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A Breakthrough to Injury Reduction

Recently, Jerry Pounds, President, International Division, answered some questions about the current state of behavior-based safety (BBS) and a new and exciting service offered by Quality Safety Edge.

“BBS has been around for 20+ years, and it seems like we see the same issues being discussed every year. Is there anything original that has been integrated into the process? Is there any value-added concept that has been added to BBS that makes it worth reevaluating for companies that have passed on BBS in the past?”

Jerry:  “Yes, the same issues are discussed every year; that’s because even though they are fairly simple concepts to discuss, the execution is more difficult. Many companies don’t get it right. They do not engage all levels of management in visible support of BBS and safety in general; the observations are conducted improperly, and often systems and process barriers are not resolved in a timely manner.

“And yes, there are some new additions to BBS that are important inclusions. Process safety is now being addressed in a serious way, and much more energy is being devoted to the issue of serious incidents. We have adjusted our process to ensure that our BBS system, which we call Values Based Safety®, addresses these issues effectively.”

“I’ve noticed that there is more attention being paid to those topics and more and more articles are being written about them. But getting back to my first question, Is there anything new under the sun—something that represents a leap forward in injury reduction—with or without BBS?”

Jerry:  “We believe there is something new. For decades, several issues have plagued safety professionals. These issues have been addressed time and again without success. We think these issues are the gorilla in the room—the unsolved problems that have eluded the best efforts of the safety community.

“The first issue has traditionally been labeled vigilance, sometimes referred to as focus, attention, mindfulness; and other words have been used to describe the tendency for our mind to wander—even in the midst of performing a dangerous task. Sometimes, the task is not particularly dangerous, but it still provides the opportunity for a recordable injury.

“This was addressed long ago with the iconic ‘Think Safety’ signs liberally scattered around work sites—signs meant to remind us to keep our mind on our job—to avoid becoming complacent and distracted. This loss of focus seems to be a characteristic of our brains, something built-in that might be insoluble. The solution has eluded us for over 75 years.”

“So you have discovered a solution to the issue of employee distraction?” 

Jerry: “A couple of years ago, QSE added a psychologist, Dr. D. J. Moran, to our staff whose experience and expertise was in helping people become focused, intensely aware of their mental state, their thoughts, feelings, and internal distractions—and thereby able to avoid the momentary ‘zoning out’ that we all have experienced. He has worked in this field for 15 years, and evidence-based studies demonstrate that his process can eliminate injuries that are a result of inattention.

“The training process that Dr. Moran delivers has very compelling elements: First, he gradually requires the participants (senior executive, frontline supervisor, frontline employee) to become aware of their personal values; what do they really care about in life—frankly, honestly looking inward toward something they may have never scrutinized before in a meaningful way. This training, with its accompanying exercises, results in people becoming aware that safety and risk avoidance has always been part of their value system, but they have never before seen the link between their personal safety value and their company’s safety value.”

“How do you establish that link?” 

Jerry:  “For most people, they see that family, home, security, health—the keys to personal happiness—are maintained and supported by their support of work safety. They see that whether they are a senior executive who stops and talks to a frontline worker about BBS or a frontline employee who decides not to take a shortcut he or she may have taken in the past, their action is supporting their values—what they hold dear— and the company’s safety value. Dr. Moran has succeeded in providing a vehicle for aligning the individual’s personal safety value with the company’s stated safety value: a profound leap in safety management.”

“What effects should we expect after the link is established?” 

Jerry:  “Employees at all levels now behave safely—not because they are told to by their supervisor, not because ‘those are the rules,’ but because they want to be safe. Being safe supports everything they care about.”

“Are there any other benefits to Dr. Moran’s training?”

Jerry:  “There are many direct and powerful benefits to the training: one objective of the training is to increase each participant’s ‘situational awareness.’ Dr. Moran’s exercises increase each participant’s ability to focus and stay focused, to exclude distracting thoughts, feelings and ideas. As a result, the individual becomes extremely aware of their external environment—situational awareness becomes extremely heightened. Through increased internal awareness and control, each of us can focus on our immediate work environment much more closely. Hazards, potential scenarios that could lead to injury are anticipated, and risk is avoided.

“Another important component of Dr. Moran’s training is that each individual identifies the specific behaviors they need to change (start doing, stop doing, do less, do more often) to ensure they support their new commitment to personal safety and thereby support company safety. They identify a takeaway list of things they are going to do differently to bring their job behavior in alignment with safety as a company value. This takeaway list becomes a source of personal accountability and personal feedback. They have a measure of personal change that allows them to stay on track with their commitment to safety.”

“This does sound like a breakthrough into new areas of injury reduction.” 

Jerry:“The word mindfulness has been around for awhile; we know approximately what it means and we want people to be mindful, but until now we have not had a way to ensure that they had the training and skills to attain that state. 

“Dr. Moran calls his training process, ‘Commitment Based Training’ and it is offered for leaders at all levels and for frontline employees. Of course, the groups are not mixed in his training class because each has his or her own set of behaviors that influence safety at work. Dr. Moran’s training is a breakthrough that unequivocally provides a technique to address a safety problem that has never been solved before.”