The following outline for a safety meeting was delivered to a crew of maintenance personnel at a special safety stand-down. The key message was that there are four mental states that lead to safety incidents. [For more information on this see SafeStart.] The causes of these mental states are to some extent unavoidable. Since we can either try to prevent causes of deal with them when they occur, we discussed coping methods.
At the end, we discussed how much we should let perverse incentives influence our quality of work. [I simplified the language since I was speaking to a non-MBM audience.]
Note: Wherever an ellipsis (…) occurs, that is where I expect (demand) audience participation.
Who digs talking about feelings? Does anyone get excited talking about feelings?…
But does psychology affect our safety performance? Remember a few months ago when I talked about Joe Kramer, the south Chicago railroad welder? I talked about his positive attitude, but I didn’t say a thing about safety. Yet this very group made predictions about his own safety record, and the number of injuries he prevented in the course of his career.
Late in last turnaround I talked about 4 mental states involved in safety incidents. Can you recall them?…
I also challenged everyone to try to think of injuries or near misses, whether at work or home, that did not involve at least one of those four mental states. Was anybody successful with that?…
Who here has experienced work-related frustration? I won’t ask how often, I promise…
- Any new policies poorly communicated?
- Any new rules that seemed to make it harder to do your job? Or they came from people who don’t understand your working conditions (even if their intent was good)?
- Any personal or family issues on your mind when you were at work?
- Anyone get called in at a less-than-perfect time?
- Any criticism of your job performance that seemed unfair?
- Anyone go to do a job with a vague job plan, poorly written procedure, or patch something that should have a permanent fix?
Does this stuff happen just here?…
Since it seems unreasonable to assume that we will never be frustrated at work, what can we do when we are frustrated?…
Here are some questions I have found useful for lending perspective to frustration when something’s got to be done:
So my kid is getting bad grades or acting disrespectful. So my wife wants something I don’t want to buy. So my furnace died. So the boss said something unfair. Does that justify whatever injury I get? Does that let me off the hook for hurting myself and letting down the people who need me? Do I get a pass because I had other problems?
Who here has experienced fatigue at work?
- Has anyone sent home in the morning to come in for night shift failed to come in that evening completely rested and refreshed?
- Has anyone felt less than 100% in hour 15 of a 16-hour shift? Or their tenth straight day of work?
- Any babies waking you up in the middle of the night?
Since it’s not yet reasonable to assume perfect tranquility both at home and work, what can we do in anticipation of fatigue?…
Who has ever, even once, felt rushed to get the job done at work? I have to admit, when I worked in operations, I said to a maintenance foreman that I wanted everything done, I wanted it yesterday, and I wanted precision. What was I missing in my list of demands?
- Farmers and ranchers: do the seasons wait until you’re ready and all set to go?
- Has anyone ever asked you when the job would be done, but really meant to tell you to get it done soon?
- Anyone felt that for whatever reason you didn’t get much done that morning and wanted to have something to show for your time when you went to lunch?
- Anyone ever get edgy around 4:30 or 5:00 when a job is dragging on longer than expected?
I don’t see any solutions to separate maintenance work and time pressure. So again, were focused less on prevention and more on dealing with it. What are some ways to keep rushing from impacting our work?…
Complacency is when you know that a hazard is present but you think it won’t happen and you just decide to go ahead and “be careful.” [Tell story of contractor carrying large pneumatic cylinder up a ladder.]
Complacency lends itself to prevention more than the others. It’s a lot easier to prevent complacency than it is to prevent frustration…
On Letting Mental States Determine Our Work Method: I’d like to share a personal story about mental states and the way that we work. Many years ago I was blindsided by a negative performance review that came at a very inopportune time. Objectively, I had exceeded the goals set with my team leader at the beginning of the year, but then he left and I didn’t talk much with his replacement. I thought I was due for a promotion and had a transfer in mind, so I wanted this review to be on the high end. At what really ended up being our first real discussion of anything, period, I was put at the low end. There were really no specific criticisms, no guidance on what could be done better, or justification for being so low.
This really spoiled a lot of what I had planned and so I was less than enthused with being at work. I was so angry that for one month I resolved to do the absolute minimum required not to get fired while I worked out my plan for what was next. I really felt hopeless because I had worked hard and even done a few creative things to get my projects done on time and under budget.
But here’s what happened that month: it was the most miserable month of work I can ever remember.
So the lesson I took away from the experience is this: I do the best work I can the best I know how. Sometimes it’s recognized and I get praised or rewarded. And that’s great. Sometimes it isn’t noticed at all or some trivial aspect of it is criticized. And that sucks.
But regardless of how I feel, I try to work exactly the same way. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what the external rewards are because doing less than my best is a miserable experience.