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Creating the Safety Trust

In Oklahoma when someone only talks about something they are going to do we describe them as, “All hat and no cows.”  In my case, all talk and no pig pen.  When I was in the 8th grade and was introduced to FFA (Future Farmers of America) I began to talk about raising pigs as a school project.  For weeks I talked about raising pigs until my dad had heard enough.  He said, “If you don’t stop talking about raising pigs and start building a pen to put them in, you can forget it!”  My dad was a man of his word and I took him serious, trusting that he was going to shut me down on the project.

The next day after school and before my Dad came home I was out back digging post holes to build a pen in a down-pouring rain.  When my Dad came home he walked out to where I was and was laughing.  He said, “Okay Son I see you’re serious, now come into the house and this weekend we will work together and build a pig pen.  His ability to build trust motivated me to take action and in the next four years my dad almost wished he had not challenged me.  My senior year of high school I won 2nd place in the state for swine production in FFA.  Today I pass on the challenge to leaders who talk zero-injures, to take action and create a workplace where zero-injuries is possible.

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement. ~ Alfred Adler

Zero injuries is about taking action as a leader to motivate, educate, inspire, and encourage followers to do what it takes to mitigate risk at their worksite.  Leaders have to be careful that their talk matches their walk.  Further, it is more than just going out to the worksite with your PPE on to demonstrate your commitment, or cooking hamburgers, or writing a check for someone else to come in and scare people into following the safety procedures.  Leaders must be seen in and around the workplace talking to the workforce while conducting safety walk-throughs, participating in safety training sessions, and giving their management teams, supervisors, and workforce the resources and backing to “Do Safety.”

Doing safety means taking a good look at what your organization is doing and not just what it is talking about.  Safety is not about checking the boxes so that OSHA or some other governing body is satisfied.  When we “Do Safety,” we are inspecting, observing, measuring, and considering our next move to further mitigate hazards that will reduce the risk of an injury.  Leaders who truly want to build the safety trust in their workplace are action oriented and not just sitting in meetings coming up with flowery slogans for safety.  Serious leaders get up out of their chairs, put on a bright safety vest, and spend time with people to make sure they know that safety is the first word in workplace priorities:  Safety, Quality, and Production all together and in that order every time, and at every level of the organization.

Safety leadership is a learned process.  In my 25 years of working as a safety advisor I have met every kind of leader.  Many of these leaders have become friends of mine even though I challenged them to stop talking and start acting.  Some of the leaders I worked with initially thought that safety was someone else’s job and had few expectations about the action required by everyone in the organization.  Today some of the leaders I have worked with are seeing the results of their personal commitment and engagement to make sure everyone knows and plays their role in safety.

To create a safe workplace and then a safe worksite takes leadership at all levels, but it must begin at the top.  As you look at your organization when it comes to creating a zero-injury workplace ask yourself, “What am I doing to show my commitment to safety?”  In the end, you will find that the safety trust you create as a leader will be passed on and leave a legacy that will outlive you.

I still remember my dad challenging me to take action, and I will never forget that the following weekend he was out back helping me dig post-holes to build a pig pen.  Improving your ability to lead your organization to create a zero-injury workplace will be long remembered in the leaders that you develop for the future of your organization.  Get up, get out, and engage the people in your organization so that Nobody Gets Hurt!

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Carl Potter, CSP, CMC is an internationally known safety expert who has the ability to challenge leaders to take action.  For more than 25 years he has travelled the globe assessing safety in organizations and then advising leadership from the top down to help them continue improving their ability to send everyone home uninjured.  Carl is a popular conference keynote speaker, and facilitator of safe discussions that challenge everyone to commit and engage in creating a safety workplace.  A few clients have Carl retained on their team, so that he can help them continually improve their ability to hit zero injuries.  You can read more about his work at: www.safetyintitute.com or to book him into you organization email: nona@safetyinstitute.com to schedule a personal conference call with Carl.

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