By ASHLEY E. ORGAN, Assistant Editor People often assume that safety improvements are driven by engineering, physics, or chemistry advancements. Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels, authors of “Safe By Accident,” argue that the key to improving safety in the oil and gas industry depends on the science of human behavior. According to the authors, widespread practices such as incentive programs, safety signage, and punishments waste time, money, and create less safe workplaces. Instead, Agnew and Daniels offer five science-based solutions to help companies create a “culture of safety.” 1. Do not base safety incentives on incident rates. The ultimate safety goal is having zero incidents, however this system unintentionally rewards luck, the authors say. In addition, it can encourage employees to not report incidents to avoid losing the incentive, potentially reinforcing unsafe and unethical practices. A system based on motivating employees to engage in specific safe behaviors helps improve the overall culture of safety. 2. Understand the value of near misses. Agnew and Daniels recommend implementing a prescribed way to produce a product or service in a safe, efficient manner. Employees need to become sensitized to observe deviations in their own behavior and in the behaviors of others. 3. Mistakes should not be punished. Employees often fail to report safety concerns because they fear reprisal, according to the authors. Punishing unsafe behavior creates a culture of cover-ups where employees play the “blame game” instead of working to improve procedures and behaviors. 4. Understand that checklists are not full-proof. Although checklists can be an important tool for developing sound behavior and producing long-lasting change, people assume implementation is the only requirement to change behavior. Agnew and Daniels say this will result only in a temporary change. For a true culture of safety, items should be observed apart from the checklists to ensure quality and safety. In addition, checklists should be modified by conducting post-mortems on projects and procedures. 5. Ditch inspirational safety signage. According to the authors, employees might be less likely to ignore important signage without the clutter of signs that have no meaningful information. It is best to only use compliance signs that direct specific behavior as well as informational signs when relevant.
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