Tap the Power of Emotion

posted Apr 7, 2010, 6:23 AM by David Wright

How to create more engagement for safety

In E. Scott Geller’s ISHN columns (April and May, 2008), he reviewed 12 evidence-based strategies for developing resilience to emotional pain and suffering. This article offers an alternative perspective by showing how you can tap emotional energy as a way to motivate action for injury prevention.

The words motivation and emotion come from the same Latin root movere, which means “to move.” Both motivation and emotion spur us into action. We should activate people’s emotions to motivate them to pay more attention to environmental and behavioral risks and act accordingly.

Make safety personal

A powerful way to increase participation in safety-related programs is to teach and motivate with personal stories. I experienced this with my friend, Charlie Morecraft.
Many readers have seen Charlie tell his riveting story, either in person or on videotape. Audiences sit on the edge of their seats as Charlie relates the details of his severe burn injury at an Exxon oil refinery, including the painful and long-term consequences to himself and his immediate family.
He projects authentic feelings throughout his presentation and evokes emotional reaction from attentive spectators. Observers increase their commitment to safety — heightened motivation to do whatever is necessary to prevent personal injury and the kind of physical and psychological suffering endured by Charlie Morecraft.

The why and the how of safety

On several occasions I’ve had the privilege of teaming with Charlie for presentations at professional development conferences and at industrial sites. Charlie tells his story first, and then I follow. First I ask the audience to be mindful of their current emotional feelings, triggered by Charlie’s story. That emotional state motivates them to listen carefully to practical ways to keep people safe and to make a personal commitment to use these techniques on a daily basis.
Charlie claims he is the “why” for taking extra time and inconvenience for safety. He sets the stage for my follow-up talk by telling the audience I will discuss the “how.” After people’s emotional reaction to hearing the horrific consequences Charlie suffered because he didn’t follow prescribed safety regulations, they are receptive to learning what they can do to prevent personal injury. In this case, emotion benefits both learning and motivation for safety-related action.

Motivating engagement for safety

Charlie Morecraft tells his emotional story several times a week at companies around the world. Listeners feel immediate self-motivation to actively care for the safety of themselves and others. They become more mindful of environmental hazards and participate more enthusiastically in their workplace safety programs, from paying more attention at team safety meetings to delivering and accepting feedback about safe versus at-risk behavior. But how long does this heightened interest in occupational safety last?

Before long, the emotionally-laden memories of Charlie’s story fade, along with self-motivation to go beyond the call of duty for injury prevention. For many, the natural activators and consequences of the daily work routine take control again, and they revert to giving safety a lower priority than the efficient, sometimes at-risk, completion of work assignments.
What if you were periodically reminded of the personal side of safety? What if someone at your workplace reminded you of the motivational emotions you once experienced from a person’s safety-related testimony? This would happen naturally if the testimonials came from your co-workers. If you cultivate a culture that encourages employees to discuss their injuries and close calls, workers’ emotions and motivation for safety can be regularly provoked.

An illustrative example

Does the right hand in the photo to the right elicit any motivational emotion for safety? Probably not; although, you might feel disturbed, sadness, or sympathy for the individual. Such was the case for the co-workers of Rich, a highly regarded engineer at a construction company. This all changes when Rich tells his story.

Rich is not shy about his deformity. Whenever he is introduced to someone, he immediately offers his right hand for a hearty greeting. Co-workers have questioned the cause of Rich’s disabled hand to one another, but not to Rich. One day the safety director of this construction firm stopped ignoring the obvious and with authentic compassion asked Rich, “What happened to you?”

With openness and enthusiasm, Rich shared his personal story. He related his experience to me in a phone conversation. As a 22-year-old student, Rich worked at a lumber company in Brookville, Pa., to complete a required ten-week forestry internship. Rich was directed to use a milling machine he knew was risky because the guards had been removed for efficiency and faster production. He mentioned this to his immediate supervisor, who then reported the problem to the owner. The owner ignored the issue.
After using this unguarded machine for 49 days, it happened. In a split second, Rich’s right arm was pulled into the feed rollers which began grinding up his hand like hamburger. Realizing immediately the milling machine could swallow up his entire body, Rich pulled his bloody limb from the engulfing rollers.
Rich described the excruciating pain he experienced, not only at the time of his injury, but throughout his six months in the hospital while enduring 13 operations that enabled him to save parts of his hand. Rich also discussed the negative consequences of having a deformed hand, including his observation that young children avoid him with looks of fear.

Hearing Rich’s ordeal over the phone was enough to make me pause and reflect on my good fortune of having two normal hands. I also considered the hand protection I’ve used over the years when chopping firewood, using a chainsaw, and biking. Rich’s story not only elicited some emotion, it also triggered mental imagery that forced me to reflect and gave me both direction and motivation. The value of more people hearing this personal story is obvious.

The bottom line

Because the safety director had the courage to ask an employee about a prior injury, and because the employee had the courage to share his personal story with others, many workers at this construction firm have experienced heartfelt emotion linked to safety. It’s likely this emotion increased several individuals’ self-motivation to do the right thing for injury prevention, not only for themselves but also for others.

E. Scott Geller, Ph.D.

E. Scott Geller, Ph.D., is Alumni Distinguished Professor, Virginia Tech, and Senior Partner, Safety Performance Solutions. Dr. Geller and his partners at SPS help companies worldwide apply human dynamics to industrial safety and beyond. Coastal Training and Technologies Corporation has published Dr. Geller’s books on People-Based Safety, including his latest: Leading People-Based Safety. For more information, log on to www.people-based-safety.com, call SPS at (540) 951-7233, or Coastal at (800) 767-7703, ext 3313.

I actually found this article here: http://www.ishn.com/CDA/Articles/Column/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000349153 …If you don’t subscribe to this magazine or check out their website on a regular basis you really missing something special.

10 Ways to an Effective Safety Committee

posted Feb 8, 2010, 1:14 PM by David Wright

  1. Do not make your committee responsible for safety, management has that responsibility.
  2. Senior management involvement is needed to help transform words of commitment into action.
  3. Task your committee to help management develop strategy and advise on the safety and health process and how it’s working.
  4. Use data (incidents, rates, research, behavior analysis, etc.) to support decisions. Track the progress of goals and objectives and help management with the accountability part of the equation.
  5. Avoid using your committee as an operating tool. Don’t have members “do” safety. Incident investigations, inspections, suggestion evaluation and hazard report analysis are better done with fast turnaround by the line.
  6. Give your committee member time, funding, clerical support, and other resources.
  7. Don’t let committee members become the enforcers. Enforcement must fall to management. One possible exception: a behavioral safety process can permit line people (along with management) to reward and coach behavior related to safety.
  8. Ensure your committee is not simply place to let people gather so it can be said a committee exists. Look at how committees are used for quality or operations. Use them as a model.
  9. Consider the National Labor Relations Board rulings on safety committees. Ask your human resources staff to help, or have a labor relations attorney review the mission and organization of the committee.
  10. Measures your committee’s performance. Know when it’s working. If it doesn’t, make adjustments.

7 Tips to Energize Your Safety Meetings

posted Feb 8, 2010, 1:11 PM by David Wright

I found this article here…

We’ve all had plenty of experience with safety meetings. We’ve attended many, and some of us have led many. While some of these meetings have been highly effective, many — maybe most — have not been effective at all.
I recently completed a round of safety training sessions for a large industrial company. I asked the supervisors, lead men, and safety coordinators in each session to give me their best estimate of the percentage of safety meetings they’ve experienced over the years that were, in their judgment, really effective. Estimates ranged from a high of 75 percent down to five percent, with the average response being well less than 50 percent.
This is troubling news. This company in question is a benchmark organization with a good safety record and a commitment to protecting its employees and anyone else on site. Still, the overall perception was that the safety-dedicated, safety-focused, “half-hour a week” training event did not even begin to accomplish its objectives.
I would wager employees in most other companies would respond similarly.

What’s the goal?
Whether meeting goals are identified consciously or not, a safety meeting should activate safety awareness and safe behavior on the part of every crew member. Meetings should encourage everyone involved to watch out for and coach each other. For me, this is the core purpose of a safety meeting.
But in a familiar worst-case scenario, a supervisor simply reads a safety bulletin or an accident report from a regulatory body database. Participants then sign a roster indicating they attended the meeting. Then everyone gets back to work.

How can meetings be more effective?
The following seven steps will enable leaders of safety meetings to get the most out of their efforts:

Click here to see the entire article…

7 Critical Questions for Leaders

posted Dec 14, 2009, 11:09 AM by David Wright   [ updated Dec 14, 2009, 11:15 AM ]

Some time ago I read an article in Occupational Health & Safety magazine written by Robert Pater regarding 7 Critical Leadership Questions:

  1. Do I strengthen and recharge myself first?
  2. Am I trustworthy?
  3. Where are my blind spots?
  4. Do I think strategically and critically?
  5. Am I courageous and dedicated to change?
  6. Do I make positive things happen?
  7. Do I have high expectations?

Take some time to read the article above first then read my comments below...

  1. Do I strengthen and recharge myself first?
    • The older I get the more important this one is to me...I find that I need to take time each day to get away from work or thinking about work.  This is very difficult to do each day but I find is critically important to help keep me focused.
  2. Am I trustworthy?
    • This is more than just being honest - Are you meeting your deadlines?  When someone asks your for something, did you provide it to them EVERY time?  Remember, an impression is something that is made over time, not by one time.  Be consistent every time.
  3. Where are my blind spots?
    • Make sure that get input from people around you.  I find it helpful to get input from your boss, spouse, kids, people at the same level at work, and the people that report to you!  Doing so will build a reputation as someone who is willing going the extra mile.
  4. Do I think strategically and critically?
    • A good leader is one that is always thinking about how you can make the company better - not just from a safety standpoint...Safety should never be your only focus as a Safety Leader.  You are part of a team and you need to make sure that you are trying to help in every department that you can.
  5. Am I courageous and dedicated to change?
    • If you are the type of leader that does not like change than you are NOT an effective leader.  One thing that is consistent will all great leaders are they are Champions of Change.  You cannot be a leader if your not leading the way to change.  One great statement that I have always based my life in is: Leaders Lead (to change) and Managers Manage (Manage problems)
  6. Do I make positive things happen?
    • Being a good leader means that you change the way you think and work.  A lot of leaders get caught up in constantly putting out fires.  This type of behavior is anything but successful.  You need to move to a more proactive role.  Think of it like safety - Safety is a very proactive think.  Think BEFORE you act, the best way to keep from being hurt is to prevent it.  Accident Prevention, Injury Prevention, New Employee Safety Orientation, etc are all examples of proactive thinking.
  7. Do I have high expectations?
    • As a leader you should have the highest expectations and NEVER, EVER accept anything but the best results.  You should always be looking for area in which you can improve. 

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