- A This U.S. mine faced stresses in high production requirements and a rising incident rate. Management approach sought out unsafe behavior (often negatively) and and workers’ active involvement in safety was buried in a non-communicative culture.
- Using positive behavioral methods, representatives from all levels conceded that safety wasn’t their only problem. They began recognizing safe behaviors, asking for employee input, and actively demonstrating that management was listening and part of the team.
- Implementing this process resulted in the best safety year ever and something that is applicable in all areas of performance.
The employees of this U. S. mining facility process soda ash from a rare ore. The location is the world’s largest source for this valuable ore, producing between three and four million tons of soda ash per year, a necessary ingredient in the manufacture of glass, detergents, paper, textiles, and baking soda. Concerned with a growing incident rate and dedicated to continual safety improvement, the mine’s representatives attended ADI’s Application for Performance Management Training. They soon learned that applied behavioral strategies were highly successful with safety, but also powerfully effective with all performance improvement initiatives.
In a tough industry, old habits become ingrained, even when those habits aren’t creating an optimal working environment. As incident rates rose, the mine’s management sought out solutions to the "we’ve always done it this way" mentality and often a management-versus-worker mindset. In a hardworking industry, getting the job done was the frontline’s charge and safety was management’s problem. An unspoken agreement seemed to be that many issues or employee complaints and concerns weren’t discussed. This certainly wasn’t management’s intent, but by the nature of the business, this tough-it-out approach to daily work had evolved over time.
In this atmosphere, recognition for safe practices was nonexistent. Management’s primary approach was to ignore the good behavior and search out and correct the undesired behavior, sometimes with raised voices. A good day was one of not being singled out for discipline and going home safely, but the incident rate indicated that this strategy just wasn’t working.
Seeking out a solution to safety concerns, representatives attended the annual Behavioral Safety Now conference, a national conference of safety professionals and service providers where cutting edge safety solutions are discussesd. The representatives returned enthusiastically endorsing the behavior-based approach presented by Dr. Aubrey Daniels. While attending the Applications of Performance Management Training (APMT) course in Atlanta, the mine representatives, from both hourly and management ranks, shared their experiences with that of attendees from a variety of industries. Describing the experience as an "eye opener" they began to realize that addressing safety in a positive manner was only the first step in a much needed culture change. One manager willing to take that first step donned his hardhat on the first morning back on the job and declared that he was going out to find someone doing something right. And he did. His behavior represented the first of many in a major management shift that gave employees a say in and control of their own safety. Unfamiliar to positive attention, employees at first resisted and then realized that positive recognition was a good thing. From employees’ initial shock at hearing something good about their performance to an upsurge in two-way communications, the group underwent and continues to evolve into a cohesive community devoted to safety, open communications, and applying positive consequences to every aspect of on-the-job performance. "They have shifted from blaming someone else to taking responsibility and even analyzing their own mistakes," says one mine maintenance business leader. "We had a minor incident and the guy actually pointed out a different behavior he could have taken to prevent it."
Results of the Intervention:
- The mine reported the best safety year "ever" following the first year of the safety implementation.
- Management began openly conveying the importance of employee contributions.
- Recognition, reward, and celebration for participating in safety, active safety, performing observations, and bringing safe behaviors to habit strength soon won over a reticent work group.
- Voluntary worker participation rose exponentially, calling for more space allotment for safety meetings due to growing attendance and participation.
- A new focus on leading indicators and bringing safe behaviors to habit strength continues to show improvement in lagging indicator result data.
- The strategies of pinpointing, feedback, and recognition has expanded to other areas of performance besides safety.
- Managers track their own participation in the safety process, holding themselves accountable for demonstrating its importance to the workforce.
- The safety initiative has evolved into an entire culture change, one of open communications and a focus on the positive approach to achieving improvement.
For more on this topic see FMC Mines with Safety