Performance Safety –
Real World Safety in the Real World
presented by Randy DeVaul (www.goldenplume.com
at BSN Conference, Houston – October 23-25, 2001
is Performance Safety?
to Implement Performance Safety.
Do We Go From Here?
Behavior-based Safety process has made a tremendous impact on how safety
is valued and perceived within the work environment. As the concept
developed, the process successfully adapted and acclimated to various
corporate cultures and soon there were numerous theories of HOW
behavior-based safety was implemented. The original goal appeared to be
injury reduction in the workplace by addressing individual behavior, not
simply existing conditions.
is this writer’s opinion, however, that as differing opinions emerged in
how to do that, the process became more competitive and complicated,
losing the “pure” concept of helping people make the right choices in
job performance. The perception is that behavior-based safety can only
work if following specific outlines and programs and which one is chosen
is based on what comes the closest to fitting the company culture. The
frustration level builds, however, when what is chosen does not exactly
fit and, therefore, does not produce the results expected. Company
managers become discouraged and, based on poor results, move on to yet
another type of injury reduction process. Often, this causes the
“baby” to be thrown out with the bath water.
is not to say the promoted methods do not work – if matched up exactly,
a company can have outstanding results. But what do companies do that
don’t fit exactly into this format?
Safety simply re-focuses the energy back to the fundamentals. Getting back
to the basics is enough to allow any company of any size and with any
budget to improve safety. It allows a company to take working principles
and make direct applications for its needs within its culture without
implementing detailed mechanics and steps.
are fundamental principles within all the methods that are necessary and
that do not change, regardless of HOW the process is followed, addressing
individual performance. With over five years of focusing on total
performance, not strictly employee “behavior,” these principles have
been proven to work with various management styles and different corporate
purpose of this presentation is to identify those fundamental principles
that help improve safety within any type culture and any production
What is Performance Safety?
Safety can be defined as an on-going review of processes, procedures, and
practices through observation, workplace examinations, and task analysis.
It is a total and comprehensive review of all performance areas (machine,
worker, environment) to ensure pro-active, continuous improvement in safe
production at all levels.
have always taken slight offense at suggesting to my people that the
reason an injury occurred was a direct result of their “behavior.” The
phrase “behavior-based safety” conjures up in my mind a fault-driven
process, even though it is not intended to be so. Behavior alone cannot
fully create or cause injuries. It is true that unsafe actions contribute
to more than 85% of all injuries. I suggest the number is closer to 95% or
higher. But the choice(s) made by a worker is not always a reflection of
his behavior. It includes the “behavior” of the manager and the safety
expectations of the company. We continue to hear phrases such as,
“practice what you preach” and “walk the talk” and other such
expressions. We all know lip service alone will not have much influence on
choices made by employees.
Safety includes a three-phase process: practices (employee choices in how
to perform assigned tasks); procedures (the overall established method to
perform the task); processes (the overall end result in operations and
production with equipment, end product, quality control, etc.).
me illustrate with two examples of Performance Safety in progress.
identified an unsafe “condition” in the installation of new equipment
at our site prior to start-up. We got engineering, the plant manager, a
production foreman, a production crew member, the safety professional
(that was me), and the construction foreman responsible for the
installation at the site together (crossing and involving numerous
processes). We voiced concerns and began to “brainstorm” solutions
while standing there. How would the task have to be performed
(procedures)? How would the task actually or most likely be performed by
the employee (practices)? How would the outcome of this task affect the
overall product and tasks “downline” (process)?
procedures would identify the hazard and provide a means of eliminating
the hazard. The employee would need to follow the procedures to ensure
safe performance. The procedures would have to be written in a manner that
would encourage the employee to make the right choices and protect him
from taking a “short-cut” (practices). We started the discussion with
a $15,000 engineering fix to remove the hazard. Then we identified what
would happen if that engineering solution broke – it wouldn’t hold up
within the work environment. After a few more ideas, a light bulb came on.
The hazard was corrected with a $200 part that is easily handled by one
person performing the task and provides the employee with a way to follow
the procedures without risk and without need to take a shortcut. The
procedure was developed with the newly-implemented part and the employee
was able to easily follow the procedures logically and safely, ensuring he
followed safe practices to perform the task. Had we not taken the overall
process with the key people in the process to address this issue, we would
have most likely ended up with a $15,000 fix that wouldn’t work (if the
hazard was corrected, at all).
the second example, an employee was required to enter a tunnel with a
sledge hammer to unclog material getting stuck at a transfer point on a
conveyor line. I was asked what could be done to minimize the hazards the
employee was exposed to when performing that task. Through questioning the
overall process, I found that the material was getting stuck because it
was too large for the engineered design of the transfer point. The
material was to be “crushed” to a designated size before it reached
this point. The material was too large for the transfer because the
crushing process had been “opened up” to increase the amount of
tonnage handled in a shorter time. As a result, the down-line transfer was
getting jammed. Now, I could have addressed the specific hazard, but that
would have treated the symptom, not the problem. Once the adjustment was
made back to the engineered design, the entire hazard and exposure was
eliminated. When the material was at the “right” size, it passed
through the transfer point. There was no employee exposure to noise, dust,
tunnel hazards, and no continued beating and damage to the transfer box
since the sledge was no longer needed, either. It created the optimal
performance of the entire process, thus correcting the need for a practice
in an exposed environment. Everyone understood that a change in the
process created a whole set of other problems that, on the surface, could
not be explained. The transfer point was too far down the process to
connect what seemed to me to be an obvious problem back up-line. The old
saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees” certainly fit in
Safety helps keep the big picture in view while addressing specific
issues. In the above example, it was not my job to tell an experienced
manager how to do his job. But in the process of doing my job, we were
able to identify a situation that ultimately helped the manager’s
production numbers, as well.
with knowledge of conducting accident investigations knows to ask
questions that help get to the “root cause” of the accident. In the
same way, getting to the root cause of hazards and unsafe behaviors will
allow a manager to correct the problem rather than continuing to correct a
symptom that never seems to go away.
principles presented in this paper provide a recipe or prescription to
follow to reach zero injuries and incidents. It also provides personal and
team involvement and accountability to pro-actively prevent injuries and
eliminate or reduce exposures to hazards.
Safety encourages positive recognition and feedback at all levels within
the organization to promote positive change and optimal performance.
have mentioned twice the concept of “optimal performance.” It should
be every individual’s goal to reach and maintain optimum performance
rather than maximum performance. As in my second example, maximum
performance involved getting as much tonnage through a crusher unit as
possible to reduce ton/hour costs. So, the number of tons produced through
the crusher increased. Its affect, though, slowed the finished tons
produced. When the settings were changed to fit the design of the crusher
and the down-line transfers, finished tons produced increased even though
the crusher tons went back down. The crusher was working at its engineered
design level as was the transfer point. Down time was eliminated at the
transfer point, the hazard for the employee was eliminated at the transfer
point, the total cost to produce a finished product went down, and there
was less wear and tear on the equipment. Thus, optimum performance was
employee may be capable of lifting a maximum weight of 150 pounds. But if
that weight is reduced, the employee can lift more for a longer period of
time and reduce back strain, as well. This creates optimum, not maximum,
performance for that employee. More gets accomplished with less risk.
Thus, production goes up, risk goes down, and safety is improved. Everyone
Condition and Unsafe Act Defined
an unsafe condition has always been defined as a condition that exists due
to equipment failure or equipment/machinery being altered, such as
operating with guards off. An unsafe act has been defined as an action
taken or choice made by an employee that caused an injury to occur.
Performance Safety, these definitions are not quite accurate. Equipment
that is operated without the guard is not a failure of the equipment –
it is a choice of an employee. An employee getting hurt because he failed
to use appropriate personal protective equipment can potentially involve
more than the employee simply choosing to not work in a safe manner.
Safety involves all the aspects of a person’s and company’s
performance, so defining an unsafe condition and unsafe act are based on
Condition: an individual does not have either knowledge or the
control over existing circumstances that may be unsafe, that would
otherwise suggest he would not perform the action.
Act: an action taken by an individual who has both knowledge and
control of an existing unsafe condition or action, but chooses to perform
the action or ignore the condition.
above definitions account for behaviors as well as for culture and
An employee that has not been trained properly may not know how to do the
task properly, resulting in an unsafe condition. He is not choosing to do
it with risk, so it is not an unsafe action being performed. An employee
that knows how to perform the task but circumstances take control away
would also be defined as an unsafe condition. For example, while welding,
an employee must bend at the waist to reach the work area. There is no
mechanism available to allow him to reach it from a different angle. As a
result, the employee experiences back pain while performing his duties. He
had no control over the location of the work and was unable to modify the
duty to protect his back. This would be considered an unsafe condition.
employee knows how to properly perform a task and has been trained
specifically in this task, yet he insists on modifying the procedure to
“save time.” He has full control in the decision to perform the task
and has all appropriate tools and equipment to complete the task safely.
An example of this is choosing not to wear leathers to weld and, as a
result, catches his clothing on fire. This is clearly an unsafe act. The
process is clear, the procedure is clear, the practice (behavior) is
to Implement Performance Safety
are six keys to performance safety that will take the lead in implementing
this concept at any work location. These keys are described below.
Pro-Active vs. Reactive
company’s response to safety is based on reacting to an injury or
incident and does not include pro-active preventive measures, there will
always be injuries and there will never be success. Remembering the famous
accident “pyramid,” or sometimes pictured as an iceberg, by the time
an injury occurs there are already 300 separate unsafe actions and/or
events that have occurred to set up the conditions for that injury. Only
pro-active measures that address performance at all levels at the base of
that pyramid/iceberg will begin to show marked improvements in safety.
Recognition vs. Incentive
is an on-going debate about whether incentive awards should or should not
be used in a safety program. My training addresses “quality-of-life”
issues and how an injury may adversely affect that quality for that
employee. If an employee does not want to be safe for his own quality of
life, a few bucks or a prize is not going to get his attention, either.
These can get very expensive and soon are viewed as “entitlements” by
employees. It doesn’t necessarily change behavior or improve
performance, it simply rewards the attainment of a goal that could have as
easily been attained by being lucky as doing the task right.
an employee through recognition of good performance, however, is
different. I believe this is a more productive way to promote pro-active
performance and supports an on-going review of all processes, procedures,
and practices. It shows appreciation for a job well done and allows
recognition to occur on measurable improvements rather than luck. It keeps
the focus on safe performance rather than “not getting hurt.”
can occur in a variety of ways, so a manager stays away from the
“entitlement” rut. It also encourages optimal performance in doing the
task right rather than on maximum performance that could inherently
promote shortcuts or other risk-taking.
Values vs. Priorities
your company have stated values with its mission statement? How does that
affect how business is conducted? If there are values stated, all business
conducted is within those value expectations. There is no compromise and
employee performance centered around those values are clear. Deviation
from the company’s values results in coaching or termination, depending
on the perceived impact of that action.
priority changes when circumstances change. If you have ever made a “To
Do” list for the day, only to find that you can’t get to your list
because of other things that came up, you recognize that priorities
change. If safety is a priority, then it goes away when the deadline
pressures to produce hit. A vital piece of machinery has just seized and
production grinds to a halt. An employee is supposed to lock out the
machinery before beginning work on it, but the lock-out procedure will
take longer than the 30 seconds of exposure to remove the blockage. What
do you tell the employee to do? That depends on whether the employee’s
safe performance is a value or whether the employee’s quick performance
is a priority.
must be one of those unchanging, unwaivering, uncompromised values.
Business is not conducted unless safety is part of the ingredients that
make up that business. Safety is not a piece of the pie, but one of many
balanced ingredients that actually make the pie. You can’t remove
customer service; you can’t remove product quality; you can’t remove
safety. To remove any of these or other ingredients, you create a deformed
or bad end product. You get something, but you don’t get the pie you
wanted. Without all the required ingredients in the appropriate measured
amounts, you don’t maintain a profitable business for long. Safety is
one of those ingredients.
Team Cooperation vs. Individual Aggression
cannot be in a void. An individual cannot be in a void. Safe performance
is expected by each individual and as a team. There are times when a
person, for various reasons, can be distracted from the task and do
something he might not normally do as a result of that distraction. An
injury can occur if others on the team are not helping each other to stay
focused and attentive to the task at hand. I refer to such a distraction
as a “brain fart.” Have you ever been driving on the interstate and
suddenly realize you are 20 more miles down the road than you thought you
were? Have you ever been in such a fixed routine on the job that you
didn’t remember whether you performed a specific step in the process?
Those are examples of times when you are prime for an injury, given the
everyone has a part in keeping everyone safe on the job. Whether it is
taking a couple minutes to review a group task with all those ready to
perform it, reminding someone to wear the appropriate PPE for a task, or
getting someone out from under a suspended load, we all have the
responsibility to help each other perform safely. Failure to get that
level of cooperation could result (and has resulted) in a fatal injury.
Prevention vs. Complacency
safety at your site include pro-active prevention measures or simply
complacency to not respond until reacting to an injury or incident? If
taking preventive measures are part of the safety culture, every member of
the team is pro-actively looking for ways to prevent an injury. Looking at
the overall process, the established procedures, the practices of
employees performing tasks by everyone provides a prevention climate that
is not intimidating to anyone. Recognizing employees who take the
initiative to correct or eliminate hazards that they have identified will
encourage others to do the same. The manager is responsible for ensuring a
safe work place. The manager cannot remove an employee’s responsibility
to help identify and correct problems. Such involvement may include an
employee suggestion program that crosses all department boundaries. A
suggestion to enhance a product should include a safety review as well as
an engineering or marketing review. A suggestion to improve safe
conditions should also include a review with maintenance or production to
ensure the change doesn’t adversely affect other tasks in the process.
– not doing anything until something happens – is just another form of
lazy or apathy. Both of these conditions can be deadly in the right
combination – to the individual and to the business. If an employee
doesn’t care about his own personal safety or the safety of those with
whom he works, he doesn’t care about the quality of his work, either.
You may want to shop around for a replacement and “free up the future”
of your problem employee.
Performance vs. Compliance
train constantly with my people that compliance is required by law, but
performance ultimately benefits them. If the task is done correctly, it is
safe, efficient, productive, profitable, and in compliance. Most employees
don’t care that OSHA has a book that controls what they can or can’t
do. Managers might, but employees don’t. Managers that intimidate do not
eliminate injuries. Telling an employee he has to do something because
“OSHA says so” will not get the employee to comply.
an employee understand why it is in his best interest to do it “this
way” provides him with a means to make the right choice. Showing an
employee how performing a task a certain way can either enhance or risk
his and his family’s quality of life will more directly influence the
choices the employee will make when he is alone. Changing a behavior while
being “watched” does not last. A change in performance through
understanding the risks and knowing the expectations will last a lifetime.
Where Do We Go From Here?
are various tools that you can develop for your own unique use. There are
also samples and suggestions that will be part of my presentation
hand-outs for you to use. Again, this is not intended to become a
“program” for you to follow, but principles that can be used as guides
to fit your specific needs.
type of programs and processes do you currently have in place to prevent
injuries at your workplace?
other ideas do you believe you could implement that more readily involve
your employees in injury prevention practices?
key is to follow the “KISS” principle. Fancy, complicated and detailed
programs work well AFTER you get the basics in line. If your people do not
understand basic concepts in safety, you can implement all the formalized
programs you want, but you will soon become frustrated. Your people will
miss the point and, as a company, you will lose ground. It will be harder
to get people excited about injury prevention because they will keep
thinking of the one that didn’t work rather than looking at
was at a company that was looking at a “cookie cutter” safety program
from a well-known source. One manager stated that, although it may have
its time and place later in the process, it was just too much to handle
right now. We have employees still trying to learn the basics, let alone
have them go on to the next step. Don’t take the next step or the giant
leap until you know the basics. That foundation will carry you the rest of
the way. Having no firm foundation will leave you crashing down every
what CAN I do? Some suggestions:
Pro-active activities - employee and manager observations, employees
conducting their own workplace examinations prior to the start of their
shift to look for hazards, injury prevention review teams, review of
current procedures with a task hazard analysis to ensure all identified
hazards are addressed for that task, pre-task reviews with work groups
preparing to perform a task (to discuss how it will be done, what tools
and equipment are necessary before getting to the job, who will do what,
etc.). Use hazard recognition charts to track successes; develop and use
job aids, such as checklists for various tasks; develop trainer checklists
for use in specific task training that employees and managers sign after
completion of training; other ideas that fit your location.
activities - prompt injury/incident investigations with team reviewers,
prompt injury review with all employees, focusing on preventive measures
(not blame), follow-up training sessions to review proper procedures after
an injury, others.
importantly, lead by example! You wear the PPE when in exposed areas; you
follow procedures for tasks being performed; hold employees accountable
for actions through performance evaluations, coaching, etc.
trust this information will be helpful in guiding you to a more successful
safety process. If you found this article of value, you will want to
download my new 2004 Ebook titled Performance
Safety: Lessons For Life
you for this opportunity.
DeVaul, M.A., RSHEP