I was in the last month of fifth grade when my report card came.
There were low grades and then there were mine.
It was the year I’d stopped doing homework. My grades reflected this lack of effort. When my dad saw my dismay regarding the grades, he asked, “What did you expect?”
My father taught me that actions (or a lack of any action) have consequences.
-When we complain that our bodies are tired and don’t work like the used to, but we rarely find time to exercise…what did we expect?
-When we aren’t promoted, yet refuse to put in the effort to study, improve, or create other positive change…what did we expect?
-When EHS professionals exist to point out problems and the innumerable errors made by others, and aren’t appreciated…what did we expect?
-When life appears to fly by, but we cannot pause for a moment to reflect, appreciate, prioritize, and move ahead…what did we expect?
The fifth grader inside of me still recoils at homework, but is reminded by every sunrise that actions have consequences.
Make this sunrise count.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain
Questioning our beliefs.
(My answers below…feel free to include your responses in the comments block)
1. What do the majority of EHS professionals believe to be true?
2. Which foundational belief(s) is incorrect or needs to change based on new information?
3. What do you disagree with in EHS?
4. What have you changed you mind about in the past 5 years?
1. Most EHS professionals believe risk and injury is best reduced by engineering the environment (hierarchy of controls). Many also believe taking action is better than not taking action.
2. Taking action can create a false sense of security (e.g we feel safer) and increase overall risk (e.g. driver’s education vs. graduated licensing; while both should reduce car crashes, only one succeeds.)
3. Heinrich’s Triangle, “Safety First”, safety education that segregates basic business and economics, a focus on human error as a root cause (for starters).
4. I used to believe assigning human factors during mishap investigations, and the data analysis of those human factors, would lead to new methods and/or more useful prioritization of hazard controls. That theory has not proved as successful as I once thought.
In a wonderful book on EHS called The Richest Man in Babylon, George Classon tells a story of an aspiring EHS professional who can’t break out of the incident investigation cycle. Injury, investigation, another injury, another investigation…and so on.
If you’ve read the book (and it’s one I highly suggest), you know that Classon really writes about personal and business finances and not safety.
But the principles? Exactly the same.
In the classic book, Classon writes about a poor man and his journey to wealth. He meets a rich businessman who advises him throughout the book.
The first lesson? “Pay Ourselves First.” Take 10% of your salary and save it. Before bills and before any spending. In safety, if we spend all of our resources investigating injuries (paying bills), we won’t have enough left over to work on prevention (saving and investing).
Another lesson is on risk management. “Insurance Protects Wealth.” Risk transfer and reduction are key to both finance and sound safety and risk management programs.
The last two applicable lessons are “Invest in Ourselves” and “Track Your Wealth.” Consistent personal and professional development are THE difference between the average and extraordinary EHS professional. And finally, in EHS we track our bills (injury log), but how could we better track our wealth (prevention successes)?
Are you just paying your bills? Or are you investing for the future?
Hounds bark. All the time. Whether it’s a bloodhound searching for lost hikers or a coon hound on the trail of their favorite prey, hounds howl, bay, yip, and basically carry on.
And they don’t quit. So when the hunt is over, they are chained to the porch.
Why? Because they don’t retrieve, herd sheep or cattle, look cute on your lap, come when their name is called, or sit on command.
Most of us know people in the profession like this. They know how to bark. They’ll tell you what’s wrong. And tell her what’s wrong. They tell the manager. They point out errors to everyone. And say “no” to anyone that asks.
And then they too are “chained to the porch.”
Why? Because they don’t manage, provide solutions, lead teams, grow professionally, nor can they be trusted with wise council in meetings with senior leaders.
He was asleep. And it was my fault.
I’d regularly taught supervisor safety training for six months. No matter how I taught the 4-hour course, few people paid attention. The course material was dry, the videos were dated, and I was still nervous in front of audiences.
So when he fell asleep, I understood why.
After that class, I quit blaming the curriculum and the videos and focused on my delivery. I began to put an emphasis on engagement, asking each supervisor what their job was and relating the course to their work.
A few years later, I read “Brain Rules” by John Medina and finally understood the secret to better training. I’d thought engagement was the key, but Medina’s “10-minute rule” helped to give my training necessary structure.
The 10-minute rule states: “Emotional arousal helps the brain learn. Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion.”
Using this idea, I broke up the training into 10-minute blocks, each with a beginning story or anecdote, to grab and hold attention.
Is training more than 10-minute attention getters?
Yes, but without attention your substance is quickly lost and rarely remembered.
The Piper Alpha oil production platform was built in 1976 and destroyed in an explosion in 1988, killing 168 workers.
Sir Brian Appleton, a safety assessor at the disaster, afterwards summed up what safety professionals are called to perform:
“Safety is not an intellectual exercise to keep us in work. It is a matter of life and death. It is the sum of our contributions to safety management that determines whether the people we work with live or die.”
This quote is good for those days when budgets and politics seem overwhelming.
We hear it from our parents, mentors, and espouse it as EHS professionals.
“Learn from your mistakes.” “Failure is the way to learn.” “Find the (root) cause and prevent it.”
The problem with a focus on failure is that we subordinate success and the lessons contained within why things work.
What’s working for you now? Why is it working? What can you learn and share about what works and why?
Would you rather get advice from a success or a failure? Apple or Blackberry? Canon or Kodak? GoPro or Polaroid?
While you are succeeding, learn. So when you fail, you’ll know where (and why) it worked.
I shaved my head for the first time in 2009. A receding hairline and the 30-minute wait for a barber during a military deployment provided the inspiration.
But my hair kept growing. In fact, in some areas on my head, my hair grows nonstop. If I wasn’t satisfied with anything less than a smooth pate, I’d have to stand ready with a razor at all times, looking for the shadow of growth.
Yet it’s exactly how we handle email. Always on, always connected. Instantly ready to reply, as if there is a prize for email. All of this at the expense of what matters.
So I shave my head twice a week. And I turn on my inbox (through the Send/Receive tab in Outlook) three times a day: 0730 for urgent only and then at 1000 and 1530 for routine messages.
I tried for years to always be on, always connected. It’s crazy.
Like standing in front of a mirror waiting for hair to grow.
“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always parts of unanimity.” – Christopher Morley
As social creatures, we’re drawn to agreement and consensus. We espouse analogies about hammering nails that stick out above the others as warnings to blend in (or else). People pleasing, the inability to say no, settling for less….these behaviors pull us away from courageous acts.
It’s OK to be different. In fact, it’s likely to be the one quality that connects you with the next step in your life.
If you’re unhappy or dissatisfied with your results, change your inputs.
Give yourself the gift of changing long-held perceptions.
Maybe be silly for a moment or two.
Because average is overrated and rarely remembered.
The choice is simple but not easy.
You can choose to make this day a Monday or “the day”.
>The day when you take the first small step toward your big goal.
>The day where you begin with the most important and not the most urgent.
>The day when you choose to do what you’re proud of instead of what looks good.
>The day you start your legacy project instead of another email chain.
>The day you are present with your family instead of already at work.
>The day you write down your goals and post them to your wall.
>The day you thank the person you walk by every other day.
>The day you take that book off the shelf and open it up.
>The day when you stand in the rain and smile.
Because it’s not Monday. It’s “The Day”.
Which will you choose?