Category: Safety

Stay Engaged to Save Lives at Work

 

As an inspirational safety speaker, I know all too well that the safety industry has traditionally focused on force feeding workers a diet of safety posters, safety lectures, safety demonstrations and horrific tales of gruesome injuries about “someone else.” It is a multi-pronged attack that checks all the right compliance boxes. This approach often causes people to disengage.

Part of the problem stems from the traditional “blue collar” and “white collar” designations. Those who toil on the job are often viewed as having less of an ability to personalize safety messages as the folks in the air-conditioned offices. Having been “a worker” and “an executive,” I knew this bias was untrue. In fact, when “safety” gets divided into “them” and “us,” it often results in more injuries throughout the organization. Scientific research backs me up.

Safety is a Story

The frontal lobe is one of seven parts of our brains. It is where we do our higher reasoning, however, appealing to only reason does little to drive a message home. This is not a new fact. It’s been around for centuries.

For example, when workers pass one of those safety posters with the stick figures lifting the wrong way, it does practically nothing for engagement. Even when the posters have info-graphics as to lifting, pushing and pulling statistics, no one fully takes that into their memory.

Telling a worker that in 2018, nearly 300,000 workers (based on National Safety Council statistics) were badly injured by incorrectly lifting does little good, if he or she didn’t know any of the injured people.

If the “blue collar” workers are found to disengage from safety messages, those in the office aren’t faring better. For example, Automotive Fleet magazine (May 25, 2018) explained that commercial automotive fleet accident rates have risen to almost 20 percent of all automobile accidents. The reasons aren’t faulty tires or winter storms, but far more basic, “…the No. 1 factor contributing to the increase in accidents continues to be distracted driving, especially among company drivers. Employees use company vehicles as their mobile offices and multitask while driving, which creates more opportunities for distraction.”

The same executives who stress workers aren’t being mindful on the job are themselves not mindful when they are driving to sales calls, job sites or to and from the office. Who’s to blame for the lack of safety engagement? Perhaps we should put the biggest blame on our amazing brains.

While there is a part of the brain that remembers facts and stick figures crying “Ouch!” it doesn’t prevent someone from lifting the wrong way or getting into an accident when driving while on their smartphone. Am I saying posters or classes are useless? Not at all. They can reinforce the story, but they are not the story. The inspirational safety story is a memorable story.

Engagement Demands “Why”

I am a safety statistic and safety storyteller. On November 3rd, 1984, I was a passenger in a friend’s car. As an athlete and martial artist, I guess I thought accidents happened to other people. Despite everything I had seen, heard and read I decided to not wear a seatbelt for a short ride down the beach. My friend lost control of the vehicle and I broke two vertebrae in my neck and suffered a serious spinal cord injury. I went from an athlete and martial artist to being diagnosed a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair. It is an intensely personal safety story and it is impactful for my audiences.

A safety story, up close and personal, is the best way to engage the entire brain, along with the other tools. Our brains are more likely to wire in information when it is tied to emotion. What engages us is that personal connection.

My mission is to tell that story, and help every employee develop a safety mindset and safety vision, with the determination to make safety a daily part of their story.

Contact Scott Burrows, Inspirational Safety Speaker through this website or call us at: (520) 548-1169

 

When Being “Only Human” Can Lead to Catastrophe

As a national keynote speaker on workplace safety and accidents caused by stress and other factors, I am familiar with the worn excuse of “they were only being human.” I remember the accident that led to my becoming a quadriplegic.

Family and friends told me that my failure to wear a seatbelt was because I was only human and under stress. In the months after the crash, I wondered what might have happened had I the vision to see where my choices could lead and the determination to overcome my carelessness in the first place.

Human Factors

The American Institute of Stress (March 28, 2019) stated that “80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.” In the same report it was noted that of all of the factors in the workplace that cause stress, the largest reason at 46 percent was workload. When a heavy workload is combined with stress, accidents occur. Those under stress usually think they can do more than they can safely do. They are too rushed and too stressed to ask for help.

The “Institute” reflected the ideas of Dr. David Spiegel, medical director of the Stanford Center on Stress and Health in Stanford, California in Safety + Health magazine:

“Safety professionals can play an important role in helping workers cope with stress.

It’s very clear that a big proportion of safety problems are due to human error, and some of that is related to stress. You need to be concerned as a manager for the overall health of your employees.”

Safety Consultant Dr. Michael Topf has spent a career working to help reduce employee stress. His observation about workers and the effects of workplace pressure have shattered a lot of myths. No matter the educational level, from Ph.D.’s on down, when stress is in play problems arise. You can’t overcome poor safety habits with intellectual thought:

“What I found was that…stress has an impact on safety. People learn to stuff their feelings. They hide their stress. They think, ‘You need to be bigger than it.’ So, it all goes in, but it doesn’t go away – it’s all stored in your body somewhere. It’s stored mentally and it’s stored physically.”

Topf gave a hypothetical example of a worker who had a sick parent in the hospital.

“You get to work and you’re climbing a ladder or you’re on scaffolding. While you’re walking along on the scaffolding, part of your attention is on where you’re walking and what you’re doing, but also part of your attention is on your sick mother in the hospital. Loss of focus or inattention is a major cause of injury.”

Overcoming Poor Decisions

As a safety professional, you must have the insight and the determination to see the connection between stress, workload and workplace accidents. Safety is a company-wide challenge. Safety professionals need the resolve to help workers under stress.

Finally, of the 46 percent of workers in the AIS study who cited workload as a major problem for causing stress (and accidents), in turn most of them saw stress as affecting their co-workers as well. Safety is everyone’s business. “Being human” is an explanation and an excuse we must avoid.

 

Contact Scott Burrows, National Keynote Speaker on Safety and Stress Related Workplace Accidents, through this website or call us at: (520) 548-1169

 

The Human Side of Neuroscience and Safety

 

Early in my career, I worked with heavy machinery and dangerous chemicals. I was well-trained to maintain a keen safety awareness on the job site. Yet, on the day I was involved in a car accident as a passenger in a friend’s vehicle, I decided not to wear a seat belt. In seconds, I went from an athlete and martial artist with a bright future ahead of me in sports to a quadriplegic.

During recovery, I had no choice but to re-evaluate the decision to disregard my safety. Why had I not been more careful? When I later began my professional career as a motivational safety speaker, I was determined to help others make safety a top priority on the job.  My research about why we make poor decisions despite knowing better led me to study neuroscience and how it applies to safety accidents.

It is Human to Be Emotional, That Can Be Bad

Nada Wetzel is a recognized neuroscience expert based in Australia. She has devoted years to studying workplace safety and pointed out that most of our safety decisions are based on emotion. That’s not always logical.

“Good safety is a function of people making conscious safety choices…Safety leaders need to recognize and value the role of emotions and their role in creating an enabling or disabling environment…”

Minutes before I was in the accident, common sense told me to take a second and put on my seat belt, but my emotions convinced me that as we were driving less than a mile, I would be safe. I was not thinking logically, but emotionally. Wetzel wrote that “The majority of our thinking is in fact unconscious. Neuroscience helps us to better understand decision making…”

When I was working around heavy machinery and chemicals, I saw co-workers take great risks. They did not see hazards, just getting the job done quickly so they could punch out. This contradicted their training and common sense.

Can neuroscience override emotions to make good safety choices? It seems so. Neuroscience News, January 2016, reported on a study that concluded:

Learning and memory are among the brain’s most fundamental tools for survival… (survival is) the brain’s ability to discriminate between an environment that it has previously learned to be dangerous and one that is safe.”

Neuroscience has shown we can take what we learned in training or in one job situation and apply it to another situation if we are determined to do so every single day.

Safety is Essential, Neuroscience Proves It

Dr. Stephen Porges is a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina and a neuroscience expert. He believes that “Safety is critical in enabling humans to optimize their potential.” He talks of the need to promote opportunities to feel safe and to use that tool to make us happier and more productive.

By making a conscious effort to exercise personal authority over unsafe behaviors, we can adopt a safety mindset. Even if our co-workers and friends say, “Sheesh, not another reminder about safety!” at the end of the day, when we feel safer we can better live up to our potential.

However, the most important finding in regard to the lessons of neuroscience and workplace safety to date might be the way we see danger.

Safety + Health magazine reported that “we are learning that we do not see with our eyes, but with our brains. This means that our eyes are not serving as active video cameras, capturing every detail of the world around us…The brain’s primary mission here, unless intentionally directed otherwise, is to determine if there are any unanticipated risks to our surviving and thriving…”

The vision to be safe is not based on sight, but our internal awareness and determination to be safe. We cannot trust what is imprinted on our eyes. Safety is something we must take into every fiber of our unconscious thinking. It is a reinforced mindset.

Is your work place determined to take on the challenge of a safer vision?

 

Contact Scott Burrows, Keynote and Breakout Speaker on Safety through this website or call us at: (520) 548-1169

 

 

Scott Burrows: Motivational Workplace Safety Speaker

 

Most of us say that we believe in safety. We try to remember to wear our seat belts, take care when climbing ladders, or prompt our kids to pick up the toys they left on the floor!

In companies, we put up safety posters, provide training, and maintain the VISION to commit ourselves to safety by following safety protocols to keep accidents from occurring on the job.

While our MINDSET may be safety first, we experience accidents on the factory floor, warehouse, on the roads and when we make deliveries. Why does this happen? It comes down to a lack of GRIT, the focus to make safety the highest priority, each day, every day.

Scott Burrows: Keynote Speaker on Workplace Safety

I always worked hard. In my late teens, as a golf course supervisor, I drove trucks, tractors and worked around hazardous chemicals. I thought I had a safety mindset. One night, while the passenger in a friend’s car, I made a poor decision to not wear a seat belt. That night my friend lost control of the car and we hit a sand pile. The car overturned end over end, several times, and I was badly injured.

Prior to the accident I was a Division-I football player and a martial artist. After the accident, the doctors said I would be a quadriplegic. As I recovered, I developed the philosophy of VISION-MINDSET-GRIT. Vision and mindset are important, but without grit, we can never reach our safety goals.

Workplace Safety and GRIT

Workplace safety is a full-time job. We need the daily determination to see the job through. We must be interconnected by safety awareness no matter how familiar we are with the equipment and established protocols.

If GRIT weakens, it leads to indifference. When “just good enough” is enough, it guarantees an accident is waiting to happen. It takes everyone’s focus to have a safe work environment.

In 2019, American companies will pay out more than $65 billion in employee injury insurance claims. Many of those workplaces will lack the GRIT to instill a safety MINDSET and VISION. This year, let me help your company to have the GRIT to make your workplace a safe workplace.

 Want your workplace to have the VISION, MINDSET and GRIT to embrace safety? Contact Scott Burrows, Keynote Motivational Speaker on Workplace Safety today through this website or call us at: (520) 548-1169