“Owning Safety” – from Flipping the Switch

If you believe in Safety and it’s an initiative in your organization, enjoy this message from Chapter Eleven of the Flipping the Switch book. Purchase it at our site.

“Owning Safety”

Sometimes a problem or situation can be owned by the wrong people. Ron Pote, an expert on safety in the workplace, told me this story:

“When I was the department manager of a large and inherently dangerous paper mill, I got a call at 5 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. Steve, one of my night-shift guys, was hurt. Within thirty minutes I met his terrified wife and three crying children at the hospital. He had a broken arm, fractured skull and numerous lacerations. He was in really bad shape, but would live.

“What happened was this: Steve had removed a metal protective screen from a large piece of equipment so he could reach in to make an adjustment. That’s when his shirtsleeve caught on a rotating shaft and pulled him in. Honestly, he could’ve been killed.

“When I heard what he had done my first thoughts were, Why would Steve do such a thing? Why would he take a chance like that and risk his own safety? I just couldn’t understand why someone would violate the company’s safety policy by removing protective guards. Steve was a model employee and should have known better. What was he thinking?

“And then it hit me: Steve and his family were now suffering because of the culture I—and others in management—had created. We had a safety program in place, but too much of it involved slapping slogans on the wall, disciplining people for violations, purchasing better equipment, or lecturing employees endlessly in meetings. Bluntly put, our problem was that Ownership for safety in the plant belonged more to managers than team members. It was clear that greater responsibility needed to be shifted to the people who would ultimately bear the consequences of an unsafe action. As managers, we would never be able to prevent accidents like Steve’s, because we could not be in all places at all times to make all the decisions. If our safety record was to further improve, individuals needed to watch out for themselves—and their teammates.

“It took about three years to change the safety culture of my department and the plant. Now we all understand that each of us must take Ownership for our personal on-the-job safety—to own our choices and actions. Every moment. No excuses.”

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2 Responses

  1. Ron, thanks for sharing this revealation! This will be a big help in communicating the vision of what we are looking for here. I still would like to talk w you about potential opportunity to further the QBQ approach here.

    I plan to share this with my lead team on Thurs.

  2. Ron, thanks for sharing this revealation! This will be a big help in communicating the vision of what we are looking for here. I still would like to talk w you about potential opportunity to further the QBQ approach here.

    I plan to share this with my lead team on Thurs.

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