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Lead with safety by discussing yesterday's incidents second.

Think about a recent morning meeting that you have been part of. I will assume that most of us start with safety at the forefront of this meeting. In this safety message, you likely begin the discussion by reviewing yesterday's incidents. As if it was a confession to those in attendance, the individual accountable for the incident is letting everyone know their sins. If you are not in this confessional box, your attention is like watching Sunday morning SportCenter, as you actively listen to safety highlights missed or casually heard about that occurred yesterday. You may be laser-focused on the story, the gossip, and the incident's details to recreate the story with your imagination. You then unravel the details and internally fool yourself to believe that you are the ultimate detective ninjas. This adrenaline creates a quick judgment while you assume that you know exactly how the incident happened. By default, we all desire to know the details of safety incidents, so we traditionally start the meeting to discuss them.

However, if we choose to lead our organizations with safety at the forefront, starting our morning meetings by reviewing yesterday’s incidents may be wrong. Should we instead review the potentials that could create another safety incident if we want to achieve zero incidents? A different sequence in this morning's meeting may feel entirely against the grain because we are conditioned to learn about what occurred yesterday to guide our priorities today. It is time to challenge the sequence.

Safety is founded by experience, reinforced with memories, and mentored by the likes of Paul O’Neil who leads with a message that any organization can transform by starting with safety. I will not in any capacity disregard the importance that safety is the catalyst that drives everything else. I embrace the sequencing that safety remains at the forefront when leading an organization. However, I will challenge that to promote safety as a priority in the daily shift meeting or the morning meeting, we have traditionally done it in the wrong order.

I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for zero injuries. - Paul O'Neil, former CEO Aloca

Safety incidents have always occurred in the past. There has never been a safety incident that occurred in the future, plain and simple. Yes, some situations can get worse and escalate quickly, either from an ongoing incident or from someone recognizing that we have a new hydraulic leak on a cylinder that could lead to a fire. Consider defining that an incident is active until the scene is controlled, and once controlled, we can begin to investigate. At this transition point of established controls, either as permanent or temporary, our responsibilities must shift to be keen at evaluating telltales that could be foreshadowing the next incident versus being consumed by the details of the most recent incident. With this logic, the sequenced priorities should be active incidents, telltales, and then review what incidents occurred yesterday.

We can establish the habit that each meeting starts the same way, regardless if a safety incident occurred yesterday or not. First, if an incident is still active, we start the meeting with attention to getting the active incident into a controlled status. Second, we review the telltales that were found yesterday and have not been addressed. Thirdly, we review the closed safety incidents from yesterday. This sequenced habit enables you to start each meeting the same way, and promote safety by minimizing an incident from occurring in the first place. Our safety mission is to swiftly mobilize and prevent incidents from occurring or escalating. Then we launch our rigorous processes to review and prevent them from occurring again. It is not the other way around.

Are you up for the challenge? Can you start your morning meeting by canvassing the telltales and hints received from your assets? What if you start your meetings by reviewing alarms and work requests generated from yesterday that have not been completed? What if you reviewed the previous shift’s inspection reports looking for conditions, not in a controlled status? These are examples of hints offered as we transition the guard of the production processes and scrutinized them to prevent an incident from occurring.

The curiosity of knowing what happened yesterday is our anxiety. Temper this anxiety that is urging you to know exactly what happened, by leading with safety to be focused on preventing something else from happening. Take the time to review the telltales and the hints the assets are giving first, then transition the discussion into the incidents that occurred yesterday. Establishing this sequenced cadence will get you closer to zero incidents.

Anxious rumination can pull us in and take on a life of its own, providing a superstitious feeling of security and control. Further, when we buy into believing that we’re problem-solving (when, in fact, we are ruminating and obsessing), it’s easy to surrender to it. -


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