Handles on Safety: What Can Be Controlled

December 20 2015
By: Terry L. Mathis

For decades now, we have said the controllable elements of safety were workplace conditions and worker behavior. Then we started to realize these were connected and began to work on the interface between man and machine. When we realized workplace realities such as management systems and site culture heavily influenced worker behavior, we began to measure and manage these. THEN, as we developed an appetite for "leading indicators," we found certain activities, such as meetings, training, peer observations, etc., drove worker behaviors, so we began to address these.

As safety thinking and management approaches become more strategic, we realize a more perfect safety culture (which we know influences worker behavior) is made up of shared values, perceptions and common practices. Leading safety performers are identifying the desired values, perceptions and common practices that contribute to excellent safety, and are measuring and managing them. When they start down this path, they quickly find that, like behaviors, these three are influenced by other factors, and managing those factors creates the desired thinking and performance in workers.

If we are going to continuously improve safety performance, we must continue to find these controls and learn how to manipulate them and measure their output. The future of safety excellence is not simply getting tighter control of behaviors and conditions, it is finding the other controls that impact these two and better understanding how to control them.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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