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Three Highlights from the Beyond Safety Expo

March 25, 2015

Beyond_safetyThis week, Select International is exhibiting, sponsoring and speaking at the Beyond Safety & Reliability Expo, in Merrillville, Indiana. We presented here last year and were invited to return and it’s been great. It’s been a fun and informative event thus far, and I personally have had the chance to attend some very interesting presentations. Some highlights so far have been:

1. Best-In-Class Contractor Management - Richard Cerenzio from ISN. This is always a critical issue in many large organizations, especially in industries such as oil & gas and petrochemical. Mr. Cerenzio reviewed many best practices, such as holding all contractors to the same, consistently high standards for safety. This includes all sub-contractors who your primary contractors bring in. As he mentioned, too many times there are contractors coming in and out of your site whom you have never seen before, and you have no idea who they are. This presents many safety risks – are they trained properly? What sort of safety standards and processes do they have?

Another best practice that was shared was ensuring that all contractors are integrated into one network, so that communications, policies, etc., are all consistent and readily available. Client organizations should also leverage technology that is now available. Best-in-class contractor management processes include technology that can readily identify any contractors who should or should not be allowed on site with real-time information. For example, before entering a worksite, a sub-contractor employee would be required to show his/her badge at a kiosk. If that sub-contractor has violated a policy, or if their employer is no longer certified, he/she will be denied access to the worksite.

This is the type of up-to-date information that technology can provide which can reduce exposure to risk in very real and impactful ways. One of the things I could not help but wonder is whether we should add pre-screening for safety risk as another best practice for contractor management processes. Many of our clients are either contractors to major corporations, and also hire sub-contractors themselves, and they deem it critical to ensure that they are hiring safe individuals who will represent them well at important client sites. Ensuring these employees are low-risk individuals is becoming increasingly important.

2. Safe Material Handling Practices - Dr. Michael Schafer from Risk Management Consultants showed us all how to use the famous PowerLift safe lifting techniques during our lunch session. I have heard about this program for a long time but I have to admit, I had never gone through it or seen it explained. About half-way through, my colleague smiled and said, “I have literally been doing every single one of those wrong all my life. I just did that (i.e., lifted something incorrectly) yesterday!” I felt the same way too. It’s amazing to think of how I’ve been lifting objects – heavy or light – incorrectly all my life. The biggest take-away for me from the session was that the biggest mistake people make is not taking into account the weight of their upper body when they lift. So if you weigh 180lbs, every time you bend down to pick something up, you are not only lifting the weight of the object, but you’re also lifting up half your body’s weight when you lift your upper body. So if I weigh 180lbs, and I pick up a 20lb box, I am actually lifting up the 20lbs plus 90lbs of my own weight. No wonder people sometimes hurt their backs when lifting up a pen off the floor! He shared many other techniques for safe lifting, as well, such as using a wide stance with your feet when you bend your knees, and rotating the object towards you to grab it by the corners, which spreads the weight out over different parts of your body. Good stuff – it was super informative and I will try to use it later today when I lift a bunch of trade show material to get it ready to be shipped.

So, it’s never too late to learn how to lift safely. But now that I know a few things about it, I wonder – will my own SafetyDNA profile actually make it easier or harder for me to use these techniques? I tend to show lower levels of Exhibiting Caution, so just because I know a safer way to do something, it doesn’t mean I will always do it. I’ll just try to remember what Dr. Shafer said can happen to your back over time if you keep lifting things the old way.

3. Using Advanced Analytics in Workplace Safety - Griffin Schultz from Predictive Solutions. Griffin talked about using advanced analytics and big data sets to predict workplace injuries before they happen. I had seen a presentation by Mr. Schultz before, and his solutions are very unique. He talked about how in the era of Big Data, there is now technology available which allows us to collect and analyze enormous datasets to predict outcomes that we have never been able to predict before. He spoke about how companies can take large datasets of observations and investigations (along with other variables) from a site or a company and then predict whether there is a greater likelihood of an injury occurring in the next 30 days. Their technology includes cutting edge analytics software which can find patterns in large datasets that will raise a red flag if there are precursors that have been linked to incidents in the past. The system has a pretty high level of accuracy and highlights how technology can help us obtain and use leading indicators in better ways. I really enjoyed the presentation, and it made me wonder – if we could do those analyses on observations and investigations AND have data on employee and supervisors SafetyDNA profiles – how cool would that be? You would have both the elements of the working environment and behaviors, along with the personal psychological risk factors, to predict incidents from as many angles as possible. It’s very exciting to think about the future of safety!

Lastly, I’ll share that I also spoke yesterday and will be speaking again this afternoon on How to Improve the SafetyDNA of your Leaders. My focus is on how we can measure both the SafetyDNA profile (e.g., Maverick, Adventurer) and the Leadership Style (e.g., Transacter, Overseer) of a Supervisor, and use that data to predict the level of risk of an injury occurring on that Supervisor’s team. Our research has shown that leaders with certain profiles have as much as 3.5 times more injuries on their teams or crews than leaders with lower risk profiles. I am also sharing best practices on how companies can use that information to provide training and personalized coaching to Supervisors on how to improve their safety leadership gaps, leverage strengths, and use specific behavioral goals to reduce the risk on their teams. I had a lot of interest and good questions from folks yesterday, and look forward to some more good conversation on the topic later today. After all – safety culture is paramount, and one of the most important parts of your safety culture is your leadership team.

So all in all it was a great first day here at Beyond Safety, and today I look forward to seeing some more great presentations and learning more about how we can help prevent harm.

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Esteban Tristan, Ph.D. Esteban Tristan, Ph.D. is the Director of Safety Solutions at PSI. He manages the development and implementation of all safety solutions and services, which address some of the critical challenges faced by organizations today in workplace safety.