, marching and often there are confrontations. Protestors can be incredibly passionate about their cause and they want the world to know where they stand. Occasionally that emotion can spill over into over-the-top behaviour. Agree with the protest or not, a protest gets your attention.

Where a rally might last an hour or two, a protest can drag on for weeks with seemingly no reduction in energy or passion by the protesters.

How can a protest affect your safety program? Read on and watch the video below....

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Safety Won't Fix Complacency

Posted by Kevin Burns on Sep 4, 2019 10:45:00 AM

Perhaps your company was doing great from a safety performance standpoint and then suddenly, you had an incident. As a reaction, you double-down on safety process and procedure: have more meetings, enforce the rules more, have more inspections. You know, the usual suspects. Maybe even hire an outside safety speaker to turn up the volume on safety. Your immediate thinking might be that somehow the collective eye of the company was taken off safety for just a moment when it all went south. And now, you feel that you’ve got to get the focus back on safety.

Since the problem seems to be safety, the thinking goes, then the solution must be more safety. But nothing could be further from the truth. Safety isn’t the problem. Your safety protocols work. Safety procedures have been tested and passed. Rules and regulations have been discussed with employees ad nauseum. You've never had a better safety program. It works exactly the way it is supposed to.

Well then, complacency must have somehow infiltrated the safety program, you might be thinking. If you can fix the complacency, then you can fix the problems that create the incidents in safety.

That’s the traditional, linear thinking. And if only it worked that way. But, that’s not entirely where the problem exists. Besides, safety complacency isn’t fixed from the safety side. It’s fixed from the engagement side. So now you are asking how you do that from your front-line position? Read on and watch the video below.

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3 Strategies to More Safety Influence

Posted by Kevin Burns on Aug 28, 2019 12:21:49 PM

Your favorite high-school teacher and the best boss you ever had have given you all of the clues you will ever need to become more influential in leading your people in safety. But what clues did they leave you? And how will you know which of the things they did will help you be a better leader in safety?

Well, let’s start with your favorite boss. Out of all of the bosses you’ve ever had in your lifetime, what is it that makes this particular boss best? Was it particular character traits, mannerisms, the way they spoke to you, the way they approached meetings or coaching sessions? Was it the way they seemed to be focused on your success more than their own? Was it a gem of an idea or observation that you will carry with you as a real learning moment for the rest of your life? They are your favorite for a reason.

Now, think about the best teacher you ever had and compare that person to the best boss you ever had. Study your favorite teacher for the same clues as your best boss. Where are they similar? Think about how each of them talked to you, coached you, valued you and pushed you to be a little better. The way they made you the center of the conversations with them. The way they connected with you.

It will be no surprise to learn that the things your best boss did and the things your favorite teacher did were closely related. There are things that people do for us that we enjoy, and we warm up to. You have responded positively to the positive influences in your life. You remember those positive influences fondly and are probably grateful for the mark they made on you. How does that affect you in helping your people come to safety more easily? Read on and watch the video below.

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Safety Handouts Are Useless

Posted by Kevin Burns on Aug 21, 2019 2:00:03 PM

Have you ever cleaned out an old box of papers only to discover some old seminar handouts? Maybe one of those cheesy fill-in-the-blanks workbooks or a stack of Powerpoint slide printouts? You can see your own handwritten words in the blanks, but you can’t recall the session nor much of the information. Funny how the meetings or seminars you attend where you take your own notes, you recall much more of the session.

Handouts are useless. Qualify that: bad handouts are useless. Especially the fill-in-the-blank handouts. It’s paint-by-numbers for adults. You fill in the blanks as the seminar leader tells you to. You close the handout workbook at the end. You file it in a drawer or a box. The next time you see it, you’ll be cleaning out your desk at retirement.

Now, as a point of note, I do actually use one handout - but only for my one-hour keynote presentations. And I've been doing it for twenty years. The ten points in the keynote are written on one side of a single large poster-style postcard. These handouts have value even if you have never attended the session. In fact, some of my old handouts still hang in offices years later. Want to see it? Get a copy of "You Are A Safety Leader" handout here.

Now, unless your handouts can be posted in a single document the size of a book cover and can be relevant for years, then you may need to re-think your handouts.

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You Don’t Want People to Follow Safety Once

Posted by Kevin Burns on Aug 15, 2019 1:07:00 PM

Eat in your favorite restaurant and what you don’t see is all of the conditions and laws that the restaurant must comply with before they get a permit to handle food. Restaurants get regular visits from the Food Safety and Health Inspector.  

Most restaurants do a pretty good job of not only meeting the bare minimum of the Health Code but in actually surpassing it. Well, the good ones do. There are others that need much more encouragement.

In his book, Front of the House: Restaurant Manners, Misbehaviors & Secrets, author Jeff Benjamin presented a key strategy for helping his restaurants to become successful. That strategy is to get every staff member, from front-of-house, to servers, to kitchen staff, to dishwashers, to buy-in to the mission of creating an exceptional experience that makes customers want to come back often.

If any member of the staff does not buy-in, it jeopardizes the success of the restaurant. A restaurant isn’t just about food safety, or health guidelines. It’s about how they use those guidelines and protocols to deliver an exceptional experience for the customer. But you want to know how this relates to your safety program.

Read on and watch the video below...

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Buy-in Doesn't Happen on Safety Rules

Posted by Kevin Burns on Jun 26, 2019 11:07:00 AM

When rules become more important.

I read an article recently that offered this bit of wisdom: have you ever noticed that the less money you earn in your job, the more rules there are to follow? It seems that the higher up you go in an organization and the more money you earn, the fewer rules that seem to apply. A CEO appears to have to fewer rules to follow than a front-line employee.

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