Safety First

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  • Safety Walk, Safety Talk Book CoverArticle: Safety First
  • Author: David Allan Galloway
  • Title: Safety Walk, Safety Talk
  • ISBN: 13:978-1729608722
  • Copyright 2019 David Allen Galloway
  • Continuous Mile Consulting, LLC

I was introduced to David Galloway when he was brought in as a Safety Consultant for a larger paper manufacturer, with whom I was employed.  Safety is critically important, and we (individually and collectively) took it seriously.  Having said that, my expectations were modest.  After all, how many ways can you say “be careful”?

I was blown away by Dave.  His work is very well researched and logical.  His work is based on the idea that we actually care for one another.  He refers to the safety journey as “Compliance, Commitment, Leadership”, indicating that there are multiple steps in the safety journey, and those steps build on one another.  The journey is rooted in caring and the idea of a “Just Culture” – see Chapter 4.

  • Was I blown away by Dave because he did his research?  Partly.
  • Was I blown away by Dave because he walked his talk?  Partly.
  • Was I blown away by Dave because he had a logical approach?  Partly

Mostly, I was blown away by Dave because it occurred to me that his approach could easily be adapted to how an entire company is run.  We all say safety is important, but it is nearly always a separate parallel work stream that has ‘equal importance’ to the company goals.  Dave’s methods could easily be used to develop goals and action plans for the entirety of the organization.

For example:  In Chapter 4, Dave discusses the idea of a Just Culture.  Dave’s words read “In a Just Culture, three possible behaviors may contribute to an undesirable outcome or an adverse event”:

  • Human error
  • At risk behavior
  • Recklessness

It is easy to see how this fits into a safety situation.  Dave provides specific scenarios to drive this point home.  It is less easy to see how this fits into general business.  Let’s use an example of an employee who ‘cheated’ on an expense report – potentially a reason to be fired.

Scenario Example

Employee logs miles driven to a conference.  The actual miles were 156 miles.  The expense report showed 300 miles.  When accounting figured out the problem, they brought it to leadership’s attention.

  • Responses. We all know how this plays out in many situations – leadership blows up, employee is ‘made to understand’ and is now ‘compliant’.
  • Just Culture response. In a Just Culture, the leadership response is totally different.  Leadership asks the employee about the discrepancy.  Was it an error, at risk behavior or reckless?  Here are some ways to understand the differences:

Response 1:

  • Hey boss, I am really sorry.  I looked at the expense report, and the way the excel spread sheet works, you only enter one way miles, not round trip, because the spread sheet does the math.  I am really sorry about the error.
  • Sounds like human error here.  Maybe the conversation goes on to talk about ways to error proof the excel spread sheet.

Response 2:

  • Hey boss.  Sorry about that.  I made a mistake and did not double check my numbers.  I’ll do better next time.  As the conversation continued, it became evident that the employee made very little effort to track their miles, and the record keeping was sloppy.
  • Sounds like ‘at risk behavior’ – this lack of attention to important details could really land them in hot water if it continues.  They are just asking for problems down the road

Response 3:

  • Hey boss, sorry about the error.  I’ll fix it.  As the conversation continued, it became evident that the employee knew full well how the spread sheet worked, they have used the same sheet in the past correctly.  After some further investigation of expense reports, it turns out that there were several issues that required attention.
  • This might be reckless.  They knew full well it was wrong, and did it anyway.  Furthermore, there appears to be a pattern of behavior that is troubling.

Given these scenarios – what tools does leadership have to handle the situation?  Well, it starts with caring for the individual – thus the questions to understand the motivation and the cause of the error.  If it is human behavior – leadership consoles the individual.  If it was at risk behavior, leadership coaches, and if it was reckless, leadership punishes the behavior.  The key point is that there is a response that is based on the behavior and the facts, not necessarily the specific outcome in that instance.

The takeaway is this:

  • If you want to get better at safety – read this book, and put these practices into effect
  • If you want to have a better business –  read this book, and put these practices into effect