In the military, there are lots of discussions about "battle buddies.' A battle buddy is a person who sticks with you and you with them so you continuously know each other's condition. It is a safety issue in an environment that is often not safe.
Back in the day, I worked for all kinds of bosses. I worked for bosses who seemed to want to know every detail of your life. I worked for other bosses who were cold as fish--if you showed up and were standing and functioning, that was the limit of their interests. As a consultant, I have had similar experiences--the coldest fish I remember worked with me on the same project for nearly five years. He was my boss and we had occasion to talk two or three times a week and see each other every six weeks or so. In five years, even though I asked, I never learned anything about his family. He never inquired about mine.
As an employee, as a boss or as a subordinate, you can help your company's safety record by being cognizant of what is going on in the life of the employees around you. You don't have to be particularly nosey; just be aware. Are they having some sort of problems at home? Chronic illness in the family? An estrangement in a relationship? Anything that is bothering them.
I believe a significant portion of accidents are caused by people distracted by something going on outside the environment where the accident occurs. This is certainly true of automobile accidents (distracted driving caused by phones, alcohol or drugs). Many people have automobile accidents going to and fro to visit sick relatives in the hospital.
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The same thing occurs at work. Accident investigations often reveal people distracted and not paying attention to what they are doing. This is prevalent in maintenance operations where people are performing tasks that are not done routinely.
Accident investigations often stop short with the words--"the employee was distracted;" followed by the cold admonishment--"discuss distraction with the employee." Such actions are after the fact and it is likely the distraction that caused the accident will not occur again (unless there is a chronic condition such as alcoholism that underlies it).
Better to adopt the "battle buddy" approach throughout your company. If two people know each other pretty well, they can look out for each other when the distractions come up (and they will come up--they happen to all of us). The battle buddy can learn routinely to assess a partner's condition subconsciously, helping them through those times when tasks and attentiveness don't match, hence adding another level of awareness in accident prone situations.
Some time spent in such training will likely improve your site's safety performance. It will make your business culture more of a team as well. Give it a try. If you need help or a facilitator, call me. We can do this together, if necessary.
For safety this week, don't wait for management to adopt these ideas--do it yourself. Pick a battle buddy, show your buddy this column, and resolve to work together.
Be safe and we will talk next week.
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