in SW Environment

Safely Leading as a Way of Work……

IMG_20150903_180610We introduced Safely Leading recently and explained that its roots are in the “New View” philosophy of workplace safety.  The Safely Working Project encourages organizations to adopt the “New View” philosophy.  However, that’s much easier said than done.  If you have read our discussion on the “New View,” it could be interpreted that an organization must have an effective safety program in place.  That’s not so.  We strongly believe that there is a greater likelihood of success when a program or system is influenced and guided by a strong workplace philosophy from the start.

The “New View” is not an all or none proposition, especially for organizations just getting started with a formal approach to safety.  Safely Leading is composed of the key tenets of the New View that can be applied at the beginning and will help establish the positive workplace culture we call a Safely Working Environment.  This is a learning culture where individual employees endeavor to be Safely Working 100% of the time, free from fear and positively supported by the organization.

Here are the six tenets of our Safely Leading philosophy based on our understanding of the “New View.”

  1. People matter more than anything else – Many organizations state that employees are their greatest asset.  They do the work; they get the job done; they contribute significantly to the success of the organization.  Not only do they get the job done, they do it by problem-solving and adapting to subtle changes in conditions; they are experts and bring pride to their roles; they are attentive and respond to negative and positive cues in the workplace, both subtle and obvious. That also makes them vulnerable to those same conditions and situations.
  2. Employees don’t come to work to get hurt – Employees come to work, at a minimum, to earn a living.  There are many important reasons for that paycheck – family, friends, hobbies, sports, the important things in life.  A minor injury may impact those things very little, but as an injury or illness gets more significant so does the impact on the employee.  Even the employee who pushes boundaries doesn’t want to get hurt.  Perception of risk is different for everyone.  Getting hurt can change an employee’s lifestyle or their life.  That’s not something employees consciously do.
  3. Accidents are not a choice – To successfully complete a specific task requires the right people, the right materials, the right tools, the right conditions, the right procedures, the right maintenance, the right protection… all at the right time.  A change in any one of those can cause a change in how the task or activity is completed resulting in failure or success.  Employees working under these changing or variable conditions contributes to the risk of an accident.  Accidents are the result of many factors that are more important to understand than suggesting an employee chooses to have an accident.
  4. Preparing to fail is prevention – Learning and planning for failure represent what is required to determine how to prevent an occurrence or event.  More importantly, this learning and planning must take place before the event.  If it is addressed as a result of the event, it is already too late.  Employees can be useful in this effort as they have knowledge of conditions that managers and supervisors may not observe or be in tune with.  Leverage the knowledge and expertise of employees to establish prevention as the solution.
  5. Don’t react, count to 6, then learn – All the learning that is done by studying successes and failures helps an organization understand what conditions lead to error and failure.  If an organization focuses on those conditions the risk of failure can be reduced. While the failure may not be totally avoidable, the consequences can be managed to the extent that the failure can be viewed as a success.  In other words, the consequences of the failure did not result in injury or property damage. A plan that relies on a standard procedure for correct completion of a task cannot address variability of conditions.  Plans need to take into consideration the learning – what went right in the past and what went wrong.
  6. Learning is everything – Learning is a result of studying not just what goes wrong, but what goes right.  If learning is not an important element of an organization’s mission, the organization will not grow.  It will not discover inefficiencies and it will not increase productivity.  Learning must be present at every level of the organization.  If it isn’t, then learning will not be sustained and will falter.  Employees take cues from leaders in an organization.  If learning isn’t important to a leader, then it won’t be important to the employee.

These six tenets provide a strong core philosophy that can be easily adopted.  As with every aspect of building a safety program it is imperative that you start small and simple.  You can’t do it all at the same time.  When employees understand they are part of the solution it will become easier to continue to build and expand your safety program.

Lastly, understand that the most important benefit of Safely Leading is that it can apply to all aspects of an organization.  Actually, it must be applied organization-wide.  By its nature a philosophy cannot propagate and succeed if its used universally.  A workplace safety culture is really just a reflection of the overall culture of the organization.  Different philosophies for different employees increases the complexity in the organization.  As we have said before, complexity results in more complexity and mistakes.

Safely Leading is the philosophy that promotes Safely Working as a Value!


If you want to learn more about the New View, check out Todd Conklin’s terrific podcast.  He interviews the 1st string players in the New View world.


©2016 The Safely Working Project & P.D. Shafer III

“Safe 6” and “Safely Working” are registered trademarks of Trailmarker Ltd.

The Safely Working Project is focused wholly on employees and their health and well-being in the workplace.  The Project promotes useful guidance that does not depend on a safety professional or staff to facilitate in the workplace.

The Safely Working Project envisions a path to workplace safety that is driven by employees and supervisors.  This is fundamentally different from the traditional Safety Program where an EHS Professional manages workplace safety.  So, instead of top down safety, Safely Working endeavors to succeed from the ground up. “We’re turning safety upside down.”