Blog posts

We need a new approach to safety education

Good listener, communicator, empathetic, ‘psychologist’, compassionate, approachable, motivation of self and others, consistency, team builder, leadership and resilience. No, not the job description of a social worker or primary school teacher. But answers to the question ‘What makes a good supervisor/site manager?’, asked of Alstom field service engineers at their annual conference, as part of research into safety culture Beehive conducted with Bangor University.

The answers were a surprise, but were consistent with the answers from fitters and technicians when they were asked the same question out on site. It wasn’t that domain knowledge, role experience or commercial awareness counted for nothing. It was that these were not what differentiated an indifferent or bad supervisor/site manager from a good one. It was the ‘soft’ skills that made the difference.

So what? you may ask. Well, pointing to a supervisor who had those skills, a site manager interviewed said, ‘If I had ten of him my life would be so much easier.’ That’s because misunderstandings, duplications, omissions, conflicts, errors – things that are often caused by poor communication and relationships – are all things that divert time and energy away from productivity. Having people who can build good relationships reduces the chances of these things.

That’s because interpersonal skills, and the stronger and more positive relationships that they build, are the oil that makes every function of an organisation run more smoothly. 

But it does matter, it matters to safety. Shunichi Tanaka, head of the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority commented when operatives at Fukushima were sprayed with contaminated water in 2014, “Mistakes are often linked to morale. People don’t usually make silly careless mistakes when they’re motivated and work in a positive environment.” Dr James Reason states that “A pretty good safety management system with 100% buy-in is better than a perfect system with 0% commitment’.  Morale, motivation, positive environment, buy-in – all created through ‘soft’ skills, all playing a vital role in error avoidance, even making up for imperfections in the system. A key question is, however, does safety education reflect this?

I’d suggest not, and in two ways. One is that the focus is still on ‘hard’ skills, a reflection perhaps of a prevailing attitude that health and safety is only about rules and regulations, procedure, compliance, restriction, hard measures and absence of negatives. But health and safety has a profoundly human focus and if organisations want to get beyond where rules and regulations, process and procedure will take them they need to change their perception of what constitutes safety training to include personal development and those all important ‘soft’ skills.

The other is that the training methods used in safety education can lack imagination.  An organisation’s safety culture is created in the training room as much as anywhere else. If people groan at the thought of safety training that association is likely to pervade people’s attitude to safety out on site. If we want people to be interested in safety, to see it as engaging and relevant to their role, to be proactive about it, then safety education has to be interesting, engaging, relevant, and active too. Empathy isn’t learned through PowerPoint.

We may assume that people already have the interpersonal and communication skills they need to work safely out on site, or that they will learn them on the job. A look at the prevalence of communication issues as a root cause or contributory factor in event reports suggests that this confidence is misplaced. As a participant at our recent safety culture seminar asked, ‘Which of us here has ever been taught how to have a proper conversation?’.  Safety education needs a rethink and refocus.

Beehive is running a safety culture seminar in partnership with the Brathay Trust in Ambleside, Cumbria on March 29th 2019. The event is free though places are limited. Bed, dinner and breakfast are available for the night of 28th March at Brathay on the edge of Lake Windermere. For more details or to book a place please contact Sara on sara@beecld.co.uk or Erja Nikander on 01492 550 960 or erja.nikander@brathay.org.

Safety practitioners need interpersonal skills – five tips for behavioural interviewing

Introduction – why bother with behavioural interviewing?

In a previous blog ‘Do we need a new approach to safety education’ , I outlined the types of knowledge, skills and attributes (KSA’s) we were told through focus groups made the best supervisors and site managers. They were overwhelmingly interpersonal – technical skills and experience were important but were not what made a GOOD supervisor/manager. This is being more and more recognised – IOSH also recognises the importance of what I like to call ‘soft power’ (I hate the term ‘soft skills’) as the increased interest in non-directive coaching training shows.

There are two ways that you can ensure your safety practitioners and managers have the interpersonal skills needed. One is to develop them in-house. The other is to recruit for them – often more successful. That’s where behavioural interviewing comes in.

What is behavioural interviewing?

Behavioural interviewing is also known as structured or competency-based interviewing. The questions in behavioural interviews are designed to test for the specific KSA’s associated with a job. The questions are very specific, with the answers matched against criteria that have been developed based on the job role. This helps to make things fairer for the candidate and easier for the interviewer.

Behavioural interviewing is great for establishing if a candidate has the behavioural attributes, for example interpersonal skills, rather than just the operational or technical knowledge and experience, needed for a role.

The KSA’s that can be tested in an interview depend on the job and the organisation. Some common KSA’s are:

AdaptabilityOrganisational
awareness
Team work
Compliance Influencing interest in others
CommunicationFlexibility Integrity
Dealing with conflict
Emotional
resilience
Self-awareness
DelegationRisk-taking

What follows is our five top tips for behavioural interviewing:

1)  Use behavioural questions

Behavioural interview questions measure the interviewee’s behaviours, abilities and experience in a particular field, using examples from personal experience rather than from theory or in general.

Generally questions are ‘funnelled’ from the general:

‘How do you deal with conflict at work’?

To a specific example:

‘Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a conflict with a contractor?’

To specific probing:

‘How did you deal with the stress the conflict caused? How did you manage your team through the conflict? What did you actually say to the contractor which helped/didn’t help? What would you do differently next time?’

2. Use the STAR approach when preparing for interview

The acronym in this context isn’t stop, think act review! STAR here stands for:

  1. Situation or Task
  2. Action
  3. Result

This is a helpful acronym both for interviewers – it helps you to recognise and match/mark the information provided to the success criteria, and for interviewees – if you use the structure to prepare for interviews it will help you to give answers in the right way.

  1. Situation/task – describe the situation or task, focusing on what is relevant to the question
  2. Action – explain what you did; use detail; focus on self not team; explain how and why
  3. Result – explain what happened eventually; explain what you accomplished and learned

3. Matching/marking

Before a behavioural interview the interviewers decide on the type of answers that would score points for or against the candidate. Then they can match the responses to the criteria. For example, for conflict management the behavioural indicators may be:

Positive indicatorsNegative indicators
Accepts more than one
point of view,
Listens to understand
situation and needs of
others,
Accepts own part in the
process,
Strives to find a workable
solution,
Understands impact of
conflict on a team,
Learns from experience,

Sees conflict as the other
person’s problem,
Imposes own view of the
situation,
Apportions blame externally,
Unaware of effect on
those around them,
Leaves issues unresolved,
Does not reflect on or
learn from situation,

4.  Beware ‘psychological bias’

Any human decision has some degree of bias – we take an instant liking to some people and disliking to others. The behavioural interview questions, the agreed criteria and mark schedules are designed to reduce the chance of this. However, there are psychological influences that will still have an effect. An interviewer might ask more questions if they have a positive impression of the interviewee, and stop asking questions if they have a negative view. Some common biases it is helpful to be aware of are:

Halo/Horn Effect – when you rate a person high or low on all performance factors because of the general impression the individual has created, (‘She seems nice, she must be good at her job’) or because of a single factor , (‘He supports Man U, he must have good judgement’)

Negative or Positive Leniency – some interviewers are consistently too hard or too easy in evaluating candidates – people are never bad enough for a low mark or never good enough for a high one – or stick to the middle line too much. Ratings that are consistently middling, too harsh or too easy can result in the whole interview process being skewed.

5.  Reduce psychological bias using the ORCE Model

Using the ORCE approach can help reduce this. ORCE stands for Observe, then Record, then Classify and then Evaluate. It’s a way of approaching the interview process which will help you to gather all the information you need. It also helps you to be fair about the person’s performance. Take each stage in turn and ask your fellow interviewers to make sure you’re on the same page.

What’s your experience of interviewing? How successful have you been?

Beehive can provide Behavioural Interviewing workshops to support companies shifting to recruiting for a wider skill set. We also provide interpersonal skills development through our b.SAFE D2iP Safety Leadership Programme. In addition, we offer a unique Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Level 3 and 5 certificate in Coaching for Safety.

Transitioning to ISO 45001 – four things you need to know about organisational culture

Find out why an organisational culture change initiative is like reading Stephen Hawking’s book ‘A Brief History of Time’

In my blog post ‘Why ISO 45001 is a safety revolution’ I mentioned the key differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001. One of them is the need to understand the cultural context of the organisation and what drives it – an aspect of ISO 45001 which has no equivalent in OHSAS 18001. As an organisational development consultancy, organisational culture is the backdrop to everything that we do – if you work in an organisation it’s the back drop to everything you do too. It’s also something that is often misunderstood. To understand organisational culture, you need to know the following four things. Hopefully, when you do, this will help you to ‘build in’ not ‘bolt on’ safety to organisational culture.

Before we begin, here’s a question:

What is an organisational culture change initiative like reading Stephen Hawking’s book ‘A Brief History of Time’?

You’ll have to wait till the end of the blog for the answer, but here’s the first thing you need to know about culture:

1. It’s complex

Organisations are ‘complex systems’ – open systems to be exact. The ‘systems’ bit means that all the different parts of an organisation are connected, so something happening in one area impacts on the others through the ripple effect. The ‘open’ bit means all those parts are also connected to the outside, so changes outside impact inside. The ‘complex’ bit is that the connections between the parts aren’t necessarily obvious or even visible, so the impact of changes inside or outside can be unpredictable. In addition, organisations are constantly moving and changing as internal and external conditions change. All of which make organisations, and therefore culture, complex.

2. It has breadth

From bsafebuzz.com 'Transitioning to ISO 45001 - four things you need to know about organisational culture' - a blog post to help those wanting to 'build in' not 'bolt on' safety to organisational culture. How all the different elements of an organisation are connected through core values, the beating heart of the organisation.
Beehive SySTERMS Model showing formal connections through the core values of the organisation

Culture encompasses everything in and about an organisation. It isn’t held in HR, it isn’t a ‘thing’ that is ‘bolted on’ – that sits alongside strategy or in corporate – it is everything. The structure of the organisation, its strategy, the systems, the employees and training, management, resources, and the patterns of how these functions interact – all of these are part of the culture. So, culture is both complex, and it has breadth.

3. It has depth

Most of organisational culture is invisible – held at what’s called the ‘psychological’ level. Like an iceberg, part of it is above the surface but more of it is below. This means you’re unlikely to be aware of it most of the time because it’s just ‘the way we do things round here’. In fact the only time people are really aware of the culture is in the first two to three months of a new job, or after a merger where two cultures are brought closely together!

The things above the surface include what you can touch, like the uniforms, offices and reception areas, company cars, PPE, for example, and what you can see like the branding, and behaviours – how employees speak to and treat each other, how conflict is dealt with, what happens in meetings, etc.

Below the surface are the intangible and invisible parts of culture – the collective mindset, attitudes, beliefs and values that drive organisational behaviours. What’s above provides the clues to what’s below. A great example of this are the ‘symbols of power’.

'Transitioning To ISO 45001' - four things you need to know about organisational culture to make it easier. If you want to make a cultural change it's helpful to know these four things before you begin. Understanding the complexities and the multi level nature of culture means you can anticipate and plan more effectively.

‘Symbols of power’ are the things that demonstrate who and what’s important – who gets a parking space or company car, who gets the best office, the state of the works canteen, helmet colour, who’s late for meetings without comment. There can be a difference between what’s said, in the mission statement or company values, and what’s done – that difference is part of the culture too. If you want to know the real values, look at what happens, not what’s said. For example, on the Niceberg, CEO Mr C Gull is giving friendly fish a V sign despite the mission statement ‘to be nice’.

4. It has a fourth dimension – time

In the same way that our past experiences shape us as a person and influence how we feel about what’s happening in the present, past organisational events impact on how employees respond to what’s happening in the present too. If there has been a poorly executed job evaluation in the past where employees felt undervalued, for example, the next time a significant change is introduced there may be more resistance. Past events and the feelings associated with them are communicated through stories told that can develop into powerful organisational myths. These can be exaggerated over time, and rarely challenged.

So in a nutshell:

In order to transition to ISO45001 you need to understand the cultural context. To help you do this you need to know: organisational culture is complex. Organisational parts – functions, teams, departments, sites – are interconnected, and therefore interdependent. The connections aren’t linear, though, or immediately obvious or even visible because they include what’s under the surface too; collective values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions and experiences. Most of culture is held in that out of awareness place – what’s above the surface only provides the clues to it. This is the case whatever the size of the organisation, but the bigger the organisation the more complex it is.

Example – introducing a questioning attitude on site

  • Introducing a questioning attitude sounds straightforward – you tell people, if you’re uncertain or think something is unsafe, ask a question or challenge. But for it to be most effective, and referring to the Beehive SySTERMS Model:
  • Employees need to have the communication skills and confidence to challenge constructively – asking ‘what the f***!’ isn’t what’s needed here (Employees).
  • If employees are recruited on the basis of technical skills alone this may not be the case (HR SYstems).
  • If the training function has a technical focus there may not be the capability within the organization to develop the communication skills needed (Training).
  • If soft skills are not seen as important (Values) there may not be the money made available for soft skills development (Resources).
  • Managers need to have the awareness and confidence to deal constructively with questioning and challenge (Management).
  • In traditional hierarchies where managers tell and others do (Structure), having employees question may feel like too big a challenge to ‘how we do things round here’ (Values).
  • An employee who questions a manager in this environment is taking a big risk.
  • If someone questions and is knocked back, that story could become part of company folklore where it can act as a barrier to change.

So, how does all this answer the question: why is an organisational culture change initiative like reading Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’?

Answer – Because they are both started with the best of intentions, but rarely finished.

They’re both rarely finished because people underestimate the amount of time, commitment and energy required to finish them. In a short-term, fast-changing world anything that doesn’t create immediate results is likely to be side-lined, and the importance of ‘soft’ power, and the intangible elements of culture are often not taken into account in the planning. This can result in a re-structure, but with the same core values, beliefs and mindset, and therefore the same behaviours, causing the same problems.

First steps in culture change

To truly ‘build it in’, safety has to become a core organisational value – running through the organisation like words through a stick of rock; role-modelled by directors, adequately resourced and measured, a key part of business strategy, the backdrop to every decision made. The good thing is the shift from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 shows that that is now recognised – it is the future of safety.

Beehive SySTERMS Model – building safety in, not bolting it on

What are your experiences of culture change or behaviour change? Do any of these four things ring true for you? I’d be interested in your examples.

PS Beehive is running a free safety culture seminar as part of its ‘b.SAFE@Brathay’ partnership at Brathay in Cumbria on March 29th 2019. We’ll share the results of our research with Bangor university into organisational culture, and our trust-based safety culture model, the D2iT. For more information please contact info@beecld.co.uk.

Beehive is working in partnership with the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN), providing one-day ‘Coaching to Support a Healthy Nuclear Safety Culture’ workshops. The next workshop is on June 12th 2019, venue tbc. For more details please contact Stacy Balmer:stacey.balmer@nsan.co.uk

The first step in any change is a gap analysis – identify where you are now and where you want to be so you can plan the next steps. There are many ways of doing this – an ISO 45001 audit, a safety culture analysis, or a more general cultural 360 like the OCI, the Organisational Culture Inventory. For more information contact info@beecld.co.uk

Can anyone be a mentor? Six things a good mentor needs

mentor1991 was the year DI Jane Tennison first hit our screens in Prime Suspect, fighting sexism and crime in equal measure. It was also the year I joined the West Yorkshire Police on the leadership fasttrack and got my first formal mentor, a previous graduate entrant.

My first – and last – mentoring meeting was just long enough for him to tell me that as he didn’t think women had a place either on the force or the fast-track he wouldn’t be wasting his time on me.

The force’s rationale was sound – this was exactly the kind of situation that cries out for mentoring; a significant and challenging step into the unknown. But it was also why the effect on my confidence and motivation was particularly devastating. A previous graduate entrant may have the ‘context-specific expertise and knowledge’ that the European Mentoring and Coaching Council* identifies as being necessary for effective mentoring, but it takes more than that to be a mentor.

My experience in the police came to mind recently when I read an Institute of Leadership and Management report into mentoring, one finding of which was that while 76% of managers saw themselves as acting as mentors, only 24% of the millennials they ‘mentored’ agreed.**

In addition, according to the TUC, while mentoring is expected to play a large part in maximising the potential of apprentices, ‘despite the increasing recognition of the value of mentoring there is a lack of clarity over what is meant by mentoring and how it differs from the support typically offered by the apprentice’s line manager, training provider and/or assessor.’*** This suggests a perception, skills and knowledge gap which it might be timely to address, given that the government is looking to have 3m people in apprenticeships by 2020.

For an organisation to get the most out of mentoring, a number of things need to be in place. Both mentors and mentees need to understand the process, the roles and the way that people face challenges, progress and learn. Some level of formality in choice, training and monitoring the mentoring programme also gives the organisation oversight of the process and its level of success.

As well as this, mentors need to:

1.   Have a ‘growth’ rather than a ‘fixed’ mindset – Dweck’s work on mindset and feedback is a valuable resource

2.   Understand diversity, in particular the prejudices that can influence how we open up or limit opportunities for people depending on gender, race, age etc

3.   Have the skills – listening, feedback, coaching – that will best enable the mentee to integrate learning and develop their thinking. David Clutterbuck states that the ability to build rapport is crucial to mentoring in a way that it is not in coaching – the relationship is key

4.   Be exemplary in their behaviours. Mentors act as role models not just in behaviours but in attitudes – to customers, colleagues, management and suppliers. They provide a far more powerful induction into the culture of an organisation than any formal induction process

5.   Understand how different generations in the workplace view their career, learning, team work and feedback. There are significant differences between Boomers, Traditionalists, Generation Xers, Yers and Millennials. Being aware can help all parties get more from the relationship

6.   Most importantly, get a kick out of seeing people develop and grow

The origins of mentoring are said to lie in Homer’s story of Odysseus, the King of Ithaca. Odysseus asks his faithful, wise and trusted friend Mentor to take care of his son, Telemachus, while Odysseus is away – watching over him and guiding him through his transition from boy to man. On that basis of the origins of mentoring my real mentoring came from my tutor constable who I shadowed during my first weeks on the job. He loved policing and was an exemplary officer, but most importantly he liked seeing people develop and grow in the job. His values, enthusiasm and the way he did the job shaped both my approach to policing and to mentoring.

Mentoring is an important organisational learning process and knowledge management tool, and ideas such as reverse mentoring – a younger person mentoring an older one in areas like technology and social trends – increases its scope and value. At a time when businesses are rightly investing so much in apprenticeships, it’s never been more important to get mentoring right.

Do the mentors in your organisation have what it takes? Are you sure they are communicating and role modelling what’s important in your organisation? If not, contact Beehive/b.SAFE at info@beecld.co.uk. We provide both ILM accredited and bespoke mentoring and coaching training, and have provided mentor and mentee training most recently for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s SME Mentoring Scheme, The National Skills Academy Nuclear, and The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s Research Fellows’ Mentoring programme.

*European Mentoring and Coaching Council International Mentoring Survey 2015

** ‘Workforce 2020 – Managing Millennials’, Institute of Leadership and Management

*** ‘The Role of Mentoring in Supporting Apprenticeships’, Andy Hirst, Christina Short and Sini Rinne of Cambridge Policy Consultants, Research paper 20, April 2014

Why ISO 45001 is a safety revolution

I introduced our last b.SAFE@Brathay Safety Culture Event (held at Brathay Hall in Cumbria) by saying that there is a quiet revolution taking place in the field of health and safety with the advent of ISO 45001. ISO 45001 is the new international safety standard that replaces OHSAS 18001. The new standard is designed to change the position of EHS from one of being ‘bolted on’ to the business to it being ‘built-in’ to organisational systems. This shift in focus represents a real opportunity for cultural change.

Key differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001

A look at some of the key differences between the two standards might help to explain why. ISO 45001 includes:

  • Understanding the cultural context of the organisation and what drives it
  • Recognising the needs and expectations of stakeholders – neither of these two have an equivalent in OHSAS 18001
  • Changing focus from ‘management’ to ‘leadership’ and from ‘ensuring’ to ‘engaging’
  • Increasing worker participation, engagement and consultation
  • Moving from procedure and records to ‘documented information’
  • Considering the objective and result of communication, not just who, when and what *

These changes have the potential to be what’s known in the field of organisational development (OD) as ‘second order changes’ – change that can transform organisations.

Transformational change

Not all change that takes place in organisations is the same. A useful way of thinking about the differences is as First and Second Order Changes

Slide1

First order change is evolutionary – incremental, linear, doing more or less of what’s already done, making minor changes and adjustments that enable things to be done better or faster and not really changing anything fundamental about the beliefs, values or ways of working of the organisation. It’s adaptive and incremental – an example might be refining existing processes and procedures, or finding new ways to collect or report data, or reminding people about correct PPE. It’s about regaining balance – the homeostasis of the system.

Second order change is revolutionary – it’s not about doing the same thing faster or better but doing something different. It’s transformational not incremental, requiring unlearning and relearning, and it both enables and requires people to think, feel and behave differently to how they did before. Second order change includes cultural change and an example might be, well, any of the differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001:

  • Understanding and embedding EHS as part of the wider organisational and stakeholder system;
  • a shift in focus and style from management to leadership
  • engagement and participation rather than policing
  • accountability for the effectiveness of internal and external communications

Are all changes that have the potential to transform the safety culture of an organisation.

Why behaviour change initiatives usually fail

Most behaviour change initiatives fail because the type of change required is misdiagnosed. Most culture change initiatives fail because the wider implications of the changes required aren’t fully understood or accommodated. What’s needed at this point is not just someone with expertise in health and safety. What’s also needed is an understanding of organisational development.

Organisational development and safety

Organisational development is a field which includes:

  • Managing planned change, in a flexible manner that can be revised as new information is gathered.
  • Not just creating change but reinforcing it 
  • Applying changes in the strategy, structure, and/or processes of an entire system, such as an organisation, a single plant of a multi-plant firm, a department or work group, or individual role or job.
  • Improving organisational effectiveness by:
    • helping members of the organisation to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to solve problems by involving them in the change process, and
    • by promoting high performance including financial returns, high quality products and services, high productivity, continuous improvement and a high quality of working life. CIPD OD Factsheet

Helping your organisation make the change

Beehive is perfectly placed to help organisations make the changes to mindset, skills and tools needed to transition to ISO 45001 because we understand the organisational side of things. We know what needs to change in the behaiours, and structures – we have associates who ca audit your organisation so you can plan your transition. If you have certification to OHSAS 18001 you will have a window of three years to migrate to ISO 45001 to maintain the validity of certification (see NQA Information re 45001). And because ISO 45001 represents an opportunity for cultural rather than simply procedural change, the sooner the change begins the more likely you are to gain the greatest benefits.

This is the first of a series of articles in which I’ll consider each of the differences between the two standards from an organisational development perspective. The next article will be ‘Safety SySTERMS – what drives culture’.

Click here for more information about b.SAFE

Click here for more information about Brathay Trust

For more information about our next Safety Culture Event at Brathay on March 29th 2019 please email info@beecld.co.uk

Click here to find out more about our Transforming Safety Behaviours Workshops

*The NQA ISO 45001 Health and Safety Briefing outlines the key differences between the two standards. The differences outlined above relate to points:

  • 4.1 – Understanding your organisation and its context – what drives your culture? 
  • 4.2 – Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties – engaging with stakeholders
  • 5.1 – Leadership and commitment – changing from ‘management’ to ‘leadership’, and from ‘ensuring’ to ‘engaging’
  • 5.2 & 5.4 – OH&S policy & Participation and consultation – increasing (or introducing?) worker participation and engagement
  • 7.2 & 7.5 – Competence & Documented information – a move from ‘procedure’ to ‘documented evidence’
  • 7.4 – Information and communication – considering not just the who, what and when of communication but the objective and the result of it

 

What can we learn about behavioural safety from America’s love of firearms?

Guns only keep you safe if you have the mindset and skills required to use them most effectively. At Beehive we’ve adopted the model of Mindset + Skills + Tools as the most effective way of transforming safety behaviours – introducing tools along with the mindset and skills necessary for them to be most effective.

15793761-Illustration-of-shooting-turkey-Stock-Vector-gunOn a recent visit to Florida I made enquiries about learning to shoot a handgun. Not from any homicidal tendencies you understand, but because it’s something you can’t do over here. As I looked into it (during which I became more and more worried by how easy and cheap it was – free ladies days at the range, anyone? – and the lack of anything resembling checks or training!) I came across a video from an ex-marine who now trains civilians to use guns. It set me thinking about safety.

The video included footage from the dashcam of an armed policeman who’d been shot dead by a driver he’d stopped for a routine check. The video stated that after a recent mass shooting, sales of guns had increased because people were scared and believed that possessing a gun would keep them safe – if in danger they just pull it out and shoot. This, the ex-marine explained, is not the case for a number of reasons:

  • Having a gun can increase the danger, as an attacker could then feel justified in shooting first, or could take the gun off you to use against you
  • Even if you can hit the heart and head of your target every time on the range – most targets in the shooting ranges are person-shaped (!) – it does not help you in an attack situation – on average there is a three second window in which to act, and adrenaline means you forget everything in the terror of the moment
  • You may become over confident, taking greater risks because you feel safer
  • That the gun is just a tool and like any tool requires two things for it to be of use – the right mindset and the right skills.

By mindset he meant being clear about why you have a gun, the potential and limitations of it, how and when it should be used and how and when it shouldn’t. By skills he meant not just being able to point and shoot but being able to do so in the kind of situations you’d bought the gun for ie in the heat of the moment. This he described as being ‘combat’ not just ‘target’ ready, and his company was all about providing combat-ready training.

It occurred to me that safety management systems, regulations, processes and procedures can sometimes be viewed a little bit like having a gun. The fact that they are there leads people to believe that they’re safe – all they have to do is follow them, they may not think beyond them, they may take greater risks because of them, they may not be able to think beyond them in an emergency. In fact it’s not the systems, processes and procedures that keep people safe; they’re just the tools, and often blunt ones at that – no safety manual covers every possible situation and it’s the unforeseen ones that usually create the biggest problems, and if procedures aren’t fit for purpose they actually encourage the violations they’re there to reduce. It’s having the right mindset :

  • trustworthy
  • committed to the spirit not just slavish compliance to the letter of regulations
  • recognising that safety is created not by the processes but by the people who use them
  • being aware of both the importance and limitations of regulations etc
  • being accountable for your own behaviours and role in keeping people safe

– that makes the difference. And having the right skills:

  • ‘soft power’ skills that empower, build relationships and generate the required commitment
  • clarity of thought and power of communication
  • decision making
  • the ability to give (and receive) feedback constructively and hold self and others to account
  • leadership

that increases the efficacy of any system or process, even making up for imperfections.

At Beehive we’ve adopted the model of Mindset + Skills + Tools as the most effective way of transforming safety behaviours – introducing tools along with the mindset and skills necessary for them to be most effective. It’s why in our three-day ‘Transforming Safety Behaviours’ workshops we combine our one day ‘Human Performance Fundamentals’ – an introduction to human performance principles, models and tools – with a one-day ‘Coaching for Safety’ workshop – developing the non-directive mindset and skills required for one-to-one coaching – and either a ‘Team Coaching’ or ‘Mentoring Apprentices’ workshop – that increases the effectiveness, reach and power not just of human performance tools, but any safety management system, process or procedure.

I never did learn to shoot on my holiday. The ex-marine had no space available while I was there and his was the only company that offered the kind of training I felt confident in – the only person who really sounded like he knew what he was doing. But I will when I next go stateside. So if when I see you I say I’m packing, it may not be for a holiday……!

The next three-day ‘b.SAFE Transforming Safety Behaviours’ workshop will be held at the Brathay Trust in Cumbria (@BrathayPD).

Nov 15th 2017 – ‘Human Performance Fundamentals’ – This meets the Nuclear Industry Standard but is relevant to any supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Nov 16th 2017 – ‘Coaching for Safety’ – endorsed by the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) but relevant to any supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Nov 17th 2017 – ‘Mentoring Apprentices’ – endorsed by the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) but relevant to any apprentice, supervisor or site/quality/safety manager/engineer working in a safety critical environment

Each day stands alone but the three days are designed to build on and develop the understanding and applicability of the days before. For more information or for a place on our free safety culture seminar on Sept 15th contact me on sara@beecld.co.uk