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#11205 - 07/03/02 08:54 PM Brain Overload
The Watt Doctor Offline

Registered: 12/23/01
Posts: 443
Loc: Mont Belvieu, TX
As many of you may know, the last few posts that I have made have been on the subject of safety. As the events of the last few weeks have unfolded, I have made a few observations.
About 3 months ago my company hired (2) new health and safety officers. I have to say that I agree with the company's choice to do so. I would like to throw a few things out there for all to consider.

    [*] The safety officers have been trained in all areas of safety, and have years of experience to support their training.

    [*] Field personel are concerned about safety, but more concerned about productivity.

    [*] The scope of knowledge of everyone in the company is far less than that of the safety officers when it concerns safety (as it should be).

    [*] Heck, we're all human.

As a result of "A", I've noticed that after some 6 or 7 hours of training classes, there is an unrealistic view of how much our brains can "take in" in such a short period of time. The result of this "brain overload" has been that many of the guys in the field seem to have not learned anything. The safety habits haven't been formed, and I'm afraid that they won't be because there has been to much information fed to our guys at once.
The problem with "B" is that people are busy with their jobs, and any additional information, maintenance, procedures, paperwork, etc is viewed as "more work" that is not going to "pay off" in the end. They see what they used to do in 8 hours is now going to take 8.5 hours. It is easy to see in these days when productivity is everything, that there is a conflict.
The conflict involved with "C" is best described as follows: The safety team is viewed as a group of people, not trying to help bring everyone's knowledge and habits up to par, but as a group of people trying to tell everyone that they will conform. People don't respond well to that type of subjection.
Lastly, if a person over eats, smokes, drinks to much, etc., and someone tells them, "Hey, that's not good for you." There is a natural reaction inside that says, "Nobody is going to tell me what to do." I think safety is the same way. We tend to reject others telling us "what to do". Even if it is for our own good.
Any comments would be obliged.


[This message has been edited by The Watt Doctor (edited 07-04-2002).]
The Watt Doctor
Altura Cogen
Channelview, TX

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#11206 - 07/03/02 09:07 PM Re: Brain Overload
jlhmaint Offline

Registered: 05/25/02
Posts: 208
Loc: Fredericktown, OH, U.S.A
I can relate to what you and the people in your company are feeling. I am a senior maintenance tech at a company which has just recently jumped on the saftey wagon. however we use all the employee's to our benifit by there ideas and help with implementing programs and any discussion with possible problems with new programs. our company is very employee orient though and takes all suggestions to heart. the key to implementing any program is to get the employees involved to the point that they feel they are contributing to the cause not just being forced to do one more thing. if you take the guy who is usually complaining and challenge him and put him to work in a constructive way with out forceing him he will more than likely become one of your best assets. one of the biggest problems with american industry today is that we think everyone owes us something granted a company should treat its people with respect but those people in return should treat the company the same. in the long run if we dont work for the company and help them out we don't make any money either. just my 2 cents.

#11207 - 07/04/02 06:16 AM Re: Brain Overload
electure Offline


Registered: 12/24/00
Posts: 4226
Loc: Fullerton, CA USA
Watts up Doc?
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither can an effective safety program be. Isn't 5-7 hrs at a time a bit much? Of course the newly hired safety officers must justify their salary; maybe they'll mellow out.
We found that what worked best for us was short but often given reminders (such as a "safety tip of the day" contest, the tips submitted by field personnel in exchange for prizes like tools).
Safety glasses, hearing protection, etc. put in the boxes of all company tools that require their use...The little things, but on a continuous basis.
On the flipside, there must be penalties for safety violations, and they must be enforced.
So, watt's it gonna be, boys...the carrot or the stick?

#11208 - 07/04/02 08:17 PM Re: Brain Overload

Registered: 09/04/01
Posts: 142
Loc: Cincinnati, OH, USA
Awe Safety, what a fun and joyous topic! I know exactly where you are coming from Doc, as I have walked a mile in your shoes and the shoes of your new safety professionals. And to be quite honest, it was walking in your shoes that made me walk to the other side of the fence. I got tired of hearing senior management "SAY" that "safety is number one" then watch as they mocked the safety efforts, canceled safety meetings for production, not participate in critical investigations because of timing conflicts with finance meetings, etc. You name it; I saw it! I figured the only way for me to really walk the talk was to be the leader of the pack, so now 12 years later I am now a full time safety professional doing all that I can do to make people sit up and take notice that safety is not about making your 8 hour day into an 8.5 hour day; nor is it about making you less productive. Is it just the opposite of all those things! Let's not look at our jobs by hours in a day, but rather years in a career. When we look at some of the more serious injuries occurring in the workplace today, we see many debilitating injuries that require weeks, months and sometimes years off from work or at least on "restricted work duty". Now think back to how many times you will have to work that half hour extra each day to make up for the 2,200 hours you missed last year because of that one simple and quick shortcut you took, which put you out of work. Now that’s just you, what about those injuries that ruin careers due to loss of vision in an eye or complete blindness, or the loss of a limb or appendage that keeps you from working in that high paying job you use to have. What about your family? Did that one simple and quick shortcut you took cost them?

Off my soapbox... now to be more specific:
A) 6-7 hours of training is non-sense. No one, not even the safety professionals doing the training can go thru that many hours of safety training and retain it all, and keep in mind they are all about safety! The workers they are training are being bombarded with quality, cost and productivity as well. I concur with electure's comments about breaking the training into manageable segments in an environment the workers are use to. I have found this works wonders for retention and more importantly buy-in. When the worker's supervisor is the one delivering the message, AND they do it with passion, there is MUCH MORE credibility to the message.

b) As they say, Rome was not built in a day. if your company just hired some full time safety professionals, you are in for quite a ride the next 3-5 years. With the proper message, support and employee involvement, you may begin to see a shift in attitudes about safety. Lord forbid you have a horrible workplace accident that is very visible to many workers, as this unfortunate event sometimes can be just the prooving ground to get the buy in from all levels. UNFORTUNATELY it is TOO LATE for the injured or deceased, but it should be a major wake up call for the rest of you. I can tell you that in a world-class safety culture we celebrate setting production records right along celebrating safety performance. The two should be recognized hand in hand, so as to prove without a shadow of a doubt that safety is a partner with production and not a deterrent.

C) Makjor mistake when the safety team are the company "deputies". They are technical professionals that are there to be called upon when issues arise that are not covered by SOP's or training. They are the Safety Cops! Unfortunately many young safety professionals fall into this trap, me included. It comes from frustration and fear of failure. When management is not doing their job and enforcing the safety rules equally across the board with other procedures such as production, quality and human resources, then the safety team will feel they have to do something and this is their answer. As a consultant now, I can tell you that I see this weekly. And when I see it, I find several things in ALL these cases. a) management can't even spell safety much less manage it. Look at the training sign in sheets and no one from management attends, what’s this message? b) frontline supervisors are not supervisors, but glorified workers that have a lot of knowledge and experience doing the job. They have had little to no training in supervision, much less been told what their roles and responsibilities are within the safety efforts. c) no one reports to the safety team, so their ability to actually enforce the rules is small to none. Enforcement of any rule must come from superiors that are respected.

Lastly, a safety professional should always take a step back before intervening in an unsafe act or condition. Think before you speak and see if it is obvious as to why this employee is working unsafely. Do they know they are breaking a rule; do they know they are working unsafely, etc? ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, explain to the worker why what he/she is doing is unsafe. Don't use OSHA rules in the conversation, only to explain why OSHA passed the rule and what the rule is actually trying to prevent. We should never leave an intervention with the worker scratching their head and wondering what just happened. We shold leave with a clear verbal understanding that the worker understands that what they were doing was risky because.... and more importantly how they can accomplish their task in a more safe and often times more productive manner.

Point your safety team to my FREE Safety Services at

Everything on the site, including my weekly newsletter and daily incident alerts are FREE. The site is meant to be a resource for safety professionals that need real life resources to help improve their organizations safety performance. I am certain they will find some useful info on the site. You may want to even visit/subscribe, as about 15% of my subscribers are the "working people" of this world, but are concerned for their safety and that of their co-workers.

Bryan Haywood

#11209 - 07/06/02 03:20 AM Re: Brain Overload
sparky Offline

Registered: 10/18/00
Posts: 5545
A little 'safety' is mandated for almost any trade, yet how it's applied and/or accepted makes a world of difference.
Myself i had gained qualification to train EMS to 1910:1030, among others.
The end result being that managment told me what i wanted to hear, and recruits sat in class (heads bobbing in the affirmantive, eyes focused)then went about repetitive violations and/or acts constituting a collective mentality of a clam.
All very frustrating, moving me to rethink my approach. Scare tactics?, no...Threats of reprimand? could not , in the end, appeal to thier greed,fear,pride (et all seven deadlies..), they simply had to want it in the first place.
Then i was 'enlightened' by one of many more years than i (snatch the marbles, grasshopper..) , the crux being how people remember material, a certain % of what they hear, a greater % of what they see, a greater % of what they write, and more a % of what they acutally do....

This i call the 'doorknob' approach, being that if you were awakened from a sound sleep , you'd instinctivley turn the first doorknob seen to the right allbeit in a half-sleep stupor.

Of course, the repetitivness is akin to the proverbial 'pack of monkies eventually typing the constitution', or perhaps alludes to chinese water tourture.....but it had worked for me....

#11210 - 07/08/02 03:11 AM Re: Brain Overload
Trainwire Offline

Registered: 03/15/02
Posts: 364
Loc: Strasburg,PA,USA
May I post my own pet peeve with the safety stuff. The railroad where I work is spooling up on this. It is a little interesting in that the tools and equipment that we use are "from another era" meaning open geartrains and such. so there is much guarding of machinery. But my peeve is that the mandated hard hat has hurt my neck, (jammed or twisted) a whole lot more than I ever hit my head without it. And what we work with is so heavy that a hard hat would just give them something to slide the shovel under so they can hand you back to your next of kin.

Thanks (pant, pant) I'm done now.


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