3 New Technology Tips to Drive Better Safety Outcomes

July 5, 2018/by Barry Nelson

Almost every day an operational or safety leader of one form or another will contact us to talk about technology, and how it can be used to drive better safety outcomes. Sometimes these conversations are with customers, while others are with prospects and interested friends.

To be honest, I don’t think our responses now are so different than those I gave out ten years ago. The fundamental answer has not changed.

In a Nutshell:

If you want to drive better safety outcomes, then get those closest to the work engaged and invest the lion’s share of your resources toward helping frontline leaders support those crews. Aside from engineering out typical risks and associated human error, this is the most honest, independent, and academically verifiable answer known to us.

What has changed however—and frankly is changing rapidly—is how we use technology to get folks engaged, and support our frontline managers. Below are three examples that I see working in the world today that make a huge difference with little required resources.


3 Steps to Better Safety Outcomes

  1. Remove constraints for sharing.

If you have a process, a system, a form, an audit, or anything else that requires people to collect and share information—and it takes more than two minutes—look at it closely and cut it back. Cut it way back.

Use less words and more visual media. Pictures are good, videos are better. Much better. Get rid of your rigid structured drop downs and forms. There are easier ways to collect and act on data.

  1. Revisit positive.

There is such a temptation to go negative. An attitude centered around finding the “unsafes”, track the “at risks”. I get it. I do it too. But it is a paradox, and a trap.

Rather, design your systems to “catch” and reward people for doing things right. Show them visually what “good” actually looks like. Capture great conversations and share them. Show your team what great engagement looks like.

Then reinforce positive behavior by celebrating those closest to the work, those who are being brave and trying new things to help you drive a more engaged workforce. Tie your “giveaways” and your bonuses to the verifiable behaviors you want.

Lastly, make it easier for front line managers to do what they do naturally by no longer forcing them to fill out forms that they perceive are full of downsides and risks.

  1. Stop doing stupid.

Stupid is a process where you, or someone else, is being asked to mindlessly “check the box”.

Job Hazard Analyses (JHA’s) and Pre-Task Planning (PTP’s) processes are our current hot button issue. In truth, these well-intended and potentially valuable processes are usually a complete exercise in stupidity on way too many sites today. While technology can make these easier, more importantly, it can turn these processes into something that actually improves safety planning and engagement.

If you are filling out a paper or electronic form and sticking it in some sort of folder, please stop the madness. By turning a blind eye or justifying some misguided logic that you’ll get around to reading every form, and then will magically coach all the crews across all your sites every day, then you end up doing more harm than good.

I know some of you will have your guard up as you read this, but it is true nonetheless. You, or your safety team, are not the culprit. JHA and PTP processes are not the culprit either. The culprits here are unrealistic expectations, out of control “Process Police” mentalities, and CYA methods that are more focused on getting out ahead of the issues that this process was intended to prevent from happening in the first place.

Driving Safety Outcomes Together

We love to hear great ideas and examples of how teams are using technology to drive improved engagement with those closest to the work. Call, email, whatever—let’s engage together.