Safety…It’s not a form you fill out

 “It’s not a F**king Ice cream parlor” had such a great response that I am departing from just speaking about outages for these next two weeks to speak directly about safety.

 Safety is after all the most important component of our industry; I have been “around” 20 industrial deaths. Every single one a tragedy. When I say “around” I mean they happened on Job sites that I was on at the time or Job sites where I was part of the recovery efforts after this most horrible of all events, Thank God, knock on wood, none were my direct reports or under my command at the time of each incident.

 I’m trying not to sensationalize this point, but I have endured nothing more soul scaring than each one of these events. When something happens in real life I’m cool calm and collected…even been described as icy (just for those who haven’t realized yet, that’s because I’m in charge and losing it is not an option). However, I can’t see blood or gore in make believe, I cover my eyes in movies and while watching TV and if it doesn’t end quickly I have to get up and leave the room or theater.

 Throughout all of these events, I have found a remarkable similarity. None of the Individuals were “The new Guy” who just didn’t know any better. They were all people with years of experience and considered well seasoned veterans who had a significant event happen in their personal life outside of work. Their heads were not in the game for that day, for if they were, they would still be here

 If a direct report tells you “I keep my personal life at the door when I come to work” they are absolutely full of it.

 If a Supervisor tells you “keep your personal life out of the work place” run because that individual has no idea how to help you stay safe and they are supposedly in charge.

 If a manager doesn’t understand that people have bad days (and when they do they should be sat on the bench and given a box of crayons for that day) then apply somewhere else it’s not good and won’t be.

 What am I really saying with these examples is this. The thought that any individual can separate work and home is BULLS**T!!!!!!!!!!!. I cannot stress this enough, I cannot stress this enough, I cannot stress this enough etc. etc.

 I hesitate in saying the following for two reasons, first and foremost I do not want to curse the gods with my hubris and secondly at the heart of things I’m just a guy who tries not to do stupid stuff and if I do, I try not to do it again. So I do not think that I am an expert on safety, however my experience would prove me to be. I’ve had thousands, probability tens of thousands, of direct and indirect reports throughout my career and the worst accident was a few stitches and one broken bone (both happened at remote sites where there was no supervision), bear in mind I’ve done over 250 outages and have been in this industry as a supervisor, manager, executive for 20 plus years

The above is simply to establish my bona fides so that the following can be taken as seriously as possible it is my formula for safety on the job. It’s not right, it is simply what I do, It works and if this helps one person it’s worth it

 Points to consider

Most safety policies and procedures are written to isolate the company from liability and they are often written by people who do not actually perform the tasks that the procedure is controlling. The company must be isolated from stupid employees because lord knows they are out there. In my experience you can achieve both company liability isolation and a procedure that actually keeps someone safer than they would be without one. To do this the various safety and compliance experts need to watch the individual performing the task at hand and make that job easier not more complex. When you do this you will be amazed at how well your people adhere to the safety policy

 Most Hourly personnel (for lack of a better way of saying it and the desire to be clear the people who actually do the work) in our industry are what are known as Kinesthetic Learners which is about 15% of the population. Most of the population is either are Visual or Auditory learners and most standardized education is based on this. That’s why most of your technicians are very intelligent but did not do well in school. Kinesthetic people learn by doing, not by talking or looking. All the safety programs I have ever seen sit a kinesthetic person down and try to teach them orally or with visual presentations. If you want to maximize your training efforts test your audience and tailor the delivery of information to fit the crowd

 The eyes are the window to the soul; sounds trite but truer words have never been spoken. Recently I was in a plant assisting them with their outage and the midnight shift’s Forman went on vacation and the leadman quit. This left the shift with no established leader, a dangerous situation normally, even more so during and outage. Someone in the crew stepped up, which always happens, and we started to have a quick talk with the entire crew before they started each shift. I have found that I can look people in the eyes and tell if they are “In the Game or not”, I don’t think I have any superpowers I know everyone can see it they just have to look. The crew would come to where I was camped out we would go over my expectations for the evening, during that time I would look each one in the eye and see where their head was at. About three nights into this routine the new leadman looked horrible, vastly different than he had looked the previous evenings. I told him to go home, he refused, he didn’t want to let the team down, I settled for him not to do anything that night my direct order was “sit on a bucket and point all night”. He didn’t listen, He’s a power plant guy and I’m talking to him about what I feel, what a sissy. He got taken out in an ambulance later that night with an internal sickness that if he had waited just a few hours more he would not have survived. He, at last I checked, is feeling better and on the road to recovery. The point of this is that the eyes have it, I live that and know it deep down and because of it I have a much better than average safety record than anyone I know. Teach your supervisors to look into their direct reports eyes before every shift and it will significantly improve your safety performance.

OSHA is online read it!

. Like I said in “It’s not a F**king Ice Parlor” I have a big problem with what I call the “OSHA Thumpers”. I find that they are generally more concerned with asserting their authority (usually the lack there of) then protecting their fellow worker. Don’t get me wrong we are in the business of getting things done, things most people outside our industry can’t even imagine, and it isn’t easy. In general Power Plants have to adhere to the following CFR’s 1910 and 1926, the more you know the less power the “Thumpers” have


In 1910 these are the top ten areas, right off the OSHA website:

 Bloodborne Pathogens – 1910.1030

 Hazard Communication – 1910.1200

 Respiratory Protection – 1910.134

 Occupational Noise Exposure – 1910.95

 Powered Industrial Trucks – 1910.178

 Permit-required Confined Spaces – 1910.146

 Lockout/Tagout – 1910.147

 Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response – 1910.120

 Guarding Floor and Wall Openings and Holes – 1910.23

Personal Protective Equipment – 1910.132


 Next week I’ll tell you about “The Common Sense Safety Program™” and how it came into being. “The Common Sense Safety Program™” was held as a benchmark for employee accountability by OSHA’s VPP program for many years

4 thoughts on “Safety…It’s not a form you fill out

  1. MJS

    Thank you- great message, especially around this time of the year. As much as we want to beleive that its a time for celebration and joy, the real truths is that the holidays put a lot of pressure on people and not everyone sees the holiday season the same way. It really is a time to take the time to make sure your employees are fully engaged… The best gift is that they go home every night the same way they left in the morning…..

  2. Michael Kubik

    Jay – interesting that you pointed out the kinesthetic nature of your work – especially among the natural leaders. Those of us that are kinesthetic have to figure out how to work around that “disadvantage” in school – especially if we want to be successful. For those of your readers that don’t understand what kind of learner they are, you can take a free “test” – VARK (which will show you what kind of learner you are – Visual, Aural, Read/write, or Kinesthetic). I had my son take it so that we could work with his teachers. I enjoyed the post this week – and no, I don’t get paid to point folks to VARK (google it). Michael


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