26 Dec, 2012  |  Written by Milt Jacobs  |  under Blog Post

It’s that time of year again when we are out of work and school with the children and family to celebrate the holidays.  This is a time to enjoy those scrumptious cakes and cookies, getting together with friends and of course preparing excellent meals.

Nothing ruins a festive time more than an injury or accident. (As my mom used to say, “It is all fun and games until someone…”).

Below are some items that I try to keep in mind (the safety mindset) during the holidays:

For those of us that are handy in the kitchen, don’t let a cut from a knife spoil your ability to hold that glass of eggnog.  Be sure that you use the correct knife for the situation (sharp carving knife for the meat) and remember to turn the blades down in the dishwasher.

Lighten those loads so you are not laid up with a back injury during the holidays.  Even Santa lighten his loads so he can get into those tight chimney spaces!

Pick up the ”stuff” before your slide and fall.  There will be lots of wrapping paper, shoes, cardboard boxes, toys and wire ties on the floor.  Look out for the slide and fall (versus the slip and fall).  Pick up the “stuff” off the floor as soon as you can.

Enjoy the spiked eggnog but sometimes it can sneak up on you like a predator- so beware.  Just make sure you have a plan B if you plan to sample that spiked eggnog.

Enjoy your holiday season and don’t forget your safety mindset!

Milton Jacobs

Have you ever driven to a destination and upon arrival could not recall the trip including the route you took, or the cars and exits that you passed along the way?  Or, have you ever entered a room to retrieve something but once in the room you could not remember why you are there much less what you were there to retrieve? 

Maybe you were thinking of a recent occurrence (such as the argument that you had with your spouse earlier that morning) or something that you have yet to do (such as the paying that large credit card bill- the future)?  

Whatever the reason, the above scenarios are what I refer to as “mindless living” and are rather scary (particularly the motor vehicle scenario).  The motor vehicle example while not exactly what we would think of when we use the term “distracted driving” is actually a form of distracted driving even though you are not partaking in tasks that are ordinarily associated with distracted driving (texting while driving, etc.). 

Mindless living is essentially performing daily tasks in a trance, or operating in auto pilot if you will.  

The fact is, these lapses in mindfulness, some momentary, others for longer periods of time, can occur rather frequently throughout our daily lives and activities.  I believe that these moment to moment lapses are a contributing factor to errors and sometimes injuries, both on and off the job.  Most of us are not even aware of these lapses muich less the consequences. 

After a recent safety talk at a construction site, I had a foreman approach me and say, “Today I let Tom leave work early as his head is not in the right place and I did not want him getting hurt.  His grandfather is expected to pass away and he is expecting a phone call at work to inform him”.  

While we never know what could have occurred on that construction site, the foreman took a proactive step to reduce the possibility of an injury as he was aware that his co-workers mindset was affected by this off the job situation.

 So what can we do about these mindless trances that we all suffer from periodically? 

 In comes the concept of Home Meets Work ®.  This is a concept centered on the idea that there is a connection between the home (or off the job issues) and the workplace.  Traditionally there has been a separation between home and work issues based on the ideas that home issues are personal in nature and have no place in the workplace. 

 We all know that that is not really so.  If you have a bad day at work, it is often taken home with you and vice versa.  Issues and challenges move freely from home to work and work to home.

 Employers and employees both have a vested interest (personal and family safety, improving quality/ productivity and reducing costs) in finding ways to address these issues. 

Below are two topic areas that I have used successfully within the workplace to promote the concept of mindfulness and accident prevention on and off the job.  Both items can be incorporated into your current workplace safety and health educational process.        

 1.      Mindfulness education

 If you agree that these trances exist in our lives and are a potential contributor to errors and incidents (not to mention there may also be a link to poor quality and lower productivity) then it is probably advantageous to educate the employees on techniques and strategies they can use to become more mindful and aware.  By giving your employees tips and skills on how to improve their state of awareness both on and off the job, their quality of life as well as their quality of work is sure to improve! 

 2. Home Meets Work ® Education 

 More Americans die of unintentional injury death in the home than in the workplace (21.1 million injuries in the home as compared to 5.1 million injuries at work). (NSC Injury Facts, 2011).

Incorporating non-traditional safety education (home/off the job safety) into your traditional workplace safety process, is not just a good thing to do but it builds employee awareness and involvement.  It also shows employees that the organization really cares about their health and safety and serves a very good financial purpose for the employer.  After all an injured worker (whether injured at home or work) cannot do his or her job in a productive manner, if at all!

This article was written by Milton Jacobs, Certified Safety Professional and President of Safety Solution Consultants, Inc.  For speaking engagements and workshops on mindful safety, please contact Milton at mjacobs@safety-solution.com or 1-888-240-7724.

11 Apr, 2011  |  Written by Milt Jacobs  |  under Blog Post, Uncategorized

One of the skills that takes a significant amount of time to develop and hone, is the skill of drawing correlations.  Simply put it is the art and science of putting data, observations, gut feelings and expertise altogether, to arrive at a conclusion about a safety or health issue or challenge we are facing.

While the context of this post relates to workplace health and safety, many of the principles can be applied broadly to our personal lives and situations.   

In my safety practice, I often see situations where a hazard or risk is overlooked simply because there is no “hard data” to warrant fixing or correcting the issue at hand.  This most often occurs with exposures to chemicals and substances, where sometimes there are no legal exposure limits or the legal limits are outdated.

Following are some items to consider when connecting the DOTS: 

 D for Data- What does the data show?  Is the data reliable? Do you have enough or the correct data points to draw a conclusion?  What if I do nothing, what is the worst thing that could happen?

O for Observations- What are your observations and how do they correlate with the data?

T for Trends- Is this something that is typical to the operation, or to one’s lifestyle?  Are there trends in behavior, operations, etc.?

S for Safety- Safety is not common sense.  Building a culture of safety takes work, knowledge and expertise.  It is also not just something we do in our workplace but should be a part of our everyday lives.

Consider how you can connect your Safety DOTS today!

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Within the past year, a number of workplace catastrophes have grabbed the headlines.  As a result many have called for more worker safety regulations and more enforcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  While these are all worthy of consideration, one must wonder if even the highest level of regulatory oversight and enforcement could have prevented these catastrophes from occurring.  It is likely there were other factors present that allowed such devastating events to occur.

Workplace accidents are complex.  Contrary to popular belief, accidents don’t just happen.  In fact, there are often many variables that contribute to the root cause and sometimes the root cause is never truly understood.

In studying workplace accidents, some interesting questions arise:
1. What statistics (metrics) are workplaces using to determine the effectiveness of their safety programs? 
2. How do they assess their risk of a serious accident or catastrophe?  
3. Do the current metrics used by OSHA (compiled from employers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) really measure your organizations’ accident risk?  Or, an even more basic question is, does it measure the effectiveness of your safety effort?

These questions are important because, as it has been widely reported, some of the recent workplace catastrophes have happened to companies that have had very good safety records and very few reported accidents.   

While none of us can predict when an accident or catastrophe will occur, the current metrics in use (lost work day incident rates, loss ratios, etc.) are only one piece of the puzzle.  A low OSHA lost time incident rate or loss ratio does not in and of itself mean that you automatically have a lower accident risk. 

There are, perhaps, more important markers such as at risk behaviors, worker perceptions, certain policies and procedures as well as other factors that serve as evidence of a potential accident.  These markers should not be disregarded just because they may be difficult to quantify rather, there should be efforts made to control them. 

 Some of these key markers include but are not limited to:
• Management commitment to safety versus management action to safety
• Management incentives for production in the absence of stronger disincentives for poor safety practices and performance
• Not identifying the major risks that are likely to result in injury, death and property damage and then preventing them from occurring
• Poor communication between employee and management on safety (i.e. fear of reporting unsafe situation and close calls) as well as the mindset that accidents happen
• Inability of workers to be able to stop work if there is strong evidence of a serious safety hazard or issue

None of the above factors are used to calculate the OSHA incident rate, insurance loss ratio or other commonly used measures of a good safety record.
Finding and addressing these markers may be the missing link towards identifying and preventing the “hidden catastrophe” within your organization!
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This article is written by Milton Jacobs, President of Safety Solution Consultants, Inc.    He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Masters Degree of Public Health (MPH).  He can be reached at mjacobs@safety-solution.com.