Incident Prevention Magazine

Lidia Dilley Jacobson

Four Things We Shouldn’t Say

Throughout my years of serving as a safety professional, I have seen safety grow from simply telling people to “follow the rules” to engaging people in building safety cultures. I’ve also seen employees and managers shift their thinking about safety as they engage in it for all the right reasons – so we can all go home tonight. It’s refreshing!

Yet when an accident does happen, as much as we work to prevent it, I’ve also heard some questions and statements that make me wonder if we have truly advanced safety. I admit, those questions and statements might have been “the way we said it” in the past, but they can no longer be accepted if we are to grow our safety culture. Here are four things I believe we should never say again – and explanations as to why we should avoid them.

1. “Why don’t they just follow the rules?”
I can give you at least 10 reasons why people don’t. In fact, we have had rules in place for many years, yet we still are having accidents. Maybe the safety rules are vague, misunderstood or lengthy, leading to shortcuts. What we need to ask is if the rule system we have in place is effective – do employees know what’s expected of them? If they don’t know our rules, how can we expect employees to follow them? One solution is to move to basic life-saving rules. These are the rules we need people to know and follow.

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Lidia Dilley Jacobson

Coaching the Crew Chief in Safety

Walk onto any job site and you will find that one person has been designated to be in charge. Although this person may have a different title from site to site – such as crew lead, foreman or crew chief – they are responsible for the work being done by the crew that day.

What do you think is the crew chief’s most important action in their role? In Minnesota, we are making an effort to send one clear message – that the crew chief’s most important job is to prevent injuries. It is not a new message, but it is critical that it has been clearly communicated to the crew chief at every worksite. And you can’t simply tell the chief that preventing injuries is their No. 1 priority – that person needs to be coached in safety. Just as in football, we don’t send the quarterback onto the field with their team if we have only shown them films and talked about how to play the game. In addition, the coach watches from the side of the field and guides the quarterback as to what skills they must use to do the job, to win the game. So, in this month’s Tailgate, let’s explore what it takes to coach a crew chief in safety.

An Overview
To begin, pair the crew chief with the designated coach; they should expect to spend a half-day together. The coach should be present at the start of the job, and their role is to observe the crew chief and interact with them as necessary, while staying conscious of whether or not the work at the site is being done safely.

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Lidia Dilley Jacobson

Do More Rules Make Us Safer?

Let’s begin this month’s Tailgate with a short quiz. Ask your employees these two questions:

  1. When is the last time you read the company’s safety rule book?
  2. If you had to take a test on its contents, would you pass?

It’s possible some of our employees are not as well-versed in the company’s safety rules as we would like because the rule book may be long and cover everything from office safety to working on overhead lines. Yet we base many of our safe work practices on our employees truly understanding these rules.

It’s also possible that we have fooled ourselves into thinking our employees have read the rule book, know and understand it, and believe in the written safety rules. The truth is, your company’s rule book could be causing problems when it comes to safety. How? Here are some possibilities.

Not all rules are known or followed. I’m aware of a cooperative that disciplined an employee for not adhering to a safety rule; the employee honestly stated, “I didn’t even know that was a rule.” In another instance, I asked a line superintendent about his cooperative’s grounding practice and then read him the rule from the cooperative’s rule book. He responded, “Oh, we don’t do it that way.”

The book includes rules that don’t tell you anything. One rule book I reviewed stated, “Disposal of trash and debris shall be done in an approved environmentally safe manner.” Yes, but what exactly does that mean? What is a worker supposed to do?

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