Why Creating Safety Improvements in A Bubble Leads to Problems
I honestly feel and know that creating and implementing safety improvements by myself, is way faster than collaborating with others. However, doing everything by yourself, like in a bubble, actually makes your job harder.
You might think it’s somewhat counter-intuitive. So, let’s talk about two safety programs that I’ve helped with as a Regional Safety Manager. These cases show what happens when you do it in a bubble as compared to collaborating with others.
Case 1: The Pick-Path Safety Programs
The first case is the pick-path program that was meant to improve the safety of those working in a large warehouse that uses heavy machinery. A pick path is like a one-way traffic route for people and machines working in the warehouse.
The safety professional that I’d been working with had done it all by herself and had implemented it almost perfectly.
However, despite her efforts, it was met with pushback. The people working in the warehouse rarely followed the program and it was usually only when she was around.
Why? Because it was created in a bubble. It didn’t involve the participation of others. She didn’t get real consensus in the beginning. Yes, it was created right, but a simple tweak to her approach would have made it successful.
Case 2: The Warehouse Foot Traffic
Also, during my visit, the safety manager I was working with was about to create another program to improve the safety of people who are accessing the warehouse.
And she was about to do the same with the pick-path program. Doing it in a bubble. So I suggested trying another method. The opposite of the previous method. To get true consensus of the people involved before creating the program.
So, she set a meeting with the people involved. And then discussed the safety problem as well as the results of an accidents inside the warehouse. She got their opinions on how to solve the problem. And used their opinions to shape and craft a new program.
Guess what? After a month, everyone was following the safety program. No issues. No pushback.
Even though it wasn’t the perfect safety program that the safety manager originally envisioned, what matters is that everyone was following it. And eventually, adjustments can be made to improve the program.
So I ask you, would you rather get your improvements out there quicker, even if they aren’t perfect. Or fight for months on end to have your vision come to life?
The Rockstar Safety Executive knows that small steps taken consistently over time wins over big grand projects every day.
And to get braggable results, you need to work with your teams and not force feed them changes.
Why Creating Safety Improvements In A Bubble Leads To Problems
Safety Brye: [00:00:00] Now I will be the first to admit that doing everything yourself is way faster and a whole lot more satisfying. There is nothing like having the idea and then working to make it a reality. But the one thing that I have learned in the 20 plus years of safety management is that doing it all yourself actually makes your job harder.
Let me show you an example.
Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year Safety Professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again, I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you.
At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety
[00:01:00] program that increases your management support, and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place.
Let's get to it.
Hello. Hello. Hello. My safety friend. Tell me, are you ambitious and driven? And I'm guessing that you are and that you're likely what people call a type A personality and you kind of have to be to do what we do. I mean, if you think about it, most people who come into safety management fall into the position, right?
It's usually through a promotion at their work or applying for a position at their work that they really don't have experience in. They have some, but not a lot. Or it gets dumped into their lap, not to discount the people that actually started out going,
[00:02:00 ]I'm graduating high school and I'm gonna be a safety manager when I grow up.
I know that none of my kids ever said that. Not to discount you guys, but once you realize that this is actually an amazing career and where this job can take you, you kind of have to be a little ambitious and a little driven to get there. And you have to know how to get things done and how to drive results, right?
What you didn't expect though, was all the resistance that we always face, the lack of help or how you get left to do it all for yourself. And they go, yeah, Brye, that sounds like an amazing idea. You go do that, right? So what do us type A personalities do? We dive in, we get it done, we do it ourselves. Well, safety friend, even though it may be faster, it is actually
[00:03:00] making your job harder. So I wanna share a story with you from when I was a regional safety manager. I was actually helping out a more experienced safety leader at this location. She was not new. She had been around for quite a while. Very, very good at her job. And she had recently implemented a pick path policy, which if you're not in distribution, you probably don't know what that is, but a pick path.
Think about a big giant warehouse and you have a lot of forklifts driving around, kind of like, you know, busy bees and they're kind of moving supplies around. There are people on forklifts that are actually picking product. From the aisles, right? And a pick path. And then you also have like people replenishing stock at the same time.
So people picking product, people replenishing stock. And a pick path is basically the lanes of travel. It's creating roads within your warehouse one way lanes.
[00:04:00] So if you remember when Covid first came out, one of the things that a lot of the grocery stores did was that you had one way traffic through the lanes.
And this serves several purposes. For one, it keeps everybody going in the same direction, so it reduces accidents. You don't have the chance of collision as much, and it also increases efficiency. And there's several ways that you can do that within the warehouse as well. So pick, pass our great option for a lot of organizations.
And she was, like I said, she was very, very good at her job and she identified a problem, which was too many near misses and too many close calls with her operators. And she identified a solution, which was the pick path, and she developed an amazing program. It was extremely well thought out. She brought it to the management team and they nodded their head, just like our management teams always do because they see us as the experts and the expert is telling us, we need to do this.
[00:05:00] Yep, sure. But they don't quite support it. Going back to a couple of episodes where we've been talking about management support and then she implemented the program to perfection did a great job. She wrote the program out. She got the correct signage. She implemented the signage. She made sure that the signage was in the right place.
She had like these really great like stickers on the floors and signs on the racking. It was gorgeous and looked great, and she trained everybody, documented the training. You know, she created an observation process and a coaching process. It was great. But no matter how hard she tried, they were only following the policy about 30% of the time.
They were constantly going wherever they wanted, not following the path, the lane of least resistance, I guess, right? Point A to point B. They needed a product that was, you know, in that lane, and they
[00:06:00] weren't gonna go the long way around to get to it, so they just weren't following. And what it looked like to her was that if employees saw her, they would follow it, but most of the time they didn't follow it.
So she happened to be walking along the floor. They would always follow it. It's kind of like, I don't know if I ever told you guys this, but when I worked in meat processing, when I walked into the room, everybody would bang their knives on the table to tell everybody that I was in the room, and I've never had a problem with that.
My problem is they never did the same thing when the supervisors walked in the room. So that's telling me that who is the one that's making sure that proper company policies are being followed? You only do that when the big person comes in the room. Right? So anyway, so that's what it seemed like to her was that they weren't doing it.
So what she had tried before we were chatting was that she would talk to
[00:07:00] management and they would once again agree. Yeah, it was a great program. Yeah, we need to do it. They kind of give her a little bit of the runaround and they give excuses as to why they're not really enforcing it, but yep, we're definitely gonna do it, and little progress was made.
So that was the point that she was at when I walked in for my quarterly visit. And of course, you know, it's my job to be full of strategies and help her improve compliance with her program. But no matter what, like I can definitely get them following that pick path, right? You do it the right way. You implement the coaching and the observing and the reinforcement, and maybe you incentivize it and you work with the supervisors extensively. No matter what
you can get them to change it, but it's gonna take time because you're asking people to change a habit that they didn't think needed to be changed. You're asking them to do things differently when they thought the old way of doing it was just fine, and they're not seeing the benefits
[00:08:00] of changing, so you actually have to now go back to the drawing board and convince them.
And the problem that she had with her program was actually her approach from the very beginning. Remember the way that she implemented it was she saw the problem, she developed a solution, thought it all out, took it to management team for a yes or no. And then implemented it all herself. She basically did it in a bubble, which a lot of us work that way because things are faster when we do it ourselves.
It's why she was able to get this out so quickly as well. And she did this between my quarterly visits, so it was very, very quickly. So it is definitely faster when we do it ourselves, but all she was getting was pushback.
So, project number two, during my visit, she brought up another problem that she has with
[00:09:00] her warehouse and with her operators and things like that, and that was foot traffic within the pick path. Now you're always going to have some foot traffic in a warehouse. You have people that are on the dock area, maybe preparing orders.
You have supervisors, you have maintenance people. You're always gonna have some foot traffic at her facility. She actually had customer tours. And customer tours are definitely a hazard, but they're a big group of people and you can have some control over customer tour. But she would have customer service personnel who basically work in an office, but then they would come out to kind of maybe look to see if a product was available.
So she had customer service people, or she had employees going from one part of the organization to another part, and they might have to go through the warehouse as a shortcut or just the way that the operation was set up. So she had a lot
[00:10:00] of foot traffic. And then there was also the foot traffic of the equipment operators.
Like once they parked their equipment and then walked to the break room, walked to the office, you have foot traffic of delivery drivers, right? So lots of foot traffic and she had an amazing plan to solve it, right? And there's lots of different solutions out there. So don't ever think that this is something you have to deal with.
You can definitely mitigate this hazard as much as possible cuz you don't want people getting run over by a forklift. So think about it like a forklift weighs as much as a car. So somebody gets hit by a forklift, it's like someone getting hit by a car. And I had a friend who actually lost a tow from getting run over by a forklift.
So anyway, so she had a great idea and what I told her is like, okay, the way that you did the pick path has given you some issues. I'm not saying it was a failure, but it was giving her some issues. Why don't we try something different? So table your idea for now, right? And what I want you to do instead is take a slower approach
[00:11:00] and over the next month or so, gather groups of people, whether they are supervisors, managers, employees, and have discussions about the problem and what they think that they need to do to fix it.
And kind of go back and forth, have multiple meetings. So like you might meet with group A and then you meet with group B. And group B have some ideas. So you go back to group A, right? You have different meetings, and then somewhere in those meetings you share your idea, but more importantly, you share it with the people that your idea is going to effect, like who actually it's going to cause to change their habits.
And then you share the benefits of your idea. And what are the benefits to that individual person that it's going to affect, not the benefits to the company, because nobody cares about that other than the management team. So it all depends on who you're speaking to, right? But you share those benefits to that individual machine operator. And for me, that has always been, if they
[00:12:00] can do their job more efficiently, they can end up making more money, or they can end up going home early. Right? But you have to be able to show them that efficiency as well. And prove that it would work. But over these discussions, you come up with a consensus of what you're going to try.
It's not what you're going to do, it's what you're going to try. Because when you use the word try, it allows people to think like, this isn't permanent. We're just trying it out. Right. We're just gonna try it out for three months or so and see how it works. If it doesn't work, we can go back. You know, it's a failure if it doesn't work.
And we learn from failures, but people don't like the word failure, but it's okay. We tried it, it didn't work. We tried something else. Okay. But these are the things you're gonna try. And I'm sure you remember this from my, you know, don't tell them what to do episode. A couple episodes back again, and in fact, in Safety Management Academy actually teach an entire communication cadence around. And the whole idea is that whatever it is you come
[00:13:00] to a consensus with, that's what you're gonna do. Not your original idea, not your full-blown program, just what there is consensus around, right? So she did just that. When it came to this foot traffic problem and the project, the entire project did not look exactly like her original plan, but she followed what people had a consensus around.
She implemented that and guess what? In 30 days it was being followed and the implementation of her new program for foot traffic was a breeze. You know, writing the program and the policy's the same, but the training was a breeze. The making sure they understood it was a breeze. The observations and coaching and getting it in place and making sure that they're actually following it was a breeze.
And now what she's doing is that, I'm sure she's still doing, I'm not her regional anymore, is that she can make small steps over time to
[00:14:00] slowly move that program into what she wants it to look like and eventually it will be her entire plan. So that was a much better approach to get an improvement out there and to start changing habits than the full-blown program.
With the pick path, which fyi, I know it was like six months later, I think she just finally dropped that idea due to just like they weren't following it anyway. So it's like, why fight a policy that nobody's following anyway, and then it would've taken in the approach that she had used, it would've taken months and months and months of work in order to get them to follow it.
So what she did was table it and then she can wait a while. It has to be quite a while, like a year. Before she brings it up again, and then she could do the consensus method and maybe do a little bit of a pick path, right? You start with maybe certain areas where there's a pick path. I don't know. It's whatever the people say will solve the problem,
[00:15:00] but I wanna ask you, would you rather get your improvements out there quicker, even if they aren't perfect, or fight for months to have your vision come to life?
And the Rockstar Safety Exec, they know that taking small steps consistently over time wins over big grand projects every day. I mean, like it is always those small baby steps that will eventually get you to your end goal and to get those braggable results that you need for your career journey. Then you need to learn to work with your teams and not force speed changes into them.
So hopefully that helps you, my safety friend, and the next time you have a safety improvement project coming out, I want you to think about
[00:16:00] this tale of two safety initiatives at the same organization, with the same management team, and the same very similar issue. And the difference all came down to doing baby steps and having a consensus over force feeding them the changes.
Alrighty. I will talk to you again next week. Bye for now and have a safe day.
Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock, then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support, and employee participation throughout your processes.
Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be
[00:17:00] doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellows Safety Scholars over at Safety Management Academy, just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started. That's thesafetygeek.com/sma and I will see you in our next students only live session.
Bye for now.
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Highlights From This Episode:
- Doing Everything Yourself Makes Your Job Harder
- Two Cases that Shows What Will Happen When You Do It in a Bubbles
- Why Collaborating with Your Team Can Improve Your Programs
- How To Get Braggable Results
- The Importance of Getting the Consensus of the People Involved
- Best Approach to Effectively Implement Your Safety Programs
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
So, even if doing everything by yourself is much faster, it will make your job harder. But, if you collaboratively work with the people involved, it will make it easier to implement programs and then you can just refine them later on.
If you want to learn more techniques on how to effectively create and implement safety programs, then go check out Safety Management Academy.
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.