Subscribe
Chris Seifert
By
November 30, 2016

ARTICLE: Stopping Unsafe Acts Shouldn’t be a “Right”

Have you told your employees that they have the “right” or the “authority” to stop work when they see something unsafe? 

Screenshot 2016-11-30 21.28.05.png

Have you told employees that they shouldn’t fear reprisal if they report unsafe conditions or acts?  If so, you need to rethink what you’ve told them.  You may not be sending the right message.

In the past I’ve written about the need to treat safety as an “expectation” rather than a “goal” or “priority”, and the implications that change in mindset has for how we lead, communicate, and incentivize our teams.  In summary, if we truly want to create a workplace free from injuries and incidents, we need to stop telling our teams that it is our goal that they don’t get injured.  Instead, we need to tell them that it is our “expectation” that they don’t get hurt.

Similarly, leaders should take a close look at how they talk about an employee’s “right” to stop or report an unsafe act.  When we tell employees they have the “right” to stop work, we are telling them that if they see something they don’t think is safe, it’s “ok” for them to stop work.  The implication is that they won’t get in trouble if they stop work. 

But what if they see something they think might be unsafe and choose not to report it?  When we tell people they have the “right” to stop something unsafe, we aren’t telling them that they have an “obligation” to report something unsafe.  But isn’t that what we should be telling them?  Shouldn’t we be telling them that if they have any information that they even think might indicate something is unsafe they have an obligation to say something?

Screenshot 2016-11-30 21.44.10.png

This subtle difference in organizational culture and language is one of the factors that enables high-reliability organizations (HROs) to achieve extraordinary levels of safety and reliability despite operating in complex, high-risk environments.  In HROs, employees are expected to demonstrate a questioning attitude and to back each other upThey have an obligation to report things that may be unsafe.  They don’t fear reprisal for reporting unsafe actions.  Rather, they fear that if they don’t report something unsafe they will be held accountable.

Creating this kind of culture requires very nuanced changes in leadership behavior.  Allow me to illustrate with an example from my time serving as an officer aboard a U.S. Navy submarine. 

On a fast-attack submarine the Commanding Officer’s (CO) stateroom is right next to the control room, where the Officer of the Deck (OOD) and his team navigate and drive the boat.  The CO’s stateroom is wired for sound and has numerous screens that display information from sonar, fire control, and navigation so he can monitor everything going on in control.  Very late one night we were conducting periscope operations when the OOD gave an order to the Helmsman to change course.  The CO immediately stormed out of his stateroom and asked one of the Sonar Techs if he agreed with the order the OOD had just given.  The Sonar Tech, one of the most junior sailors in the control room at the time, was astonished.  After a brief pause he replied that he did not.  The CO told him quite sternly that it was his obligation to back-up the OOD, and then he promptly returned to his stateroom. 

 It turned out that the Sonar Tech’s information panel indicated that the course the OOD ordered was heading directly towards another ship.  Now, there were several other people in the control room that were senior to the Sonar Tech that should have known this, including me (I was on the periscope) and the OOD.  The CO could have come out and stopped us and asked why we weren’t paying attention to what was going on.  But instead, he went straight to one of the most junior sailor’s and confronted him.  Why?  Because he was teaching that junior sailor that if he had information that something might be unsafe, he had an obligation to report it.  I assure you, that Sonar Tech was no longer afraid that he would get in trouble for challenging a senior officer’s order.  Instead, he was afraid he would get in trouble if he didn’t. 

Creating a culture where reporting unsafe conditions is an “obligation” rather than a “right” is critical to truly achieving a workplace free from incidents.  Using the right language to communicate that obligation results in subtle, but very powerful changes in employee perceptions and behaviors.

View Chris's Contributor Profile

BTOE_Awards_Long_Ad.png


The Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards

The Largest Leadership-Level Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Event

opex_assembly

business_assembly

Proqis Digital Virtual Conference Series

View our schedule of industry leading free to attend virtual conferences. Each a premier gathering of industry thought leaders and experts sharing key solutions to current challenges.

Download the most comprehensive OpEx Resport in the Industry

The Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards Video Presentation

Proqis Events Schedule

Proqis Digital

Welcome to BTOES Insights, the content portal for Business Transformation & Operational Excellence opinions, reports & news.
BTOES UNIVERSAL GRAPHIC - NO DATE.webp?width=1200&name=BTOES UNIVERSAL GRAPHIC - NO DATE
ACCESS 50 VIDEO PRESENTATIONS
Access all 75 Award Finalist Entires
RESEARCH REPORT 2021/2022
BTOES AWARD - NO DATE
BTOES UNIVERSAL GRAPHIC - NO DATE
Subscribe to Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Insights Now
btoes19.png
png
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics-2
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics (2)-1
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics (1)-1
png

Featured Content

  • Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Technology & Communications: IBM
  • Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Oil & Gas, Power & Utilities: Black & Veatch
  • Best Achievement in Cultural Transformation to deliver a high performing Operational Excellence culture: NextEra Energy
   
Operational Excellence Frameworks and Learning Resources, Customer Experience, Digital Transformation and more introductions
  • Intelligent BPM Systems: Impact & Opportunity
  • Surviving_the_IT_Talent_deficit.png
  • Six Sigma's Best Kept Secret: Motorola & The Malcolm Baldrige Awards
  • The Value-Switch for Digitalization Initiatives: Business Process Management
  • Process of Process Management: Strategy Execution in a Digital World

Popular Tags

Speaker Presentation Operational Excellence Business Transformation Business Improvement Insights Article Continuous Improvement Process Management Business Excellence process excellence Process Optimization Process Improvement Award Finalist Case Study Digital Transformation Leadership Change Management Lean Enterprise Excellence Premium Organizational Excellence Lean Enterprise Lean Six Sigma Execution Excellence Capability Excellence Enterprise Architecture New Technologies Changing & Improving Company Culture Agile end-to-end Business Transformation Execution & Sustaining OpEx Projects Culture Transformation Leadership Understanding & Buy-In Lack of/Need for Resources Adapting to Business Trends Changing Customer Demands Failure to Innovate Integrating CI Methodologies Lack of/Need for Skilled Workers Lack of/Need for Support from Employees Maintaining key Priorities Relationships Between Departments BTOES18 RPA & Intelligent Automation Live Process Mining BTOES From Home Financial Services Cultural Transformation Customer Experience Excellence Process Automation Technology Healthcare iBPM Healthcare and Medical Devices Webinar Culture Customer Experience Innovation BTOES Video Presentations Exclusive BTOES HEALTH Strategy Execution Business Challenges Digital Process Automation Report Industry Digital Workplace Transformation Manufacturing Supply Chain Planning Robotic Process Automation (RPA) BPM Automation IT Infrastructure & Cloud Strategies Artificial Intelligence Business Process Management innovation execution AI Lean Manufacturing Oil & Gas Robotic Process Automation IT value creation Agility Business Speaker Article Systems Engineering RPAs Insurance Process Design Digital Speaker's Interview data management Intelligent Automation digital operations Six Sigma Awards thought leaders BTOES Presentation Slides Transformation Cloud Machine Learning Data Analytics Digital Transformation Workplace Banking and Capital Markets Data Finance Professional Services Education IT Infrastructure IT Infrastructure & Cloud Strategies Live Blockchain Interview Solving Cash Flow with AI BTOES White Paper investment banking Analytics Insight BTOES19 Consumer Products & Retail Enterprise Agile Planning Government Operational Excellence Model Project Management Algorithm Automotive and Transportation Banking Business Environment Digital Bank Enterprise architecture as an enabler Hybrid Work Model Primary Measure of succes Relationship Management Sales business expansion revenue growth Adobe Sign Agile Transformation CoE Delivery solution E-Signatures Electricity Global Technology HealthcareTechnologies Innovation in Healthcare Reduce your RPA TCO Transportation Accounts Receivable (AR) Big Data Technology CORE Cloud Technology Cognitive learning Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) Logistics Services Operational Excellence Example Risk Management business process automation transformation journey Covid-19 Data Entry Digital Experience Digital Network Digital Network Assistant (DNA) Digitization Drinks Effective Change Leaders HR Internet Media NPS Net Promoter Score Program Management Portal (PgMP) Sustainability TechXLive The Document is Dead The New Era of Automation Automated Money Movement Banking & Financial Services Biopharmaceutical Blue Room Effect Building Your Future Workforce in Insurance Business Process Governance Capital Market Creative Passion Digital Transformation Workplace Live Digital Workforce Digitalization ERP Transformation Finance Global Operations (FGO) Financial Services Software Frameworks Hoshin Planning Human Capital Lean Culture Natural Gas Infrastructure Natural Language Processing Organizational Change Pharmaceutical Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences Project manager Supply Chain Management Sustainable Growth The Fully Automated Contact Center Transformation Initiatives Workplace Analytics eForms eSignatures 3D Thinking BEAM BFARM BTOES17 Big Data Processing Business Analytics Business Growth Centralized Performance Monitoring System Communication Creativity Digital Technologies Digital Technology Educational Psychologist Energy Management Health Insurance Health Maintenance Organizations Hospitality & Construction Human Centered Design Integrated Decision Approach Integrated Decision Making Intelligent Document Processing Kaizen Medicare Moodset for Excellence Natural Language Processing (NLP) Offering Managers Oil and Gas Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences Photographing Price and Routing Tracking (PART) Process Design Document (PDD) Product Identifier Descriptions (PIDs) Python Quote to Cash (Q2C) Resilience SAP Sales Quota Team Work Telecommunications Text Mining Visually Displayed Work Culture master text analytics virtual resource management