Hide-and-seek safety games

September 1, 2006 By    

An easy distraction and a slight of hand can hide anything.

At 5 years old, I conned my babysitter into playing hide and seek the night before my birthday. While she hid, I snuck into the pantry and stole handfuls of angel food cake. The next morning Mom went to frost my birthday cake to find the whole cake was gone. I was sleeping like an angel.

Safety is time-consuming and expensive. That’s why some managers play hide and seek with safety issues. Sadly, if they remain distracted and unfocused, they may miss opportunities to prevent accidents.

For example, the other day I completed a safety program for a propane marketer. We talked about stakeholders, awareness, accountability, leadership ethics and protecting the golden goose. They asked questions and we created solutions grounded in understanding. Everyone involved was focused, present and seeking safety solutions.

 Jay Johnston
Jay Johnston

A little later I was given a tour of their beautiful facility. As it happened, a transport was filling one of their storage tanks. The transport rig was no spring chicken, if you get my drift. It had no chock blocks down and no fire extinguisher. The driver feigned ignorance and kept on pumping. No effort was made to find or use blocks or a fire extinguisher.

Such safety violations may or may not happen every day. No one notices, though, because we are all busy.

In truth, barring an accident or problem, the driver didn’t need those safety tools required by DOT. Had he experienced a pull-away or a fire, however, those issues could have become urgent, dangerous and expensive liabilities.

Ironically, in our safety meeting, we had just been talking about suppliers as stakeholders in the safety process, leadership inspecting what they expect and the damage done when rules are broken in front of other employees or customers.

What would you have done in that situation? Would you or someone responsible have even noticed? What else is hiding right before your eyes? Do you have the leadership courage to hold such a meeting?

While we don’t like to acknowledge weak spots, ignoring liabilities is a lot like hiding. I believe that companies with “don’t ask/don’t tell” safety policies are playing a dangerous game of hide and seek with issues that can and will impact the bottom line.

Not to mention impacting the safety of customers, employees and the public.

The same philosophy applies to inspecting what you expect with your customers. If your customer messes with his propane system and doesn’t tell you, some attorney may seek damages while you are hiding, whether or not you contributed to the cause.

Today you have control. Ask questions, seek solutions and act in confidence.

Jay Johnston (www.thesafetyleader.com/) is president of Jay Johnston & Associates, specializing in insurance, safety and leadership strategies specifically tailored for propane marketers. He can be reached at 952-253-2710.

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