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Webinar: The Dragon Slayer Story - A Kaizen Approach to Safety

ByBryan McWhorter | Published: June 30, 2018
Presented by AD Safety Network
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Key Takeaways

We need every employee to play an active role in uncovering and addressing unsafe conditions in the work environment and unsafe behavior in their peers.

Every employee needs to understand the basics of hazard assessment and control. We need every employee to play an active role in uncovering and addressing unsafe conditions in the work environment and unsafe behavior in their peers.

Join Bryan McWhorter as he drives home the point with a little story. A story that doesn't take place on a factory floor or on a construction site. This one takes place hundreds of years ago.

Topics of this webinar include:

  • The Dragon Slayer Story
  • Why do workers take risks?
  • Total Productive Safety vs. Traditional Safety
  • RACI: Understanding our role in Safety
  • Safety problems come in all sizes
  • Three elements should be in place at the start of each work day


Jamie: Hello, and a warm welcome to everybody. We’d like to wish everyone a good morning, a good afternoon, or a good evening, depending on where you are in the world today. My name is Jamie, and I’m one of the co-founders of Safeopedia. Safeopedia’s mission is to support the EHS professionals, operational folks, and any safety-minded individuals through free safety information, tools, and education. I’d like to extend a huge thank-you to those dedicated professionals for the great work they do on a daily basis.

Today we’re proud to present The Dragon Slayer Story – A Kaizen Approach to Safety. This Safeopedia webinar is being presented by Whether you wear, sell, or manufacture safety equipment, is for you. It’s your personal safety community and resource center, with partners consisting of the best-known safety equipment, manufacturers, and distributors. It is now absolutely my pleasure to introduce to you today’s presenter, Bryan McWhorter. Bryan is a productivity expert and safety professional with over ten years’ experience in implementing and teaching safety, leadership, and productivity tools. He gained much of his knowledge and experience through over 30 years as a supervisor, safety officer, and senior trainer in the manufacturing industry for the largest fluorescent lighting factory in the world.All that stuffy work-related stuff aside, I’ve known Bryan for a few years now, and not only consider him a good friend, but he’s one of the most generous, kind, and hilarious people I know.I am so grateful to have you sit back, relax, and enjoy this presentation. With that, Bryan, my friend, please take it away.

Bryan: Thanks, Jamie.That’s probably one of the best intros I’ve ever had, so I’ll try to live up to it. Thanks, everyone, for joining us. I hopefully am going to give you a lot of good information, but I think, in keeping with a nice Friday, let’s start with a story. Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a kingdom.And like a lot of mythical kingdoms, this kingdom had a problem with dragons, so they had a dragon slayer and a dragon lookout. Well, one morning, the dragon lookout sounded the arm, “One dragon heading for the castle!”Our hero grabbed his sword, rode out, and quickly cut the head off the dragon. Heading back to the castle, he was greeted by the cheers of the people.Confetti flew. Struck up the band. They even fired up the gas grills and popped some kegs. They had a grand celebration. They partied out.

The next day, our hero got up a little hung over from the nice festivities. Before he was even done flossing his teeth, he heard the dragon lookout sound the alarm, “Two dragons heading for the castle!” Well, our hungover hero grabs his sword, jumps on his trusty steed, rides out, quickly cutting the heads off both dragons.Heading back to the castle, he is once again treated by the cheers of the people. They pop some more kegs, fire up the gas grills, the band gets out their amplifiers—another grand celebration gets underway.

Of course, our slayer doesn’t even make it through the salad bar when he hears the dragon lookout sound the alarm, “Three dragons heading for the castle!” Our hero puts down his plate, gets onto his horse, and starts riding out. But now he’s starting to think to himself, “How come I’m the only one that knows how to pick up a sword? Why can’t we have a few more slayers? And why do I have floss at this time in the junction?” Anyway, he gets to his three dragons, and it’s a tough battle. He gets munched on a few times. It’s ugly. But in the end, he’s victorious. He’s our story’s hero. He cuts off the heads of all three dragons. Heading back to the castle, he’s thinking to himself, “You know, in that last battle, I was kind of angry. I’m frustrated. No longer am I really thinking about doing something noble, like protecting the kingdom and all the wonderful people there.”

He gets off his horse, getting back to the celebration, and he notices that it’s pretty much over. The band’s putting up the amplifiers. The grill is cold, the steaks are gone, and the kegs are empty. Just then, the dragon lookout sounds the alarm, “Four dragons heading for the castle!”Our hero draws his sword, walks over to the lookout, and cuts off his head.

The moral of that story? We tend to have an infinite supply of dragons, and if we have only one slayer, one safety manager, one expert in a field, we’re probably going to run into a problem, and someone’s going to lose their head.

Now, Kaizen is a term that we’ve all probably heard. You may not have a lot of experience with lean manufacturing, but Kaizen has been a term that’s been used so much that I find most people have heard of it. It is a Japanese word. It is part of lean manufacturing, and it basically means small improvement. The idea of this dragon slayer training everyone to be a dragon slayer lends itself to lean manufacturing very well. The idea of lean is that it works by people and processes, so your focus is on people. Sounds good for safety, right? And we give them processes to protect themselves, to really drive improvement and be successful at whatever they’re trying to do.

Now, one of the things that I like doing is getting away from theory. I’m a very pragmatic person, and I like talking from experience about things that I know will work. And when it comes to lean manufacturing, in 2008, I was a senior trainer for a large manufacturing facility, and we had a lean program in place. And at that time, I found out that we had the worst safety record for the company that I was with globally. So, we were the largest, and we were the worst for safety. Well, we decided to use our lean program to help turn it around.This is what lean does. It helps people be successful.

Now, we go back to this Kaizen concept, and what makes Kaizen so powerful—like wanting to make more dragon slayers, the idea of driving small improvements is done by everybody, everywhere, every day. So, before we get into how it drives improvement, let’s just take a second and look at why people take risks. It’s really important to know our dragons, and that’s what we’re talking about here.

Well, people don’t want to get hurt. I’ve done hundreds of accident investigations, and never have I had anyone tell me that they thought they were going to get hurt when they did what they did.We don’t want to get hurt, but we don’t want to fail, either, so we’ll put ourselves at risk physically to protect ourselves emotionally. So, we need to set the stage to help people succeed. We need to control expectations, and the leadership needs to train everyone in understanding dragons and becoming dragon slayers.

Okay, if you’ve heard of total productive maintenance before, that is a lean tool, and total productive safety works along that same line. It uses the Kaizen methodology. So, total productive maintenance is where you have a separate, autonomous maintenance program, and you’re training everyone to be a little bit more knowledgeable about the equipment they run, and they take ownership of it. That’s exactly what we’re doing with safety, so we want to up everyone’s safety knowledge and give them ownership.

So, if you look on the left of that traditional safety program, we have that safety manager drive safety. Safety managers act like a manager. Safety knowledge and understanding is low in the culture. Conflicts between safety and performance are common, and employees will take risks to get the work done.

Now, you go over to the right, to that total productive safety, and we’ve got the safety manager now supporting safety. Rather than driving it, he’s in a support capacity. Well, how does he do that? He does that by acting more as a coach and a mentor and becoming a safety leader, training other leaders as part of that role. Employees have a higher level of understanding of hazards and controls, which they need so they don’t unwittingly undo a control measure. We’ve spent a lot of time really teaching workers to understand the difference, say, between hazards and danger.You can work around hazards all day long and never be in danger, as long as the control measure’s in place to keep you safe. If they understand the control measure protecting them with that hazard, then they never cross the line into danger. Remove the control measure—now you’ve just crossed that path from hazard to danger.So, we want them to understand that and understand how to do basic hazard assessments and keep those control measures working for them.

Then, safety integrated into all that they do—that’s a really important concept when creating standardized work, or just creating the norm for how we do things. Safety is a major element. Then that last one—employees will stop work if deemed unsafe. So, we’ve got to really increase the element of safety in their eyes, that employees are number one, and safety has to be number one.

Okay, it’s really important that people understand their role. And a good lead tool to help with this is something called RACI. Again, we’ve got to understand what is expected out of us before we can behave the way that management wants them to behave. We have to know what the expectations are, so Responsible—we are each responsible for our own safety. The word “responsible” means the ability to respond. No one can protect you better than you can. We have to have employees responsible for their own safety. We need to understand hazards we may encounter and are responsible for the control measures.We need to be able to uncover unsafe conditions and behaviors quickly and solve them.

Okay, Accountable—leadership and management are accountable for keeping employees safe. They must provide a work environment that values people as the number one asset. If performance is valued above employees, a safety culture really isn’t possible.Managers must understand the levels of safety. Now, remember that. I’m going to come back to it in a few slides.

Consulted—managers and the leaders must view themselves as coaches and managers. They are whom the employees will consult with safety issues.You’re training dragon slayers, so you’re like the senior slayer. You have to be ready and knowledgeable to handle safety Kaizens that they bring to you, wanting support.

The last one, Informed—that really includes everybody. We need good information streams for driving health and safety. Occupational safety is either proactive, or it’s inactive. We need strong information loops driving safety. So, I’m talking about safety bulletin boards, safety as the first agenda item for every meeting, safety newsletters. We want everyone in the company to know where we’re at in regards to safety goals, hazard assessments—we need to keep momentum and wind driving that sail that pushes us ahead with safety.

Okay, in almost any organization or business, you’re going to have, like you see there, with that iceberg—we’ve all heard some variation of the iceberg principle, where the majority of the iceberg’s underwater, and part of it’s picking up, which is actually just a small portion. Well, that portion sticking out represents a big problem, like a large dragon that had a chance to mature, poking its head out there. But what you tend to have, when it comes to drilling down, is you have a 10X principle when it comes to problems. For that one big problem, just below the surface, you’ve got ten regular-sized problems. For the ten regular-sized, you probably have 100 small problems and 1,000 issues.

So, we have a real problem here, in that we spend all our time fighting those big problems, and while we’re doing this, the issues have a chance to mature into full-blown problems, again.Now, another way to look at this iceberg is, if you look at almost any organization, you have the same type of structure when it comes to people with authority and the majority of your workforce.So, sticking out that iceberg would be top management. You have fewer people with more authority. But as you drill through the organization to the bottom, you’ve got the bulk of the workforce, the boots on the ground, the tip of the spear, the direct labor, the people who are getting things done. So, you’ve got all the information, really, where the issues are, and the problems, down on the bottom, but you’ve got the people who make the decisions up top.

So, you can do one of two things here. We can push the information up, which is very difficult, through all the different layers, or you can push authority down and train everyone to be a dragon slayer. We want to squish those dragons while they’re in the egg. We want to kill them as they’re baby dragons. We want to take care of them as they’re issues. I apologize to anyone who’s sympathetic to baby dragons.

Another way to look at it is, when I was with the large manufacturing facility, we had 500 employees, five different shifts, several departments, sub-departments, so in 2008, when I was trying to act as the safety manager, it was pretty much like you see on the slide right there. The further I tried to go to support, the thinner I got, and the more ineffective I got. Again, we had clients that were already doing lean, so we embraced Kaizen.We got them to take ownership for their departments, their areas. We went with this approach of making everyone a dragon slayer. And we really saw the benefit to this pretty quickly. It was really amazing. We had safety meetings that everyone could attend. I did facilitate these, and we had them to where people could attend two different meetings a month, so every other week, you could go to a safety meeting that was adjacent to your shift.

And what we saw was, in these meetings, people were loving the chance to report about their projects, what they had done in their area. We had gotten them to where they had literally taken over ownership for safety, and it was so rewarding to see. They were proud of what they’d done to protect their coworkers, to control unsafe conditions and unsafe behaviors. It was really amazing.

If I go back to before that, I remember visiting a friend of mine who was a safety manager in his office, and they didn’t have an approach like you see here on the slide. They were still the older approach. He was a safety manager and trying to drive everything.And I noticed on his desk were a stack of forms, and I asked him what they were, and they were a—he told me they were forms that, when someone saw an unsafe condition, they would fill out this form and turn it in to him.And I looked at that stack, and he saw the amazement in my eyes and goes, “Yeah, right, what am I supposed to do?”He had no direct reports, and when he went to the departments, well, they had other things that they were dealing with, so no one was really concerned with dealing with his safety issues.He literally had a stack of dragons right there and no slayers to deal with them.

We have gotten to the point where we have plenty of slayers and a good infrastructure with lean support.We had, actually, a Kaizen database, where when people identified an issue, a dragon, they would answer four questions, and this was really the heart of Kaizen. It’s, “What’s the problem as you see it? What’s the solution that you want to implement? Who’s going to do it? And when’s it going to be done?” Every day, as part of my routine, I would pull out the Kaizen database, filter by safety, and look at the four or five or ten safety projects that they needed my validation before they would continue with. Now, they were going to do it. If you came up with a project, you were expected to work with your team and others to fulfill it. But they still needed my okay. And that was to make sure that it didn’t go against OSHA and that we didn’t make a mistake.So, it did need my okay, but it was very easy for me to do.

To give you an idea, in 2009, we had over 500 completed safety projects. We successfully cut accidents in half that year. Then we did it again in 2010, and we had more than 500 safety projects. I think that year was like 600—thousands of overall Kaizens turned in. So, this will not only drive safety, but you’re going to gain some momentum, so it would drive, actually, any key performance indicator, so safety, cost, quality, delivery.People are used to solving problems in their own life. This plays to human nature. We don’t like being told what to do. We’d rather be told what the problem is and given the opportunity to solve it ourselves.

I would imagine that a trained slayer would look at dragons differently from someone who’s never slayed one. They might anticipate it as a challenge that they’re looking forward to—“You know, I’ve seen a dragon like this before. I slayed him, and you’re going down.”We want that type of methodology with our people, our employees. We want to train them as leaders. The companies that are going to do really well in our ever-changing world, in a fast pace of changing technology and markets, are the ones that can surface problems quickly and come up with solutions and implement them quickly.That’s what Kaizen helps you to do.

Again, I’ve seen this work, so it’s very pragmatic, and I’ve seen it work in different environments, so it would work in manufacturing. It would work in construction, in a hospital, anywhere, because again, it plays to our human nature. Okay, it’s very important to understand how to create the culture where Kaizen and safety can thrive. Now, I mentioned a few slides back that I was going to talk about the levels of safety.You’ve all seen something like what’s on the slide right now. We all know about the comfort zone. That’s the tried-and-true that we’re comfortable with. It’s also a little bit boring. Right outside our comfort zone is the learning zone. That’s where we’re learning and trying something different.And then there’s the fear zone, where we’ve gone so far that we don’t feel comfortable, and I need to move back.

Well, unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of work environments where that learning zone doesn’t exist. You have the comfort zone and the fear zone.This is where employees don’t feel valued, so they’re going to keep their heads down and do only what they feel they can do safely. And by “safely,” I don’t mean physically safely. Here’s the irony here. When employees don’t feel safe emotionally or professionally, they will take risks physically. But when you get them to feel safe taking a risk emotionally and professionally, they can stay safe physically.

Here’s what I mean by those three levels. Employees have to know that they feel safe emotionally. They have to feel like they’re part of a team, a family, a community, that management actually cares about them as a person, because we’ll take risks to protect ourselves if you know that you could get chewed out for excessive downtime for your machine or not getting the right output or a mistake.You’ll take physical risks to make sure that those numbers are there. The same professionally—if you know you could get written up or fired or demoted because you had too much downtime or scrap or fell behind on a schedule, you’ll take physical risks to make sure those things happen.

And it makes sense to us because think of it this way. If you were an employee, and you knew that your employer did not care about you emotionally, didn’t care about you as a person, and didn’t care about you professionally—they saw you as someone that was easily replaced—would you believe them when they told you to work safe?If I know you don’t care about me, then I’m going to find it really hard to believe that you care about my safety.But you implement those. Now people feel they can take emotional risks.They can come up with ideas to drive, not only safety but to drive all the other key performance indicators. And it plays right into human nature to do this. Again, if we feel valued, and we have the opportunity, we’re going to do the things that are going to make our work life better. It’s very rewarding.

So, again, we have to create that culture where employees can embrace change and take emotional and professional risks under the right controls, and again, Kaizen has these parameters, like me checking the safety projects to make sure they didn’t go against OSHA or the EPA. In the same way, we put boundaries in with all Kaizens, so we want to treat people like they’re process engineers. We want to let them come up with ideas and work together as a team, and again, this plays right into human nature. It will not only drive safety, but it will drive everything else.

We want to make a learning zone where that’s the only zone that exists. People come to work, and they’re excited to be there. Okay, I always like to try and give out some practical information that you can implement almost immediately, so that’s the purpose of this slide. I want to give you something that you can focus on. Now, here’s three points that really, when employees show up at work, they should have this set right up on the get-go on their behalf. So, when they show up for work, they should have a clean, organized workstation and work environment. That means 5S + 1 or 6S in place, if you’ve heard of that. They should have all the information, tools, and supplies that they need to do their job.They shouldn’t have to come to work and start doing a scavenger hunt. And that third one—they should have a stable process that they come into.

Then, they shouldn’t have to come to work to do firefighting or dragon slaying. If those three aren’t in place, then they might spend all day just trying to get those in place. That makes for a really tough day. It’s kind of hard to drive into work when you know that you’re in for a butt-kicking all through your day, just trying to gain control. If these things are in place, then that means the employee has control and can focus on the main things that are important, like customer value and driving improvement.We don’t want people focusing on just surviving the day-to-day routine. That would be like me fighting to keep my heart rate going and my lungs filled with oxygen, rather than focusing on doing webinars like this.Again, the day-to-day functions should happen normally.

I’m reminded of a story of the plant manager who was called in to do jury duty, and when the judge asked him, “Hey, is there any reason why you shouldn’t be called to be a juror?” the executive said, “Well, yes, I’m the plant manager for a really large factory, and I really need to be there every day.” And the judge looked at him and goes, “What? You mean you’re so important that they can’t function without you?” He goes, “No, it’s the exact opposite. We have such a smooth-running operation, they’ll do fine without me. I just don’t want them to know it.” The judge said, “You’re released.” And that’s what we want. We want Kaizen. We want lean.We want systems in place.

So, how about your organization?Are these three things in place?Clean, organized work environment, all the information, tools, and supplies at the start of the day, and then stable processes—we don’t want people wasting their time trying to get this set. We want them to have this right out the get-go. Again, the focus should be on customer satisfaction and driving improvement.

I really love doing webinars like this. I love working for Safeopedia. They’re a wonderful company. And—I’ve done some projects with it, and again, they’re a wonderful company. I couldn’t help but notice, with both these great companies that are working to keep people safe—in their logo, they both have shields. By accident? I think not.There’s some genius working behind the scene here. In the middle of the screen, you’ll see another shield. That is a hoplite. It is the shield that was used by the Spartans, probably the greatest warrior nation that the world has ever seen. Well, that Spartan, when he was out on the battlefield, if he lost his spear or his sword, it was no big deal. But if he lost his shield, he could lose his citizenship.He used his spear and sword to protect himself, but the shield was used to protect the soldier next to him. It was used to protect others. There’s something in our psyche where we will do better at protecting others than we often will ourselves. I can remember, back when I was a mechanic, again, I would take the risk. I would work on the equipment with the guard off with it running. But I would cringe if I saw a friend doing it. I would put myself at risk, but I wouldn’t want someone else at risk.

So, one of the things we did was, we developed what we called our moral safety code. If you would not allow an adult son or daughter to do an activity, don’t let anyone else do it. We played on that, that you know what? We want to build that community, that family, that team. We want to look out for each other, so let’s create that culture where we’re protecting ourselves to set the example, but we are really looking out for one another. So,, Safeopedia, great job on the logos. I think you guys are spot-on. Again, that’s the type of environment we want. We want to create a culture where we look out for one another. There is definitely that—you get what you give.When people know that you care about them, that you value them, then it makes them so that they’ll not only look out for themselves, but they’ll look out for you and for the company.

So, with that, hopefully I gave you some good information, and you enjoyed our little story time, and I’ll open it up for some questions and maybe scramble for some answers.

Jamie: Great, thank you, Bryan. Yeah, we’ve got quite a few questions coming in, so there’s still time. If you want to get your questions in, again, please type them into the GoToWebinar control panel, and we will get to them as best we can.So, having said that, Ryan has a question here. Ryan says, “How do I convince upper management to value a safety program?”

Bryan: And that is a really good question, because that’s the nut that safety professionals are always trying to crack.It’s hard to get any momentum if management doesn’t get behind it. So, one of the ways that I say—you know, if you want people to get behind any initiative, they’ve got to feel valued and cared for. So, safety and your employees have to come first. They really do. And when you foster loyalty and trust by upping safety, again, protecting them, then that loyalty and trust will be returned. And really, that’s the beginning of taking care of all your other key performance indicators. So, if you want them to care about cost, quality, and delivery, it begins by safety.And they really need to understand that, because again, it goes back to that moral code. If you don’t care about them, why should they care about anything about you, other than just showing up to get that paycheck?

Jamie: Thank you, Bryan. All right, Jeff also has a question here. Are you familiar with Human and Organization Performance (HOP) as explained by Todd Conklin? It seems there are some connections/overlap here, especially moving away from top-down management, empowering workers, recognizing workers’ knowledge, often better than the manager’s knowledge, and the emphasis on employee-driven and/or collaborative learning.

Bryan: Yeah, I’m not sure about that study, but I’ve seen many, many studies along that line, and you are spot-on with it. Again, the Gallup, Hartberg, Simon Sinek—there’s so many that are really saying that very same thing. And again, it makes sense. This is a place where human nature—I think of that old saying. For every pair of hands you hire, you get a free brain. Let’s take advantage of it. Even the military takes advantage of decentralized command centers, where you’re better off to push down that ability to make decisions to where the information is. We want to train everyone to be a leader. As I mentioned, the companies that are going to do well, as the pace of technology gets faster and faster, and the market changes so quickly, is we need the ability to really recognize problems fast and come up with solutions quickly. So, there’s so much power in that and developing a team that’s able to do that. That’s a team that can handle creating different products or services and developing ways to handle problems and create true value. So, yes, I’m definitely a firm believer in it.

Jamie: Thanks, Bryan.Actually, Jeffrey has a good follow-up to his question. Do you have any tips for increasing that collaborative learning beyond Kaizen and bringing Kaizen tips into weekly safety meetings?So, do you have any tips?

Bryan: Oh, that’s a good question, and actually, yeah, we need to play to that WIIFM, the “What’s in it for me?” So especially in the early stages, let people set up some Kaizens to deal with things that frustrate them at work. Often, I’ll do a brainstorming session with teams, and then—I’m going to back up for a second. Even putting together teams—when we talk about a department, that refers to the area.We want to refer to teams, which are the people in that area, again, to show that we value them. And when deploying lean, give them a chance to, as a team, come up with those things that cause them frustration. We want early wins, and we want to build some momentum.So, everything that they do that drives improvement in their area—it’s going to help in the long run, so it will help drive, again, all those key performance indicators. So, again, in the beginning, give them a chance to deal with those things that are silly or take too much time or just cause frustration for their day, and remember—people usually don’t get hurt when things are running well. It’s when we’re scrambling and we’re dealing with that uncertainty or juggling too many balls at once, and that abnormal chain of events happens, that people get hurt.So, yeah, play to what’s important to them. Again, that WIIFM—What’s important to me? Hopefully, that will help you out, Jeffrey.

Jamie: Thank you, Bryan. All right, here’s a question from Sally. She says, “You say start small, but where do you actually start? Do you have any ideas of what to do first?”

Bryan: Okay, here’s the good and bad of lean. There’s not a cookie-cutter approach, so each culture—you’ve got to take it to where the culture is. So, I would look and see what the acceptance level and the buy-in with just management and the workforce is. If you already have people that are, say, happy with the direction of the company, and everything’s kind of midline, then you can implement it pretty easily. And you’re still going to have your maybe 20% that love the change and buy into this immediately, and you’ll have your laggers, who really don’t want anything to do with it, and your middle group that are just going to go with the flow. But you’ve really got to gauge your culture and go to them where they’re at.So, again, you’re trying to line up two things. Remember, everything with lean comes down to the people and the processes, so where are your people at? What’s important to them? And you tailor the processes to them. The idea of lean tools and methodology is they help people to be successful, so deal with what’s upsetting them, if there is anything, and then be real clear about what your mission statement is, what you’re trying to accomplish as a company, including safety, and then get everyone on board. Often, I’ll walk into a company and ask them what their mission statement is, and management might tell me one thing, but I’ll walk out to the people on the floor, and they either don’t know or all have a different take, so we’ve got to get everyone flying the same direction. But tailor it to them and the issues that they care about.Hopefully that helps you.

Jamie: Thanks, Bryan.Here’s a sort of related and very interesting—how do you make someone a team player when they already think that they’re a team player, but aren’t necessarily a team player?

Bryan: Man, that is a good question, and I have met some of those. It’s interesting. It can be kind of disconnected. Okay, here’s one of the great things about working as a team. If you set your department up as self-directed work teams, now you have a group of maybe five or six or ten people that work as a team.They’re going to create their own filter, where if they’re having, say, team meetings once a month, including safety as a top agenda item, and doing Kaizens, that person who’s not a team player—the rest of the team’s going to call him or her out pretty quick. And we do have those people. If you’ve ever done a personality profile, part of the lean training that I would provide is, I would do a class on team problem-solving, and at the end of that class, I did personality profiles for everyone, and we saw those different personality types, and you’ll see those A types, where it’s all pretty much on them, and they just assume that everyone is behind them and thinks they are the greatest thing in the world. So, you need some reality checks, and teams tend to create that as just their own little dynamic. So, if the team sees that we all need to go this way, and you have that one person who’s saying, “No, we’ve got to go this way,” then the team will deal with it, so it will work itself out.

Jamie: Thank you, Bryan. All right, Sandrice is asking a question. In general, should safety managers be training supervisors, and those supervisors train the employers? According to the Kaizen model, should safety managers go right down and train the employees directly? That’s the question. Good question.

Bryan: Good question, and remember, training is a different skill set than application. I’ve known people who are really good in their field, but not good trainers, so I would really opt for the training to be done by someone who has a higher expertise level, but have those managers in the class also with the people that they’re going to be supporting, or connected somehow that way, because it’s so important to make a good first impression when rolling this out and getting the training out, where remember, you’re trying to do two things.You’re trying to give some skill in, say, Kaizen and the direction you want them to go, but you’re also trying to create buy-in, selling it to them like a marketer. You’ve got to create benefit and show the value. So, I would be more apt to use someone whose skill set is more towards training who the people enjoy learning from.

And then, once you get the ball rolling, they know that the manager, their supervisor, their lead mechanic, is going to be their support. One of the smartest and strongest things any leader can say is, “I don’t know.” So, it’s more important that they work together for that bond of loyalty and trust, and if the direct leader is not sure on something, they just say, “You know, I’m not sure. Let’s find out together.” But you’ve got to function as a team, and that’s that loyalty and trust, that relationship. Hopefully that helped.

Jamie: That’s great.Thanks, Bryan. All right, Robert Perry has—it’s more of a comment, but it brings up an interesting point. Robert says, “I believe if management doesn’t buy in, you can do an employee-driven program. It forces them to believe,” I guess “them” being the management. So, do you have any experience? And how do you deal with if management isn’t buying in?

Bryan: Actually, I do have some experience of that. It’s kind of funny. Our first lean program was back in 1995. That’s when I was introduced to lean—or excuse me, 1997. And it was a very intense 3-week program. Well, they started it. Management got the ball rolling. And as with a lot of programs, it became a flavor of the week, and within a year, they dropped the program. But myself and several others that had gone through it had learned that a lot of the tools made our lives better. They made our lives easier. So, we continued to embrace 5S + 1 and different lean tools. So, again, it still goes back to that psychology of “What’s in it for me?” So, you can really get employee buy-in just to help them deal with those issues they deal with day to day, because if we provide the support and the ability for any employee to improve what they do and how they do it, usually, they’ll jump on it. It’s kind of funny. I stumbled across a conversation once, and this is around 2011, so we were really well into lean. We had a very mature team. And I came across an older employee talking to a new hire, and they were talking about our lean program. And the older employee goes, “You know, you new hires—you’ve gotten so lucky. If you want to change something, if you don’t like how something is, all you have to do is turn in a Kaizen, get the team’s support, and make it happen.” He goes, “When I started out here 30 years ago, if I came up with an idea, I’d tell my manager or an engineer, and they’d tell me to go back to work, and if it ever did happen, I would see an engineer come up with the idea himself and implement it and take all the credit for it.”

So, as I said, there’s enough motivation just on all levels if you give it to them where they can use it to make their lives better. And that should appeal to management, too, because remember, they’re getting paid to do a job that provides a service or a product. So, if they’re able to do it more efficiently, it’s a win/win.

Jamie: Awesome.Thank you, Bryan. Okay, Mohammed has a—this is an interesting question.I’ve seen a lot of different schools of thought. What about safety incentive programs? There’s two schools of thought around this. Great question.

Bryan: Yeah, that is a really good question, and I know the different schools. I know that some will tell you that OSHA kind of frowns on incentivizing safety, because they think that people will hide injuries because they want to get that reward. And I’ll tell you, again, my experience when we turned safety around in 2009, and every year we continue to improve safety, which told us we were on the right track. We duplicated it in other factories by doing this very thing that I’m presenting to you today. We did have incentives. One of the things we did in 2009 was, every month that we went without an OSHA-recordable injury, we actually made a steak dinner. We cooked steaks for everybody. We rewarded safety. And the way I figured I could defend it to anyone with OSHA—we rewarded other things.We rewarded people when it came to driving cost, quality, and delivery, so why not safety also? You just need to be able to show that you are enforcing your safety rules and that people are reporting incidents, like first aid injuries and near misses. As long as you can show that that’s happening, then there’s no real problem, because it shows people aren’t hiding it.

And more often than not, as long as you’re being humane, again, you’re not overly punishing people, they’re going to report their injury. So, to be honest, we never had a conflict with it. So, I know there are two thoughts, two schools of thought, but with my experience, I would go with going ahead and rewarding safety. We reward everything else, so why wouldn’t you reward someone for being safe?

Jamie: Thank you, Bryan. Here’s a really interesting question. Do you have experience where the leader is not the manager? And how do you deal with potential egos in this situation?

Bryan: Oh, man.Yeah, we’re getting some good questions.That is a very good question.Here’s an interesting dynamic, and when I’m mentoring or coaching young people, I will tell them to memorize the statement. Leadership is situational, and power is assumed. I’m going to say it again. Leadership is situational, and power is assumed. I have been in meetings before where often, the person with the most sway power, the most influence, the true leader, was not the person with the highest level of authority. They just happened to be that person that everyone respected. He or she was that person that they were looking at to see how they responded to information, and they were going to follow suit. That was the true leader. Remember, there’s only one definition of a leader. They have followers. A leader has influence. So, again, if that manager or whoever is not a leader, that’s okay. Support the person that is acting as that leader. And the mark of a true leader is protecting others, so it really plays to safety. We don’t follow a leader to enable the leader. We follow a leader to enable ourselves. So, we trust them. We get behind them because there’s a momentum and a purpose that we believe in. So, yeah, just understand that dynamic, and you can make it work for you.

Jamie: Awesome.Thank you, Bryan. Okay, another question here—do you have any examples of eclectic approaches to safety, using traditional behavior-based and Kaizen approaches or total productivity safety?

Bryan: Oh, man, that’s a mouthful. Yeah, there are so many different approaches, and what I said at the outset of these slides is, this really plays to our motivation. When you talk about total quality control and everything, we have to be careful that we aren’t manipulating people, but we’re playing to our human nature. And there’s something called the emotional triad, where everything we do is motivated by three things, the desire for reward, the avoidance of pain, and the conservation of energy. So, if you think about it from a safety standpoint, all those tend to work against safety. The reward is getting the job done, so we’ll take risks to make that happen. The avoidance of pain is usually emotional pain, not physical pain, because we don’t think we’re going to get hurt. That conservation of energy—well, the reality is, safety always takes extra time.It takes time to do lockout/tagout, confined space, to do anything the right way.So, whatever program you’re using, again, TQM, all those—I’m a big fan of all that, but we have to make sure that we’re making everything work to the benefit of that motivational triad, to the best we can.

So, we’ve got to show people that it’s to their benefit to embrace Kaizen, to improve what they do and how they do it, and to stay safe. There’s an old saying of—we want to empower those that feel the pain to deal with the pain. And in this case, with safety, we’re talking about literal pain here.It’s the people on the front lines that are going to get hurt. So, if we want them to really embrace quality or whatever program we’re going to put there, we’ve still got to make sure we follow that motivational triad. We care about what’s important to them, and we play to the individual, and we develop that loyalty and trust.

So, again, I go back to that—you’ve got to be careful using a cookie-cutter approach. You really do have to read your team and your culture and go to where they’re at and work with them.

Jamie: Awesome, loyalty and trust—it’s all about that.

Bryan: That’s right.You bet.

Jamie: Here’s an interesting question. Do I need a lean program in place first, before I can get started on this program?

Bryan: Oh, man, another really, really good question, because I can see people kind of hesitating, because you don’t want to get that big lean movement going. Absolutely, yes, you can get Kaizen going. I have seen groups implement elements of even 5S + 1 without getting into the full lean program yet. The great thing about Kaizen is it’s so easy to roll out. Remember, with a simple Kaizen form, you’re just asking those four questions. The problem?As we understand it, here’s the problem.What’s the solution? Who’s going to do it? And when’s it going to be done? By going after that mindset—and incidentally, that’s the same, really, pattern we should use for our own problems, our personal life.

So, it’s very easy to get a Kaizen system in place, and it makes sense to people. Again, if we can’t answer those four questions, a problem that’s causing trouble today could be still causing trouble next year. Again, we want to take care of those dragons that are creating issues and deal with them immediately. So, yeah, absolutely, you can implement the Kaizen or any other lean tool, for that matter. Again, that’s part of tailoring it to what works for you guys. You can teach someone how to make chocolate chip cookies without having them go to culinary school or become a full-fledged baker, so that’s all we’re doing.

Jamie: Thank you, Bryan. Actually, this one makes me chuckle. This is a real question. So, the question is—it just makes me chuckle—Are there resources out there to coach or consult on these principles, and are you available?

Bryan: Ah, you know, that is a good one. Why are you chuckling? Yeah, there are a lot of really good consultants out there. The interesting thing is, lean’s been out there for a long time. This is actually something that started in World War II, with the Department of Labor working through a program called Training Within Industries, and we find elements of 5S + 1 back in 16th-century shipbuilding. So, I actually have a YouTube channel where I have a lot of YouTube videos on this and some books. Reach out to me. I think you see one of my emails there. I love this stuff, and I’m glad to help in any way I can. But yeah, there’s a lot of really good lean people out there.And I would suggest if you are new to it and want to get a good lean program—use someone that has successfully implemented this. Like I said in the beginning, you don’t want to operate off theory, because if you attempt some of these and give your people a really bad experience—think of that—you don’t get a second chance at a first impression.So, we need to cater it to them, find out what’s important to them, and get them good early wins. We want to get addicted to winning, because winning feels good, and when we slay those dragons, again, it makes us feel good. It plays to that motivational triad.

Jamie: Way to stay humble. You absolutely did not sell yourself. That was awesome. That’s why I was chuckling. I was like, “How is he going to answer this question without being super humble like he always is?” That was great. Here’s an interesting question. This seems to be one of the most polarizing things that I’ve seen out there. Any thoughts on target zero?

Bryan: Absolutely. I applaud whoever asked that question. This is such an important one, because I’ve had this conversation with different experts in safety that I definitely respect, where we’ve kind of had debates on it. I’m a firm believer in target zero, and you can embrace it as a philosophy. The way some people explain it is, “Why would you have a goal of anything other than zero?”It should be acceptable to have no injuries. We want the goal to always be zero. With that being said, you might set a target at, say, 50% accident reduction, so you have a goal of zero and a target of something that is achievable.

But here’s some food for thought for you. In 2008, when we learned that we were having all these accidents at the factory I was at, where we had actually 3 injuries a week on average, I remember telling a friend of mine in HR, on a Monday, that 3 of our friends were going to get hurt this week. Like a lottery from hell, we were just kind of waiting to see who the names were.So, we felt so helpless. So, this factory had been in operation since 1967, so this was 2008. If we had known how to stop the accidents, we’d have done it a long time ago. So, we had a lot of people who had believed that accidents were normal. I mean, we worked around glass, fire, and high-speed equipment, so they just accepted accidents. So, to turn that around, here’s something we stumbled upon. We found that we had employees that had been there for 20 and 30 years or longer, working in lots of different locations, that had never been injured.

So, when I got to talking to them, I found out that they really valued safety. So, you know what? When you think about control measures in that hazard and danger, if I put on safety goggles, I know that my eyes are going to be protected from dust or flying objects. If I wear the cut-resistant gloves, I know my hands are going to be safe from that object that’s sharp, that could cut them. So, what we did at that factory was, we used those people with their experience to promote safety. We told them, “Hey, here, John Smith has worked for 30 years with no accidents in the same environment that you’re saying it isn’t possible.” And lo and behold, we had an entire shift go a full year without an OSHA-recordable accident, and we had teams all of a sudden going accident-free. So, yeah, zero accidents is absolutely possible, and I would keep it as your goal and tell people, if they can’t buy into it—then set it as a goal, and then set a target that they think is believable and head that direction.

Jamie: I love that.I’ve never heard that before, actually—set the goal, but then set some targets. Love it. Robert asked a great question. You’re talking about Kaizen and on-the-job safety. What’s your experience with this leaking into, or how do you address off-the-job safety? So, when somebody goes home—

Bryan: Oh, man, another good question—we’ve got a good bunch here. It’s kind of funny. I had mentioned earlier that everything I’m presenting, when it comes to lean, is just as effective in our personal lives, and I’m so thankful to Philips, the group I was with when I learned all that, and it’s a company that does truly care about safety and their people. And when we rolled out lean, I was really amazed to see and hear stories of our employees that were taking this stuff home. I had employees that were telling us about, “Hey, last week, my wife and I 5S + 1’d our kitchen, and then we did it to our garage.” We had people teaching their mate, their significant other, these different lean tools.

So, safety is the same way.We really want to embrace the idea of understanding the hazard, the danger, and implementing that control measure with your family and your environment. So, we want safety to be a habit that we embrace 24/7, because let’s face it. We are creatures of habit. It’s kind of difficult to act one way 8 hours a day and then a different way the rest of the day. Again, we’re creatures of habit, so we want to instill good habits that give us a good life 24/7.

Jamie: Thank you, Bryan. Here’s a really interesting question. I wouldn’t have even assumed this would get asked, but I love it. Auntie is asking, “When all the dragons are slayed and they go extinct, what’s next? How do you see the future of safety management? Where are we heading next?” Fabulous question.

Bryan: Oh, man, that really is. I’d love to have all the dragons dead. I’ll try and make this really short, but here is basically—there are four levels to knowledge, to all things, safety, lean, whatever you do. There are only four levels, and that’s ignorance, awareness, practice, and mastery. So, let’s say we’ll use French cooking. Let’s say I’ve never heard of French cooking, so I’m ignorant of it. I’m at level 1. Then all of a sudden, a friend of mine takes me to a French restaurant, and I try it, and I like it—level 2, awareness. I decide to get a French cookbook and start cooking it on my own. I mean, I wouldn’t eat it. It’s not that good, but I’d gladly serve it to friends and family.And then, you know what? I decide to go to culinary school, and I become a master chef. Now people pay me large sums of money to try my great French cooking.

Okay, in safety, lean, it goes through those same things. So, walking through the dragons, at first we’re not aware that we can control safety.Two, we gain an awareness of it, and we start implementing Kaizen, lean, hazard/risk assessment, and we start becoming good at it and embracing it. Now, remember, safety, like everything else, is proactive, or it’s inactive. We want to get to that zero, get to the point where not only have we got all our dragons dead, we’re watching out for those dragon eggs, and we’re not letting them even build a nest. So, from there on, we are using that mastery to take on the world, in terms of teaching, helping others. Use that site to teach other sites. That’s that final stage for safety or for anything in life. It’s taking what you have to benefit other communities. Once you’ve climbed the summit, help others to scale it, too, and use your success to enable more success.

And when you get to that point, man, that’s when life really gets exciting. When you can look at others who are dealing with dragons, and you have been able to show that you can live dragon-free and help them to live that way, man, that’s a good life.

Jamie: Awesome.All right, we’ve got three minutes left, but it looks like we only have one question left, so if you do have a question, you still have a couple of minutes. This is a great question. How can we help our workforce stay alert during the workday?—and then the word “complacency.”

Bryan: Oh, man, and that’s another good one, too, because that plays to our human nature.We get caught into the routine of the work. And that’s really what I’m meaning when I say that safety has to be proactive, or it’s inactive. Safety always needs momentum behind it, so when I think of that RACI, again, responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed—we want to constantly inform people about safety. So, there always needs to be a media campaign.

So, some of the ways we did this was, any meeting that took place, safety had to be the first agenda item, even if there was nothing going on in terms of incidents. Use it to promote safety awareness. Have a safety topic every month, a health topic—have health there.Do things to promote safety. We’ve got to keep it on people’s minds. Blend it in with—the work is routine, also, so when you’re creating standard work, make sure you’ve identified the safest way to do things, so that when people do kind of get lulled into a routine, they’re doing that routine the safe way.

So, it’s an ongoing battle when we’re talking about dealing with complacency. We have to just constantly, constantly infuse energy and support into safety. That is a tough on.

Jamie: All right, actually more of a point here—so, Jeff is asking if you could please repeat those four steps of Kaizen. And something else we’ll do is, when we do send out the recording, we’ll include—Bryan, I’m sure you’ve got one handy—a form that you’ve used in the past, or we’ll definitely make one up.

Bryan: You bet, yeah.That’s great. Yeah, four—and when I teach these classes on team problem-solving or Kaizen, again, these are the questions you’ve got to answer for anything you’re dealing with, safety, cost, quality, delivery, or something in your personal life. So, if you’ve heard of the term name it to tame it, the four questions are, “What’s the problem?” As you understand it, what is the problem? Write it down. “What is the proposed solution at this point?” Again, a bad plan now is better than the best plan later, so again, the first two—“What’s the problem? What’s the proposed solution?” Then you’ve got to give it a time element. Well, first of all, I guess ownership—“Who’s going to do it?” and then the time element, “When’s it going to be done?” So, problem, solution, who’s going to do it, and when will it be done?

Jamie: So, with that, it looks like we’re at the hour. Bryan, any parting words for the audience?

Bryan: Yeah, I want to again thank and Safeopedia. Again, Jamie, you’re just a pleasure to work with. I don’t think you and I have ever worked on anything where we didn’t crack up and just have a wonderful time. So, again, when it comes to loyalty and trust, those are two companies that definitely have my loyalty and trust. So, thank you for everyone that tuned in, and thanks again to Safeopedia and for allowing me to share this information.

Jamie: Absolutely.It is really our pleasure, Bryan, and you’re right. Has there been a time when we haven’t cracked up? And it’s always productive, and we’re extremely grateful for everything you’re doing for us. The audience—without you guys, we’d just be talking to each other, and I’m sure we’d be sharing a good laugh, but the audience is really what it’s all about, so thank everyone for registering, for attending—great questions. We really appreciate it, and we are extremely grateful.And so, with that, we’ll wrap it up.Everybody take care and stay safe.

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Best Practices Safety Culture EHS Programs Safety Superheroes

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Written by Bryan McWhorter | Lead Safety Advisor, Author, Writer, Speaker

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Bryan McWhorter is a safety professional with eight years of experience in driving and teaching safety. Bryan gained his knowledge and experience as the safety officer and Senior Trainer for Philips Lighting. Philips is a strong health and well-being company that promotes a safety first culture.

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