Managing Beyond Zero: How to Sustain an HSE Program nearing the Ultimate Goal of Zero Incidents

By Kent Van Eaton and Curt Cranford, Corporate Health, Safety and Environmental Managers, Grant Prideco – Houston, Texas

Managing Beyond Zero

In the late 1970’s, we can recall safety meeting discussions centered on the lost time injury rate. At that time we had never heard of total recordable injury rate.  However, it didn’t take very long until the lost time injury rate became so low that it was obvious that an LTIR focus would not allow us to continue to improve.  We began to discount the lost time injury rate and consider a broader spectrum of injuries. We increased the magnification, so to speak, and took on the total recordable injury rate as our indicator of success. Fortunately, in the last 20 years we have made significant progress in continuing to reduce injuries in the workplace.  And, once again, we find ourselves reaching the point where analysis of recordable injury producing incidents no longer provides us with the information we need to reach our ultimate goal of zero injuries.  It is time to start managing beyond zero. Time to take a fresh look, time to put new interest in what is happening in our workplaces that can be corrected to stop every injury.

Our Past Success Points the Way to the Future

For most of us the rallying cry used to achieve the improvements over the last 20 years was “engineer the hazards out of the workplace”.  This strategy was highly effective and you can see its application time after time in almost every activity be it in the workplace, at home or in your community.  Reflect a moment on the standard automobile with all of its now inherent safety features.  My, what a change from the old ’57 Chevy.  This engineer based technique will continue to serve us well but we do not believe it will get us to our ultimate goal. To get there, it will be necessary to shift the majority of our effort to another method.

The method we choose next must take in to account two realities, interestingly realities that result from our success to date.  First, as we successfully apply the engineering based approach to reduce hazards, the hazards that remain become increasingly small, difficult to distinguish, many times, infrequent in occurrence and, possibly, only momentary in existence.   To do battle with these hazards, we must be better able to recognize these less obvious situations.  We must strengthen our employee’s ability to recognize what might hurt them.  The ability to see, envision, feel, and sense the hazard must be honed to a point such that it is an actively conscious mental process running in the background at all times.  To illustrate this consciousness, many times you will hear highly skilled athletes talk about “the game slows down” for them as they rise to a high level of skill.  It is this actively conscious sense of the game that makes this “slowing” possible at the same time the moment to moment details of the game are actually getting faster.  You might recognize this consciousness in yourself if you think back to your early experiences in driving an automobile, for instance, verses the comfort you now have in driving.

The second of these realities can be seen in the pure mathematics of the calculation of total recordable injury rate.  When you think about a TRIR of less than 2 or so, that means 98 out of 100 are not getting hurt.  It is clear that a lot of people are doing things right.  It is also obvious that a lot is not enough.  To progress further toward zero, everyone must to it right.  No one can be left out, every employee must be involved in the effort.  What this means is that we must have an approach that builds total participation to a meaningful level as a part of the plan.

So, to sum it up, the methods that will get us the next great push toward zero injuries will develop a very high, almost total participation by our employees who are highly sensitive to nearly invisible hazards.  No small task.  But it can be done.

A Sense of Awareness

Since developing a sensitive to hazards provides returns quickly, we will focus on how we can do that first.   The ability to see, envision, feel, and sense hazards is a skill that safety professionals have realized as important for many years.  Any number of observation processes or programs have been promoted throughout industry.

The ability to see the hazard may also be thought of as awareness, or a sense of awareness.  Human beings naturally have a keen sense of awareness, but over the years as we have engineered hazards out of our lives that sense has become dulled.  For example, modern highway design has greatly reduced the hazards of driving.  Who would have thought we could take so many hazards out of operating an automobile that we would feel totally comfortable talking on the phone while driving at 65-70 mph?  You simply do not have to be very aware to survive on the road now.  Similarly in industry, proper machine design, guarding, computerization, robots, ergonomics, and other similar safety engineering applications have made our workplaces much safer than 30 or 40 years ago.  Fortunately, the dulling of our sense of awareness can be reversed so it can help us move to our ultimate goal of zero injuries.

Concerns That Guide Our Approach

We have to admit that we are always uncomfortable with the term “awareness”.  We’re sure many of you will agree it is greatly overused as the cause of all that is wrong in our facilities.  The operator was not paying attention, the employee was careless, she did not have her mind on what she was doing.  We see the use of awareness or lack of awareness countless times as the causation factor in many incident analyzes to cover management and system failure.  With that in mind, let’s agree to use the term “seeing” rather than awareness.  So, throughout the remainder of this article, we will speak of building a keen ability to “see” the hazards in your workplace rather than to be “aware” of those hazards.

A second concern we have is that we overwhelm the vast majority of people with ideas and techniques that do not appear to the non-safety professional as directed at the fundamental issue – how can I get hurt.  We make safety too complex.  We have hundreds of programs, all of which are meant to help, but confuse the employee with buss words and phrases.  Here are some examples – STOP, The 7 Habits of Hand Safety, CBIs, Behavior Based Safety, JSAs, JHAs, Cause Mapping, Systemic Causation Analysis Technique, TakeTwo, SafetySmart, PHAs, etc.  You, I am sure, can name a dozen more.  All of these have value and we are not intending to demean them.  But we think you can see how a manager, supervisor or employee outside the safety profession can become glazy-eyed and develop a “program of the month” attitude.

The point is that we need to simplify the language and ensure that our employees understand the continuum of our safety effort so they see how the tools we provide address the issue of keeping them from getting hurt.  Help them understand that it is an evolution and maturing of the effort as the organization itself matures and evolves to face ever more difficult goals and problems rather than a new program or process.  If we do not provide a clear roadmap or a plan with consistent language and techniques, we should not be surprised at the skepticism we may encounter.  There are great techniques and tools in the myriad of safety programs out there that you can and should adopt.  However, we must be careful to do so in a systemic and well communicated plan aimed at building skills and maturity in our people.

The Ability to See

For developing the skill of “seeing”, we prefer to use a very fundamental technique that has been around for decades but to use it in a different way.  If you are reading this article, we assume you are a safety professional or at least someone who is interested in safety.  You are familiar with the analytical technique of classifying injuries, or potential injuries in the cases of near misses, into event types.  You will recall that event types include caught on, in, under, between; contact with heat, chemicals, electricity; strike against or by; fall from same level or elevation; and overexertions creating sprains, strains, repetitive motion injuries, hearing loss, etc.  It is our belief we can take these events, recast them as the hazards that can hurt us, and utilize them as a simple and effective way to observe our workspace.  Simply put, we look for places in our workplace where we might be caught, might come into contact, might strike, might fall or might overexert ourselves.

Suddenly, the vast world of ways things can go wrong or ways I can get hurt reduce to five.  Five keywords – caught, contact, strike, fall, overexert.  You will find these are applicable to practically any situation.  They can be rapidly applied in less than 30 seconds.  They are easily communicated with simple language and easy examples.  They are full of useful, focused information for the employee’s safety.  And, they can be the basis of all the “seeing” techniques we will discuss below.  This last point is important in keeping the terminology consistent as the skills of the employee improve and increase in maturity so they can see the activities below as a complete system.

A System of Observation

What we would like to do now is outline a system of observation techniques that we have developed and connect the dots if you will.  All of these are usefully in sharpening an employee’s ability to analysis the workplace.  None of these techniques will be new to you.  However, you may have never associated them with techniques that utilize the skill of “seeing” the hazards in the workplace.  These techniques build your employees’ skill of sensing the hazard, making them increasingly capable of finding the danger before it causes injury.  Using this broad portfolio of approaches, an employee gains the ability to “see” the hazards through a variety of ways and thus increases the likelihood of injury-free work.

Technique #1 – Risk Assessments

The first observation process we want to discuss is the fundamental baseline risk assessment.  This technique is the most formal of the set but is very important to setting the stage properly for sustainable performance, solid training and efficient operation.  Within the risk assessment, before you evaluate the consequence and probability, risk assessment teams identify the job steps and then hazards associated with each of those steps.  It is this job safety analysis portion of the risk assessment that is relevant for this discussion because what we are interested in is “seeing” the hazards that might hurt us.  Using the caught, contact, strike, fall, overexert keywords greatly focuses the work.  For new processes still being designed, it helps the developers visualize the hazards.  On existing processes, it gives a common language and sets a consistent level of detail that many times people struggle to establish.

Additional skill enhancement comes from diversity of ‘seeing”.  What I “see” teaches you to “see” different things and what you “see” teaches me.  The most effective risk assessment-based “seeing” development comes from a diverse team of operators, engineers, management, maintenance and other experts.  The insight of these various stakeholders not only creates a higher quality assessment but provides each team member an opportunity to “see” hazards from someone else’s point of view.

Technique #2 – Workplace Inspections

The next process that enhances observation skills is the formal scheduled workplace inspection.  Most of us use a checklist or some other guidance to assist the people doing the inspection but be sure to recognize that this activity is a wonderful “seeing” skill development process.  We encourage people to inspect areas familiar to them and areas that are not so familiar.  This will improve their ability to “see” more effectively.  A depth of detail in their observation is developed when in their usual workspace while their diversity of “seeing” is sharpened when in environments that are not seen routinely.

Many of the items on your checklist deal directly with the five hazards, for example, are there hoses or cords across the walkway?  This is clearly related to the hazard fall.  Other items may not be as obvious such as fire extinguisher inspection.  In this case, encourage employees to connect the inspection with the hazard the equipment is protecting, in this case, contact with heat.

Technique #2 – 5×5

Tool number three is a simplified and informal risk assessment.  Called the 5×5, this “seeing” exercise is designed for the employee to apply when the non-routine job or task comes about.  These non-routine activities contribute an inordinate percentage of injuries against our goals as they are generally unpredictable in timing and short-lived in duration.  Some piece of equipment breaks down, some tool is missing, something goes wrong in the machine, something unusual happens that creates a situation where employees are doing unfamiliar tasks in what generally is a time sensitive, high stress environment.

The 5×5 technique is to quickly think through the task and ask yourself how could I be caught?, how could I come into contact?, how could I be struck?, how could I fall?, how could I overexert?  It should take no more than 15 to 20 seconds.  When finished with these simple questions, you know what you are dealing with and, just as importantly, what you do not have to worry about.

The 5 “how could I” questions above are the source of the first 5 in the 5×5.  Going through the process of asking of the questions is the first of the second 5.  Number 2 in the second 5 is why am I doing the job in this manner, is there a better way with less hazards?  Next, we dig a little deeper into specifically how I or someone else would be hurt.  This leads to how we are going make the hazard less likely to injure us.  And, finally, how are we going to protect others.

When employees first learn this technique, it is about a 60 second exercise.  After a few tries, they can do it in 30 to 40 seconds.  Experienced employees find they do it, for all intents and purposes, as they go.  On the fly, so to speak.  They are going through the exercise in their head as they approach the job.  That is where we want them, fully integrating safety into their moment to moment work.

Technique #4 – General Observations

General observations in the workplace are the next technique in our system.  The general observation process is the informal version of the workplace inspection.  Once again, we advise the use of the five hazards to focus the “seeing” process.  Where the 5×5 focuses on a particular task, the general observation has the employee observe their environment and the activities and conditions within it.  A lot of us have this technique in place and it is a great technique.  We believe you will get more out of it if you will use the caught, contact, strike, fall, overexert method as this directs the “seeing” toward how you can get hurt and it maintains consistence within your approach.

Technique #5 – Peer to Peer Reviews

Number five in our system of observations is peer to peer reviews.  Some of you might recognize this as being very closely related to the behavioral based safety observation process.  In fact, it takes its roots from that process.  Peer to peer reviews, however, are designed differently to overcome three distinct problems we have encountered in the traditional BBS observation process.

In peer to peer reviews, the review is requested by the person to be reviewed.  I ask one of my peers to watch me and give me feedback rather than someone walking up out of the blue and asking to observe me.  This reversal in approach removes a huge number of issues related to interpersonal relations and personal control.  The employee being observed can ask anyone he or she wants to do the review.  Best buddy, worst enemy – they decide.  They control when the observation is done.  They control the task which is observed.  We find this control greatly reduces the fear and discomfort we have seen in the original BBS approach.  Yes, there is a risk of poor quality reviews and buddy buddy protection but it goes away as soon as the employees see that management is not using the tool in a negative fashion.  Besides, even when the guys aren’t telling you everything, they are still “seeing” it and talking about it and that is progress.

Other beneficial attributes are developed as the employees carry out a peer to peer review.  There is a development of trust between teammates that goes far beyond safety and health issues.  They gain a higher degree of  comfort in giving and receiving feedback making learning increasingly welcome and desirable.  They may well discover additional things that might get them hurt beyond what has been identified.  And, with the exchange of ideas, they learn how to do the job differently to make the work easier, cheaper, and safer.

Secondly, we advocate using the JSA portion of the risk assessment as our critical behavior checklist rather than creating one in the tradition of the BBS process.  If we are not capturing the critical behaviors in our risk assessments, we are not doing the risk assessment properly.  That document should be the standard way to do the job and it should define how to do that job safely.  By using the risk assessment in this way, we show consistence in our safety system, we get great training for our employees, we get a risk assessment audit, and we get continual improvement in the quality of our risk assessments.

Lastly, we use our normal system of observation and reporting, using documents that have already been produced for other processes, and we make use of training that we do as a part of our normal safety skills development.  There are no organizational requirements or administrative needs beyond our regular observation process and system.  The peer to peer reviews are integral to work and blend into the daily activities on the floor.  They fit within the system maintaining the consistence of approach so the employee does not have a feeling that they are just another program from the safety department.

For the safety geek in us, there is a lot of neat stuff we can do with the data.  The observation cards we use let us track how much improvement we are making in the safety of the facility.  We can calculate a percent safe acts using the data submitted.  The BBS gurus tell us this is a  great positive, leading indicator.  We can see trends in at-risk behavior in an area, in the plant, and in the company so that we can determine where our training is not effective.  We can get our JSA/risk assessments corrected so they actually reflect what our employees do each day.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  And, we get ideas into our tracking system so they are tracked to a response and not dropped through the cracks or forgotten just to pop up and grab us at a later date.

Technique #6 – Process Audits

The final tool we want to offer is process audits.  This tool is the most advanced tool in the system but we are finding it to be quite powerful and an excellent “seeing” skills enhancement technique.  It compliments the peer to peer view but is procedure focused rather than task focused.  Additional, it is a team process so there are a variety of viewpoints in play.

In a process audit, a team of employees go to each department or a good cross-section of departments and audit a specific safety or environmental process.  They are judging how well that department is implementing and utilizing the process.  Processes such as lockout, welding and cutting, forklift safety, PPE, elevated work, chemical handling, and the like are reviewed thoroughly, checking every detail for compliance with the procedure. The procedure provides the stimulus for what the team members are looking for which allows the team members to become excellent “seers” as they observe and interview employees during the audit.  Employees that are involved in the audit also benefit as they point out the methods they use to carry out the procedure.

This is a great opportunity for employees not normally involved in the day to day operational aspects of the company.  We are finding that accountants, human resources, lawyers, administrative assistants, and sales personnel are very good at this and really enjoy the change of pace and focus this assignment provides them.  Their fresh set of eyes have helped us find details such as improper shades of welding lenses being used and oversights in mobile crane training.

Observation Summary

This system of observation techniques offers a multitude of approaches to train and educate our employees and to rebuild the natural ability to sense danger.  The methods are both formal and informal, both specific and general, both task-oriented and process- oriented, and both individual and team based.  The variety works to enhance the overall “seeing” skills of the employee in the same way a well rounded fitness program develops the overall health of the individual.  It provides interest and acceptability by offering control and variability while building the same skill set.  Yet, by using the five hazard focus of caught, contact, strike, fall, overexert as the basis of observation, the system remains consistent and comfortable to the employees and supports what really counts to them – not getting hurt.

Additional, the system uses documents and other administrative systems already in use so there is minimal if any increase in cost or resources.  It can be managed using the organizational structure in place and can and should be fully integrated into the day to day way work is done.

Finally, using the five hazard focus make the system simple enough everyone can contribute.  There may be a need for higher skilled facilitation in the formal risk assessment but beyond that, anyone can do a reasonably good job evaluating if there is a caught, a contact, a strike, a fall or an overexertion hazard in front of them.  And they can do a good job watching someone to see if they follow a list of steps in a JSA or asking someone to show them how they do a certain item in a procedure.   Will it be prefect?  Will they do it as good as you can?  No, but that is alright.  They will get better and better.  But also consider that just by doing it, they will learn and they will “see” better and think better.  Have confidence that the level of quality in the play of the game will improve as long as they practice, as long as they participate.

Getting Everyone Involved

That brings us back to the second reality we identified.  When you think about a TRIR of less than 2 or so, it becomes clear that a lot of people are doing things right.  It is also obvious that a lot is not enough.  To get to zero, everyone must to it right.  No one can be left out, every employee must be involved in the effort.  Everyone must practice and hone their sense of danger.  It is a moment to moment game we are playing and a single error means so much.  To success, we need every employee participating.  Getting this to happen is the trick.

Before we go forward in trying to generate participation, let’s step back a moment and see if we can get help from the people that study this kind of thing.  Let’s think about some principles of human behavior and performance improvement research.  First, human behavior.

One of the pioneers of behavior based safety, Dr. E. Scott Geller, in his book,” The Psychology of Safety Handbook”, tells us that engaging people is facilitated when they are in a positive state of mind, have clear goals and feel empowered to achieve those goals.  He speaks of creating a sense of “I can do it”, of personal control, of belonging, of self-esteem, and of optimism to set the stage for getting involved.  Next, set specific goals that the person can clearly understand, which can be done, which are meaningful or relevant to the person, and which can be tracked so that progress can be seen and celebrated.  This provides the direction and lets them know what they are getting themselves into.  Now, provide them with a tool they believe will work to achieve the goal and they will get on board.  Another way to express it is: If a person believes they can do it, believes it will work, and believes it is worth doing, they will do it.  But, what is “it”?  We’ll answer that for you in just a moment.

In his recent book, “Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure And Drive Organizational Success”, Dean Spitzer explains why performance measurement should be less about calculations and analysis and more about the crucial social factors that determine how well the measurements get used.  His “socialization of measurement” process focuses on learning and improvement from measurement.  He encourages us to ask such questions as: How well do our measures reflect our business model? How successfully are they driving our strategy? What should we be measuring and not measuring? Are the right people having the right measurement discussions?

As I was reading his book, I kept asking myself: To get to zero, are we measuring the right things?  I decide the answer was many times we are.  What we are not doing is framing the measurements in the manner Mr. Spitzer is advocating as necessary to drive success.  Earlier in the article, we talked about a series of observation techniques, many of which we am sure are in use in your facilities.  You measure these in some fashion, analyze them for trends and may even utilize some more advanced leading indicators such as: closure rate of actions to address root causes of incidents, closure rate of actions to address observations, ratio of near misses to at-risk condition observations, ratio of at-risk behavior to at-risk condition reports, etc.

But we can get more out of these measurement if we can incorporate the human behavioral and performance improvement principles.  We would like to recommend a methodology for doing this to you now.  We would like to define an “it” for you.  We believe this method will get the high level of participation we need to build our “seeing” skills and create that sense of consciousness we are looking for.

A SMART Way to Success

The method is a system that is based on using a fully integrated safety management system with an emphasis on proactive activities to eliminating injuries.  Its primary working tool is a score card that tracks an employee’s participation in the activities defined by the management system.   The goal is to provide a system that motivates employees to get involved and take ownership in their safety training and the other safety activities in the management system.  These activities include the techniques we discussed above – general observations, 5x5s, process audits, peer to peer reviews, risk assessment reviews, workplace inspections, as well as other proactive opportunities such as mentoring, individual safety plans, safety committee membership, safety and toolbox meetings, and incident analysis.

It is also designed to increase and encourage support of the system from supervisors and managers as the collective accomplishments of their employees are measured as a component of their achievement.  This collective process is repeated up the entire management chain, providing even the CEO with a score indicating his or her involvement and ownership.

Secondarily, while not directly designed as such, the system provides a standardized methodology for defining and consistently applying the Human Resources group’s progressive disciplinary response to HS&E failures by employees, supervisors, and managers.

How It Works

The concept is that each employee will have a score which measures his or her involvement in HS&E training and activities.  This score would distinguish the employee’s HS&E standing, if you will.

Each employee starts with a given score, say 65.  They gain points by completing specific activities.  They lose points by violations of procedure or failures to report.

Points are assigned to each activity, for example, completion of training, attendance at safety and toolbox meetings, etc.  A higher number of points could be assigned to activities that you might have a need to strengthen in order to encourage involvement in those areas.  A reduction in points is assigned to specific violations, like failure to wear proper PPE or lock out equipment.  In a case where someone failed to report, you might double the reduction points caused by violations.

No points should be assigned to an actual injury or property damage.  You want to avoid any claim that disciplinary actions are taken for getting hurt or damaging property. You want it clear that disciplinary actions are taken against violation of procedure, not the results of the violation.

For supervisors and managers they would gain or lose points based on both their individual involvement and the involvement of their employees.  Supervisors and managers gain points by leading their group to higher individual employee scores. Supervisors and managers would lose points on violations by their employees.  Failure to report by a supervisor or manager could triple the points lost if you wanted to be clear about the importance of reporting.

Recognition would be given employees above 90 points.  Additional recognition might be given for employees above 95, for example, given a free pass that could be used should they have a violation.  They could use the pass so they did not lose points if found in violation of a procedure.  In our system, a pass could not be used in a failure to report case but that is up to you.  Maybe you would allow employees to “bank” points up to some level, say 110.  These extra points would serve as a buffer for “a bad day at the office”.

Employees with scores between 80 and 90 would be neutral.  These are the beginning of your group of non-participants.  Focused effort and communication with these employees should take place so you have knowledge of why they are not joining in the improvement process.  And, since time is factored into the scoring as you will see in a moment, these folks will have to do some things or their scores will go down.

Employees having a score below 80 would be placed on verbal notice.  If they continued to fall, when they went below 70, a written notice would be issued.  Should the employee take no action and his score go below 60, they would be placed on probation.  An employee with a score below 50 would be in serious risk of termination.

The Points Structure

Employees gain points by doing proactive activities that improve the performance of themselves, their colleagues, and the facility.  The more advanced the activity or the more commitment required by the activity, the more points the employee earns.  Mentoring a new employee, for instance, might be worth 5 points.  Membership on the safety committee might be a 5 pointer as well.  You can also provide a bit of quality control to such activities.  For instance, if you are mentoring an employee and they lose points due to violations of procedures, the mentor could lose the same amount of points.  Or, if you are on the safety committee and miss a meeting, you lose one of your points.

For other activities where less effort and commitment are required, you can make the point or points dependant on a set of actions such as submitting “good, quality” observations.  This would get you 1 point for every 5 observations.     Attendance at toolbox meetings might pay out at 1 point per 30 meetings whereas attendance at monthly safety meetings might get you 1 point per 6 months.  You could allow 1 miss if you wanted or require 100% attendance.

If there are particular areas of focus you want to emphasize, you can set the point structure to encourage those areas.  Maybe we give 1 point for every 2 near miss observations rather than the 1 for 5 ratio for other kinds of observations.  Or, if you find there is a need to get a series of risk assessments done for a new process, you reach out for more volunteers by offering double points for that month.

Here are more examples of activities that could receive points with an example of the possible point structure:

  • Completion of orientation, a one time award of 10 points,
  • Completion of the mentoring process, a one time award of 10 points,

(Note: In our system, completion of these 2 moves a new hire to 85, or neutral)

  • Conducting a workplace inspection, 1 point for every 2 inspections,
  • Participation in a peer to peer review, 2 points
  • Participation in a risk assessment, new assessment, 1 point, review, 1 point for every 2,
  • Participation in a Continuous Improvement Team, 2 points,
  • Completion of a “good, quality” Individual Safety Plan, 1 point
  • Leading a safety meeting, 2 points,
  • Lead toolbox meeting, 1 point per 5 meetings
  • Completion of scheduled training, on time 10 points, within year 7 points,
  • Participation in process audit, 1 point per 3 audits.

Points gained are good for 1 year from the date earned.  This keeps the score dynamic and requires employees to continue to participate.  If you were concerned that some might try to “load up” their score with a flurry of activity in a short time then stop doing anything, you can limit the maximum number of points in a given time period.  You have practically total control over the scoring tool so you can build it to fit exactly what you are trying to accomplish just as Mr. Spitzer advises to use measurement to drive your strategy.

Note also how this tool matches up with principles of building a positive state of mind.  All of the activities we have mentioned above can be done by every employee given the normal training you provide.  Every employee has complete control over what he or she does and when they do it.  No one is forced to do anything except accept the consequences of their own lack of participation.  We’ll talk more about it below but you can easily set up department teams or other group structures to create the sense of belonging.  Recognition is built into the system and people and teams are rewarded for doing well so self-esteem is enhanced.  And, finally, employees feel more and more optimistic about themselves, their team, and the facility as improvements become apparent and they see better conditions and control of their work.

The tool can be designed so that it cascades up through the organization and helps you create a clear tie of group performance to supervisors, managers, directors, vice presidents, presidents, and CEO’s success.  For example, if a supervisor’s group has an average score above 95, they get 5 points.  If it is above 90, maybe they earn only 2 points.  And only 1 point if the group average score above 85.  Awarding points for group performance to the boss encourages that boss to support and promote participation by his employees because it pays off for him.

Some additional example of points for supervisors and managers are:

  • Group completion of training, on time, 3 points, within year 1 point
  • Entire group led safety meeting within 12 months, 3 points
  • Entire group participated in process audit within 12 months, 3 points
  • Entire group completed peer to peer reviews within 12 months, 3 points

Consistent Disciplinary Approach

As we stated above, this tool is designed to motivate employees to get involved and take ownership in their safety training and the other safety activities in the management system.  The tool does, however, provide a standardized methodology for defining and consistently applying the Human Resources group’s progressive disciplinary response to HS&E failures by employees, supervisors, and managers.  The beauty of the tool is that the employee knows exactly how they can recover and avoid this negative consequence.

The loss of points in this system comes from violations or failures to do what the employees know are required.  We base our point reductions on identified violations from observations, audits, and our incident analysis process.  All of our incidents are reviewed and analyzed to some degree depending on potential and violations are fact-based and specific.  You want to be very careful when issuing point reductions so you do not create distrust.  A good guide or measure to track is to have your organization strive to award 7 to 10 positive points for every negative point.  The idea is to win, not to lose.

Point reductions, like point awards, are assigned with consideration of impact.  More serious violation such as making safety devices inoperative will cost you 10 points.  Servicing equipment after failing to apply appropriate LOTO locks would also warrant a 10 point reduction.  Conversely, allowing an at-risk condition to exist in your workspace would only cost an employee and maybe their supervisor if he or she was aware of the condition, 1 point.

Additional examples of violations and examples of point reductions are:

  • Failure to get permit, 5 points,
  • Horseplay, 5 points,
  • Operating equipment without authority, 3 points,
  • Using defective equipment, 3 points
  • Improper position for task, 3 points
  • Shortcutting risk assessment/JSA, 2 points,
  • Failure to use identified risk control, 2 points
  • Failure to use PPE properly, 2 points,
  • Improper loading, 2 points,
  • Using equipment improperly, 2 points,
  • Operating at improper speed, 1 point
  • Failure to inspect, 1 point,
  • Chemical labeling missing, 1 point,
  • Open chemical container, 1 point


So, let’s see if we have met our original realities.  First, we said we need people to be highly skilled at “seeing” how they can get hurt.  We have outlined a series of observation techniques, all of which develop the skill to “see” the hazards around us.  Within those techniques, we have given the employee the 5×5, a simple, easy to remember and easy to use tool so he or she knows what to look for.  We have formal and informal, specific and general, task-oriented and process- oriented, and individual and team based techniques.  Yet, by using the five hazards of caught, contact, strike, fall, and overexert as the basis of all observation techniques, our system remains consistent and comfortable for the employees and supports what really counts to them – not getting hurt.

Next, we realized we must have very high, almost total participation by our employees.  The scoring tool provided uses the principles of human behavior to accomplish this.  It is a Specific Motivational Achievable Relevant and Trackable (SMART) way to increase the individual involvement and ownership of employees in safety training and activities.  There is clear guidance on what to do to achieve success and recognition.  Participation by every employee is required in order to maintain their acceptability to the organization.  But they are in control of that participation so therefore make the choice for themselves.

We have used guidance from the performance improvement leaders to ensure that our measurement system is less about calculations and analysis and more about the crucial social factors that determine how well the measurements get used.  The process focuses on learning and improvement from measurement yet also ties directly to the strategy we are trying to drive.  We are placing increasing importance on measuring leading indicators that are proactive and preventative and reducing our reliance on the measurement of lagging indicators such as injury and property damage.   Additionally, we have the right people having the right measurement discussions about things that affect them on a daily, even moment to moment, basis.

Our task was to develop a very high, almost total participation by our employees who are highly sensitive to nearly invisible hazards.  Have we done it?  We think we are well on the way.

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