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Recipe for Safety Success

I love to cook.  When I was about 8 years old my mother taught me how to cook so that when she and my dad got home from work, dinner was on the table.  Back in those days it was simple stuff to start with:  TV dinner in the oven, hamburgers in a skillet, or a casseroles in a dish, and later baking cakes.  Even now I try to stretch myself with my smoker and new recipes.  The point is that becoming a pretty good cook takes an effort and a desire to satisfy the people who I am feeding.  The ability to create a work environment that is difficult to get hurt in is no different.

This year you have a chance to really learn how to be safe, make safe, and project safety in your workplace.  No matter what your position is on the organizational chart, you have a role to play that includes responsibilities to your organization and the people who make it up.  The question is, will you just try to use what you have today?  If you do, you will find yourself getting behind – and people may get bored with the same ol’ flavors.

One of the key factors I learned about cooking is fresh ingredients make the difference.  In the fall I like to cook with butternut squash.  When I bake, fry, or cook it in the smoker the fresher it is, the better it tastes.  Squash is squash, but if I use soft, old squash that has lost that firm feel and fresh smell it’s edible but not as palatable as fresh ingredients would be.  In fact, the people for whom I’ve prepared it (including me) may choose to pass it by!  When we use old safety videos, printed material, and repeat the same terms again and again, they lose their flavor and ability to get attention.  It takes work to keep safety fresh and interesting.

Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing. ~ William A. Ward

Many of the clients I work with do a good job of identifying new safety programs that stir the safety pot.  They sprinkle a few fresh ingredients in hoping that recipients will like what they have prepared for them to “eat.”  One important ingredient they forget about is involving the recipient.  When the person receiving what is prepared for them has been involved in the preparation, they have what we all call “buy-in”.  So what can be done to involve them?

  • Ask some of your folks to teach a short safety topic.  You will be surprised when you ask for this type of participation.  Not everyone is going to jump at the chance; in fact it will be difficult for some and may result in only one or two persons volunteering at first.  If you begin with those who are willing and able, others will say to themselves, “Hey, I can do that” and may ask to be involved.  Key: Don’t assume your personnel don’t want to be involved.
  • Don’t read the safety rules, discuss them using interactive activity.  Too many times I have seen management and safety professionals read or ask others to read from the safety rule book.  Everyone knows this is generally a “check the box” activity.  Pull people together in groups of two to five and assign them a rule, give them 5 minutes to discuss and identify how they would apply the rule, and ask them to share their findings with everyone.  Key: Involvement such as this increases retention, awareness, and ownership of safety practices.

If you want to have safety success use fresh ingredients, and not what has been sitting on the shelf for years and lost its flavor.  In addition, teach people by letting them help.  Engaging employees in the safety learning process will pay off by increasing buy-in.  Remember that the goal is to get everyone to do their part in improving safety by creating a workplace where it is difficult to get hurt.


Learn more at our Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop on February 18th in Houston Texas.  Come to learn, share, and network with other safety minded people.  Everyone attending will also receive a copy of my new book: Conquest for Safety: Leadership Required.  To register yourself and others for this event, go to:

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