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Risk Management

It Is Time to Do Safety Differently

Even with vast technological improvements, workplace fatality rates have remained stagnant over the last 15 years. So what gives? How can employers alter their approach to make a lasting impact?

March 27, 2023

Todd Conklin has developed a method of doing Safety Differently based on Human Organizational Performance (HOP) principles. This risk-based operating philosophy recognizes everyone makes mistakes, and that company processes influence how employees act, and how they will or will not succeed.

“There a few key differences between the philosophies of traditional safety and new safety,” said Sara Gibson, Senior Risk Services Manager at Safety National. “In a traditional model, employees are told what to do and what not to do, as they are the fixable problem. Safety is also viewed as the absence of accidents. In the new model, companies ask what employees need, as they are the problem solvers. Safety is viewed as the presence of capacity.”

These are the five points of the Safety Differently method.

  1. To Error is Human – Everyone makes mistakes, has bad days, or has a limited capacity. The goal is to recognize that employees are human, and the company’s systems and processes need to be designed for humans.
  2. Blame Stops Improvement and Learning – It is easy to blame, and we live in a culture of blame, which has associated bias. It creates problems instead of solutions and does not foster a culture of learning and improvement.
  3. Context and Systems Drive Behavior – The context and systems are the processes, including the safety rules for a company. These are often inflexible and sometimes not applicable to the work that needs to get done. Problems arise in the field or on the plant floor that require instant decision-making. Employees try to make the best decisions to get the job done within these rules. The system needs to support this decision-making and allow for change when needed.
  4. Learning and Improvement are Vital – When processes go wrong, perhaps even resulting in an incident, there must be learning to change the process. This must include all the employees involved in the work process, especially those involved in the incident.
  5. Leadership’s Response to Failure Matters –The leader’s voice is strong and sets the company culture. If the response to errors is blame and consequences, then learning opportunities cease, allowing for repeatable problems.

For more information on this topic, please contact [email protected].