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Several weeks ago, I wrote about a Culture of Challenge. This is a concept of an open organization where it is OK, or even required, to confront actions which you think could be done more safely. A corresponding attribute that is needed in a culture of challenge is Courage.

It might not seem to be a brave thing at first glance, but I have seen bravery in plant managers who are willing to fire someone for a safety violation. It's brave because it is not a popular decision. It's brave because the employee involved was trying to keep production up when he reached into the machine. It's brave because other employees who reported the action now feel at fault, and may never speak up again.

But where I've seen it done, it was absolutely the right thing to do.

Whenever I am involved in orienting employees, even when safety is not my direct accountability, I make it a point to let them know how I feel about my accountability for their safety. In short, if they don't regard their own safety adequately, then we can't afford someone to watch over them. One hundred out of one hundred times, I will go to an unemployment hearing over a perceived wrongful termination than to the funeral of an employee who I could have stopped from killing himself.

How courageous are your supervisors? Do they have the permission to be bold?

Thanks for reading, and let's be careful out there.

Tim Gardner
Safer By Choice

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Comment by Ian Clark on September 18, 2009 at 6:50pm
Thanks for that Tim, I think we are on the same page with these type of behaviours as you describe. Culture is the biggest challenge we have at the moment, and I compare it to when I was self employed where I had the drive for my own personal dreams and aspirations but when I tried to translate that drive to the employees and tried to duplicate it i found it very difficult. I hope we have more discussion about culture and would like to hear from others who may have succeeded, and hopefully they can pass on their strategies. All the best.
Comment by Tim Gardner on September 18, 2009 at 3:02pm
Ian-Thanks for your comment. In my experience, the harsh penalties are never taken without adequate warning. There are certain "Thou shalt never..." things that people know from the beginning, but there are also those behaviors which you may not see until they occur, and then through counsel and correction hope they go away.
I also beleive that peer pressure, where co-workers have the courage to challenge one another (I did an earlier post on Challenge) is the best. It means that you truly have a preventive culture.
Let's be careful out there!
Comment by Ian Clark on September 17, 2009 at 7:44am
Hi Tim, I've just joined the other day and looking over the site I have found your blog. The word courage came up which also goes with other 'c' words being consistency, commitment, care and the list goes on. I am a Health and safety representitive in australia and I don't know the comparisons or title of an elected representitive in the US, but the courage should also come from within the workforce, and to be able to speak up against peer pressure.
I understand that what you may be talking about is the expected safety behaviours from employees, but isn't the message lost under those circumstances where a mistake is treated with harsh penalties rather than learning from those mistakes. Serial abusers should be ejected obviously, but I hope I understand the meaning of what you are trying to say.

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