10 safety cardinal rules for line managers

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Mike Goddu, Partner & Co-Founder, JMJ Associates
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Many organizations have rolled out versions of “Cardinal Rules”, “Safety Commandments”, “Life-Saving Rules” – for workers. What about managers? To what unequivocal standards do we hold ourselves? What can our workers count on us for, really?

Here are 10 life-saving rules for you and your site to consider:

1) Spend at least as much time on safety as you spend on cost and schedule. Of that time, allocate 80% to Safety Leadership and 20% to Safety Management.

2) Learn your business back-to-front; bottom-to-top.

  • Understand the straightforward and complex hazards entailed in maintenance, construction and operations, including toxic chemicals and gases, heat, pressure, unintended consequences of change, history of events in your and other facilities, waste streams, etc. Learn the HSE Hierarchy of controls, teach others to do so and actively apply them to your site and operations.
  • Understand how work really takes place, not as designed, engineered or even procedural-ized.
  • Keep the danger “close”; Safety is a declaration of readiness not an assumption based on past performance.

3) Build authentic, trusting relationships. 

  • People don’t work for companies, they work for leaders.
  • Build credibility. Ask workers how to improve things and then follow through.
  • Encourage, don’t discourage.

4) When visiting the field, do not talk about cost, schedule and productivity. Your workforce will hear “hurry up”.

5) Don’t outsource safety leadership and responsibility to contractors or suppliers. Influence your extended organization beyond contractual obligations.

6) Stop blaming people. Especially when they make a mistake or gosh forbid get hurt. People are not a problem to be fixed.

7) When someone gets hurt make sure the care is top-notch and the follow-up is personal.

  • Manage the care as if the injured person is your son or daughter, not for the benefit of your lagging safety stats.
  • Look after the people around the injured person.
  • Visit the injured person and the team regularly thereafter in a context of care.
  • Ask: ‘How did this happen?’ not ‘Who’ and not even ‘Why’. Challenge yourself and your SME’s to discover the organizational and background causes for the accident that go far beyond the behaviour of the injured person and his supervisor.
  • Justice: Stand for rectifying the harm and restoring what has been lost, not retribution. Stand for learning not blame. Zero is not possible. Perfection is not the goal, learning is.

8 ) Safety is a journey. Continuously improve operating conditions and the capabilities of the people working in them.

  • This includes welcoming bad news and being truly open to “What is So”.
  • Lead change, enroll others in doing so.

9) Actively pursue your personal Safety Leadership Journey.

  • “Take 5” yourself! Practice self-awareness, self-regulation and question your background assumptions.
  • Model the behaviour you are seeking.
  • Admit mistakes. Forgive yourself and others. Then re-commit.
  • Ask for help, especially when under pressure or unsure.
  • Discover and give voice to your vision and what inspires you. Speak it often.
  • Be committed to your company’s policy and mission, but don’t devolve them to ideology.

10) Lead your organization to higher levels of quality, productivity and reliability using safety not despite safety.

  • Challenge yourself and others to improve ROI thru safety.

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Photo: Courtesy of  JMJ Associates.