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What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

  • 1.  What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 02-19-2021 04:14 PM
    Safety is mission critical to what we do and how we do it? Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a back seat to expediency or cost or lack of awareness or some combination of these factors. What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment during your career? For me, it was the recognition that safety is not a bolt on, nor another improvement initiative, nor another process that has to be followed. Safety has be part of intrinsic part of how you think about tasks, how do your job, and as a leader, your words and actions. Working safety and keeping others safe has to be the cultural norm. For those new to safety or looking for a refresher of how it enters our work check out Optimizing safety through design. This short video touches on jobsite safety, prevention planning by design, use of technology to eliminate hazards, and the all important concept of safety leadership.

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    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
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  • 2.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 02-22-2021 11:52 AM
    The best book I ever read on this is from Charles Duhigg's: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
    He actually uses the example of safety culture to explain the turn around of Alcoa and Paul O'Neill, CEO, offering a safety moment at the very first speech he made to staff as well as the investor community.

    The one area I find myself struggling with the most under pandemic work from home restrictions is eye strain. Make sure to consider the 20-20-20 rule (which I know I need to do a better job of!).

    • Take frequent breaks by using the "20-20-20" rule. Every 20 minutes look away from your screen and look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a chance to reset and replenish themselves.

    Lastly, know what LAGGING indicators to track to better understand performance of your LEADING indicators. The lagging often times are the low hanging fruit (lost time incidents, driving accidents, etc.) but it's the leading indicators that will move the needle for the organization.

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    Gary Hines P.E., M.ASCE
    Frisco TX
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  • 3.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 02-22-2021 11:52 AM
    Safety is a core value and we should always promote a Safety Culture - at home, at work, and in everything we do.

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    Michael Kozinetz Aff.M.ASCE
    Construction Manager
    Murrells Inlet SC
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  • 4.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 02-23-2021 08:31 AM
    • AHA! Moment:
    • Background:
      When we asked for another voice at a meeting of project managers,
      we learned that "Harry" could not be reached.

      When asked "Why?" I was told he was out in the field, some 475 miles or so away, going into underground facilities.
      "So can we call him?"
      "No, there is no signal down there."
      "Really? So if he falls, how does he let anyone know?"

      [ Imagine Harry did fall, couldn't move much, and its a Friday night.]

      Starting that very moment we:
      1. Sent a person to locate and speak with Harry.
      2. Worked with our corporate attorneys to fashion a "First Safety" Manual and Checklist.
      3. Required 100% attendance at in-house workshops (limited to 9 persons per workshop) on such matters.
      4. Never again allowed a person to go alone into potentially comprising environments.

      Stay Healthy!
      Cheers,
      Bill
      p.s. When the proposed "First Safety" project was initiated, we heard back from a number of
      engineers from "The Old School" that we should stay away from that as it may create liabilities for us.
      Our attorneys helped craft the doc so that it both raised awareness and pre-planed actions to prevent such accidents as descried above,
      and not inadvertently create new unintended liabilities. 


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    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 5.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 02-23-2021 03:18 PM

    Bill, Thank you for sharing your experience. It highlights two well-known hazards that lead to injuries and fatalities: driving and confined space entry.  This trigged an opportunity for additional sharing of best practices from my experience working in the oil and gas industry.

    The oil and gas industry through the IOGP, its industry association, has developed a set of  lifesaving rules to protect workers from injury and save lives. More details can be found by clicking on this link. These rules while developed for the oil and gas industry equally relate in my view to hazards that found on civil engineering job sites. These rules are quite simple to follow and can be so impactful in protecting lives and ensuing everyone goes home to their loved ones at the end of their shift. '

    The rules include: 1) Bypassing safety controls, 2) Confined space, 3) Driving, 4) Energy isolation, 5) Hot work, 6) Line of fire, 7) Safe mechanical lifting, 8) work authorization, and 9) Working at height.



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    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
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  • 6.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 02-25-2021 01:06 PM
    A few small examples - as an intern on multiple construction sites, I learned that each site had a different attitude towards safety.

    I recall one foreman instructing me to keep my safety glasses on, even though we were in an indoor part of the site where no work was being performed, and I was also already wearing my regular glasses.

    On another site, a contractor offered to help me get out of a trench I was inspecting by picking me up in the scoop of the backhoe!

    It took me some time to get a feel for the "right" level of safety at job sites where safety wasn't discussed up front. At my current job, those who go into the field have a designated safety officer that they must check-in with each day.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 7.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 02-26-2021 10:39 AM
    Thanks for your candid reply Christopher.

    It has been ages since I did on-site construction.

    I want to believe that it is now required that each and every person going to a site,
    and/or working on a site is to be versed on that site/project safety rules/regs/protocol
    by an identified individual. Such protocols will require not only knowledge but conformance to
    behaviors and wearing required safety gear.

    It is so not kool for anyone to enter a site beyond the front-gate office without first knowing the safety protocols.

    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 02-26-2021 12:07 PM
    I agree that safety is a mindset and a culture.  It is hard to pinpoint an exact moment, but a few things stand out.

    My father worked for Posi-Seal (valves / process controls for those in the industry) as a machinist by trade for 30 years.  The company promoted a culture of safety and it made its way into our household.  This included the sign outside the shop listing the number of days without a recordable injury (of course Homer Simpson is noted for resetting the count at his plant each episode).  It included corny slogans on tee shirts like "Safety is Key Just Try It And See."  My daughter will tell you "Safety is Free, Just Try It In Buffalo."  The culture was present during company picnics and holiday parties.  I remember my dad was in a skit where he and is coworkers were all parts of an airplane that had to function properly in flight.  Costumes help you remember!  As kids we made safety posters to enter into a contest.  It doesn't matter how corny your safety culture seems, it is that exact attribute that makes it stick!

    It is unfortunate that disasters can also have a huge impact on your awareness.  Early on in my career I was thrilled to scale the side of a building in a construction elevator.  The headline just weeks later was sobering: Metro Briefing | Connecticut: Uncasville: Worker Falls To His Death - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

    In RI, we also marked the 18th anniversary of The Station Nightclub Fire this month. The Station nightclub fire - Wikipedia

    ------------------------------
    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
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  • 9.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 03-01-2021 12:47 PM
    The culture has always been the major factor in determining how close we get to losing someone on the job. That lands squarely in the lap of management. I was doing graduate work at Texas A&M in the Safety Engineering program in 1999 when the Bonfire collapse took place. Seeing the bonfire project in place day after day just outside the building where I spent part of my day left me incredulous that there appeared to one set of rules for private industry that students in a major university were somehow exempt from. Moreover, that as a PE with 20 experience in the field, I had no credential that would allow a critique of what I was seeing to penetrate the closed culture of the university system. The exact opposite of what would might have made sense. The investigation that took place afterward sighted a culture of ignorance, using the status of a public institution with limits of liability to skirt the rules, incompetence, and complete disregard for student safety. 12 students were killed in the incident. In the incidents I have seen before and since, the most common thread is the culture of disregard, or no adequate assessment of what the safety issues really are and how they should be dealt with. The consequences have been loss of life, or major injury in at least three incidents in organizations I worked for. As stated above, the culture has always been the major factor in determining how close we get to losing someone on the job.

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    William Bala P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
    Owner
    Hawkins TX
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  • 10.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 03-08-2021 11:22 AM
    I agree with your assessment.  How do we change, create, manipulate the ingrained culture (mindset) before major accidents?

    Gary Sturdy, PE
    Anacortes, WA

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    Gary Sturdy P.E., M.ASCE
    Owner
    Sturdy Engineering
    Anacortes WA
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  • 11.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 03-08-2021 12:35 PM

    "The culture has always been the major factor in determining how close we get to losing someone on the job. That lands squarely in the lap of management."

    "How do we change, create, manipulate the ingrained culture (mindset) before major accidents?"


    Q. What do you believe is the unique source for this "Ingrained Culture?"


    Culture is simply "The way we do things around here."
    i.e., Not what we preach at people, write in manuals, and post in construction trailers:

                                            "Safety is Job #1!"

    People work within the system their executive management uniquely controls.

    As Dr. Deming would say "Your management system reliably causes the behaviors you see."

    Until executive management accepts their need to change what they do and how they do it that is
    making almost all employees see safety policy and procedures as optional, so-called
    "Acts of God" will be their most frequent solution.

    A relatively common top management ploy is assigning financial rewards to progress made by work crews to "Beat The Schedule."

    Just check the literature to validate this comment.

    Stay Healthy!

    Cheers,

    Bill



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 03-02-2021 01:04 PM

    This is a cautionary tale about avoiding the terrible consequences of making assumptions about the unknown and not confirming them as things develop.

    In the 70’s a vast array of tubewells were dug in Bangladesh as a part of international humanitarian and development projects. The tubewells were to provide safe potable water, and reduce the terrible (~1M/yr) death toll from contaminated drinking water. They were also to secure a reliable source of irrigation water that would allow additional, dry-season crops to be grown in the impoverished and famine ridden country. The relatively shallow groundwater pumped during the dry season would be replenished during the rainy season. As there were few indications of problems with groundwater quality, this seemed to be a wonderful idea.

    It wasn’t.

    There is arsenic in the aquifer, and the groundwater poisoned large numbers of people and contaminated vast acreages of farmland in an already desperately poor country. The assumption of good groundwater quality did not hold up, and this was not discovered until the damage was done. The chemistry of how the arsenic went from the soil to the groundwater is still not well understood, and may or may not have been triggered in whole or part by the pumping. Lack of monitoring and data gathering after the implementation of the project likely delayed the discovery of the scale of the problem.

    In the mid 80’s, just prior to the larger public realization of the problem, I was in Bangladesh and learned of the tubewell scheme. Water quantity planning was, and is, my area of expertise. From that standpoint, the idea seemed quite good to me. It did not occur to me that others might not have checked out the quality issues. No “red flags” went off. Fortunately for me, I was not involved in the tubewell projects.

    When the news of the contamination came out, I realized that, had I been engaged in the tubewell project, I might have (or might not have, since the responsibility would have been clear) made the same mistake. It was a “There but for the grace of God go I” moment.

    I have always taken pride in thinking about the larger context of the problems I am trying to solve. I tell my employees, students, and mentees to define a problem two sizes larger than their intuition says is necessary and then to discard whatever is extraneous. Doing so is second nature to me. Except when it isn’t.

    The horrible consequences of the tubewells continue to remind me that I have to be on guard for the “when it isn’t” times, and to reconsider any solutions I might propose in the two times larger context before I commit to them. I was fortunate to learn that lesson from something other than my own professional mistakes.

    Reference material:

    https://www.iwapublishing.com/news/arsenic-contamination-groundwater-bangladesh-environmental-and-social-disaster

    https://www.healthandenvironment.org/docs/ToxipediaArsenicPoisoninginBangladeshPageArchive.pdf






    ------------------------------
    Dan Sheer LM. ASCE
    Retired former President HydroLogics Inc.
    Columbia Maryland
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  • 13.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 03-08-2021 08:42 PM
    I worked at an agency that thought it had a great safety program. We brought in an external expert consultant, and found out that it was actually very deficient. So, the two lessons for me were a) management does set the tone for everything, and b) a periodic external assessment is critical.

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    David Hook P.E., M.ASCE
    CIVIL ENGINEER
    San Jose CA
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  • 14.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 03-09-2021 07:10 PM
    • What "Executive Leadership[1]" meant in 1925:
    • "There are several methods an executive might use to impress his subordinates with his quality requirements, without being considered fussy. These fall naturally under two headings:

               First, giving instructions in such a manner that there is no possibility of misunderstanding what is wanted,
                and second, checking up those orders to see that they are exactly followed."

            and,

    • A headwaiter says: "I never give work to a man who I know cannot do it. For example, if James there were told to fix that table with flowers and could not do it, the fault would be mine for asking him."

    It seems along the way we have promoted far too many folks into "Executive Row" who see themselves being served vs. serving..

    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

    [1] -"Personal Leadership in Industry," by David R. Craig and  W. W. Charters. 1925.

    McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. New York and London

    -Chapter 5, "The Protection of Quality Standards," page 75-76, "Select The Right Man For The Job."

     



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 03-09-2021 04:33 PM
    During my first year (1959) working construction inspection My Project Engineer said "I'm required to have a Safety Meeting each morning but I can't think of anything better than BE CAREFUL ." That one statement has stayed with me thru my 40+ year careen and even into retirement

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    Robert Wheeler P.E., M.ASCE
    No Title
    Indianapolis IN
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  • 16.  RE: What's been your number one safety lesson learned or aha moment?

    Posted 03-15-2021 01:20 PM
      |   view attached
    The attached article presents a case that bundles the requirements and needs for a harmonized
    safety and operational quality management system.

    A select paragraph:

    "While an SMS provides the mechanisms for an organization to perform its operational functions in a framework of safety risk-based decision making, a QMS ensures that this framework is operating in a structured, repeatable fashion and can meet its intended objectives. When it can't, it provides the means to take action to improve. They both must be planned and managed, depend on measurement and monitoring, involve a multifunctional approach and strive for continuous improvement. Thus, QMS and SMS processes can be highly complementary and will support the achievement of the overall organizational goals without compromising safety".

    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

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    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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