Toolbox Talks: Compliance does not equal safe

(Via Knowledge Vine)

As crazy as this picture looks, if we are just focusing on compliance, this guy is in pretty good shape. He has his gloves, safety shoes, and a hardhat, but is probably missing eye protection and fall protection. Three out of five isn’t too bad; he’s not perfect, but he’s not completely wrong. Mostly right is still right, right?

It’s easy to get lost in the details and miss the big picture. Not really in this situation, of course, because this picture is so jarring. In fact, the shock value is probably what inspired this risky behavior—it’s certainly what inspired its selection for this article. But we often lose our view of the forest when we focus on the trees.

Often, after an accident, injury, or rash of near misses, there is an effort to focus on the offending behavior. We’ve all witnessed: “Hey, we are seeing a lot of hand injuries so let’s do stand-down, morning training, or read-and-sign reiterating the need for glove usage.” We’ll spend the next week so laser focused on glove usage that we miss the litany of risky behaviors occurring all around us. We may have had a few eye injuries or slip, trip, or fall accident, but, hey, we knocked out that glove issue.

There are a lot of rules and best practices so it’s difficult to “focus” on all of them, but don’t let one requirement dominate the discussion and take the air out of the room. It’s good to attack a recurring issue, but ensure you keep that big picture view and don’t let other concerns flank you while your attention is focused elsewhere.

Toolbox Talks offers quick insights and thoughts to use for your toolbox (tailboard) talks. Dave Sowers is a founding member of Knowledge Vine, a veteran-owned human performance training and consulting organization that strives to reduce the frequency and severity of human errors in the workplace. He has almost 30 years of experience in power generation and the utility industry. He is a veteran of U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Program and holds a bachelor’s degree in resources management and a master’s degree in both management and emergency management and homeland security.