Friday, 18 August 2017

Ok we won't talk Safety, Only Business

This happens frequently with some business owners and senior managers in countless workplaces.

“ No. I don’t want to hear about safety today, I am swamped.
The real business is crying for my attention. So many things are going wrong all over the place all of a sudden.
I have got to do something fast otherwise there might not even be a business left to talk about, much less your precious safety. We just have to take a scrubbing brush to the whole thing and give it a good shine. So this safety thing of yours just has to wait, am sorry. But where do I begin? See? It’s all falling apart and only the good Lord knows why. If only people will do what they’re supposed to do!

This is one tough call, Bro. I won’t lie to you but there is no giving up – not on my watch anyhow, no way. They say a Spartan dies but never surrenders. Come to think of it I always wondered if there is any real sense in such a finite philosophy but, this is not Sparta. This here is Rollard Iron Works, Inc. - my business. C’mon let’s get cracking.
So where do I begin? That’s the question I would like an answer to right now. Is it:
·         The workshop, with all those slow coaches?
·          Or the Material Order section who take weeks of dilly dallying to fill out a material order?
·          What about Sales who are long on the talk but extremely short on delivery?
·         And there’s Transportation with the unenviable record for lateness and incessant road collisions which are often beyond reasonable explanations?
·         Or is it the QA/QC people whose only claim to fame is certification, certification there; ISO this and ISO that?
·         Or maybe I should start over at the Human Resource/Training department? But those are no good either beyond Personnel Procedure Manual provisions regurgitation and all that. And look at what hash they have managed to make of this year’s training budget.

Heck, what a fine mess have I gotten myself into? What a deal, what a place to call your own workplace!”
So what is going on?

This is a skeleton view of a business or workplace that is obviously tottering on the brink as a result of a basketful of management issues which did not suddenly appear but have evidently been simmering just below the surface for a while, until this critical moment when it inevitably dawns that they either have to shape up or ship out. Act correctly now and promptly, or forget it.
Good a thing the boss man realizes he’s got some fundamental issues across his operations to resolve as soon as practicable. It is also a useful thing that he has a one liner periscope view of what might be responsible for the enduring troubles in each of his departments or sections. But he, at the same time, doesn’t want to talk safety. He wants to talk business because he’s swamped with problems. A bit of a mismatch there but nevertheless, you can safely say that he has taken the first critical step to righting the listing ship of his business. So why don’t we take a  quick tour of realism with him for starters so that we can at least get the BIG Picture of what might be truly amiss.
  • The Workshop
He sees those running the workshop as slow coaches, which implies that they are slow to turn out jobs. This can have a downstream effect of schedule delays in production and other departments fed by the workshop. Now if production, maintenance, and say, transportation departments are held up due to late repairs turnaround by the workshop, you’ve to imagine that not much else is moving by way of productivity. So you eventually find that the plotted ‘Planned vs. Actual’ are miles apart, and that is to say projected earnings correspondingly below targets.

So now you want to know why? Your answer is: Too many stoppages of work because of in-situ repairs, accidents and equipment failures due to poor handling by poorly trained new or replacement employees, inadequate tools and replacement parts, poor supervision, late reporting, poor scheduling, etc. Surprised that this man doesn’t want to talk Safety? I am not.
  • The Materials Order Section
The man said they dillydally for weeks to fill out one material order request form for approval, so how does he expect such a workplace not to be short of critical spares, especially replacement parts crucial to timely workshop job turnaround? That being the case, why would he expect that there won’t be crippling under production, unauthorized and unapproved Change Control Management and ultimately, accidents, sundry losses and all that? Why won’t the workshop people appear like slow coaches if necessary spares take forever to arrive due to issues with timely requisitioning? And this is the man who wants to talk Business and not Safety, but is now seeking urgent answers?  How is that?

It doesn’t make sense. It has to be clear to all that one department’s output is input to the next. Such is the intertwined and interwoven relationship in a smooth running operation or system. Delay to one is delay to all and, a ‘rush job in one’ means ‘a rush job’ everywhere, and that could open up a potential floodgate of forced errors and omissions, shortcuts and permitted oversights, which can lead to all kinds of losses to the business in the end.
  • The Sales Department
This is an easy one. What are they going to sell when there’s nothing forthcoming from the production line? So why won’t they be tall on colourful, eye-catching Client Slides presentations when they know there is little else by way of finished products to offer the expectant, agitated and frustrated clienst? The game is called stalling for time and you’ve to learn to be very good at it or the customer will look elsewhere in no time. So quit chewing off the Sales people sir, because they can’t sell what you’ve not produced, simple. Maybe you should be thinking of commending them for their artistry or gallantry or dedication, or for some more.
  • The Transportation Department
Their habitual lateness is now easily understood, and so are the incessant road collisions because if you start out behind schedule you are guaranteed to arrive behind schedule, there is no magic to it. But if you try to beat the time to meet the schedule then you can’t be too far from a collision because of the many traffic violations you’ll rack up along the way. In this business one error begets another, so it is all related like the links on a chain. Skip one and you derail the whole chain. Say, you still don’t want to talk safety?
  • The QA/QC Department
If they do not put a stamp of authority on the quality of your product how are you going to compete favourably in the open market? Who’ll speak for your product in terms of quality assurance, standards, etc, on the way to the client’s shelf or production assembly line? If you do not have the approved international certifications how big will your market get and who’s is going to attest to the safety standard of your products? See why you should talk Safety, boss man?
  • The Human Resources/Training Department
This is your getaway to all the rest of all the good things such as proper selection, policies, procedures, competence training and development, succession planning, welfare, etc, etc, you name it. This is where it starts and this is where it ends. Get it wrong here and there is no need for the rest
Are you ready to talk Safety yet or it is still Business? Safety is the soul of business. If you want to save yourself the money, time and sundry business crippling headaches, cotton on to SAFETY from the beginning to the end because there’s no such thing as sustainable business without safety






Friday, 21 July 2017

Emergencies, response planning, management, and all that

Emergencies are a part of life and they can happen anytime whether at work, home, on the road or in your community. So preparing for them ahead of time is the only sure way to take the sting out of what impact or effect they may be packing wherever, wherever. For an office block for example your Emergency Response Plan (ERP) should include the following:

* Begin by drawing up emergency evacuation plans for each floor and make sure that they are conspicuously displayed for all to see

* Ensure they are simple and easy to read and understand

* Boldly mark the location of exits and fire/emergency appliances clearly

* Appoint designated Fire/Emergency Wardens or Superintendents for each floor and assign specific emergency roles/duties

* Train all occupants on orderly evacuation of the building in an emergency and post directional signs to designated safe muster zones for head count

* Train occupants to avoid the temptation of trying to retrieve or save their valuables on leaving the building as this may result in loss of valuable orderly escape time in seconds which can jeopardize the safety of one and all 

* Conduct drills as often as necessary to familiarize occupants with their assigned emergency roles and responsibilities to avoid confusion and ensure response time is within acceptable limits and/or progressively reduced

* Train occupants to avoid use of lifts or elevators during evacuation because it is unsafe to use them at the time of emergency

* Shut all office doors behind you as you leave to join the evacuation and do not go back into the building until there is a general ‘All Clear’ announcement from the Emergency Response Coordinator indicating that it is safe to reenter the building


Same should broadly apply to high occupancy public facilities such as hotels, schools and colleges, hospitals and medical clinics, shopping malls, indoor and high-rise markets, etc.

 Home Emergency Response planning is a different kettle of fish entirely when it comes to Emergency Roles and Responsibility (ERR) and general emergency management because aside from high density, high rise multi-floor tenements which should generally follow the planning pattern of office blocks, all other low density, single or two floor occupancy ER Plans must be fit-for-purpose to the building or occupancy under consideration. Such ERPs should include the following:

  • Ensure the building is equipped with life saving/early warning fittings, appliances and portable firefighting equipment such as extinguishers, smoke alarms, etc
  • Train occupants to efficiently and effectively operate installed fire extinguishers  well ahead of the day of need and also ensure that all fire emergency equipment are operable at all times
  • Ensure that entrances and exits out of the building are accessible and free of obstruction at all times, practice escape and evacuation as regularly as you can
  • Impress it upon the household that emergencies will occur without warning so absolute grasp of what to do when the need arises is of prime importance
  • There are no designated ER Wardens , Coordinators, etc, in the home front so every occupant must be prepared to act correctly without prompting
  • Adults must look out for the safe evacuation of children, the old, infirm and the physically challenged
  • Be sure to boldly and prominently display the Public Fire and Medical Emergency telephone numbers somewhere within the building for occupants’ easy access and retrieval  
  • It is also useful for occupants to know the immediate neighbour’s telephone numbers, etc

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

What caused this accident? This is a regular and familiar question.

Once there has been some major occurrence with serious impact on people, assets and the environment, the next best thing from onlookers is to ask what caused it. Well truth is try as you will, there's never been just that single cause of any accident, be it at home, work, play or in the community. What usually happens is that a chain of seemingly small and inconsequential and unrelated events gang up over a space of time to explode in that single forceful reckoning commonly referred to as an accident. What caused it?

The real failing is us not recognizing what is ahead after the series of inconsequential, unrelated events or subtle warning signs that intrude on our set daily routine. Take a simple case of a vehicle, dripping brake fluid from a pinhole leak in the hose connecting the reservoir to the chamber. Most drivers will be aware of it happening but will fail to grasp its ultimate importance to their own safety. Or better still, some will be willing to take a chance because of the perception of the risk posed as of low value in terms of consequence, so they defer any corrective action to ‘till some other time’, or until when the leak becomes a rivulet of copious, steady flow requiring frequent stops to top up instead of curing the problem once and for all.

Then comes a day when they may forget to do the ‘needful’ or out of haste, do not screw the reservoir cap firmly back on because they are ‘running out of time’. You know, like they’re late for that all important appointment or meeting that could change one’s life forever? No sooner than they’re on the highway cruising along and feeling good with great expectations, the inevitable happens as they come face-to-face with a life-threatening danger and everything turns sour and blurry. Great dread descends to eclipse the hitherto peace and serenity of a few seconds gone by. What do they do now?

The terror-stricken driver flattens the brake pedal to the vehicle’s floor in horror but it surges forward uncontrollably, regardless. Heck, what's going on? Oh dear God. Bang! the vehicle slams into the next one ahead, or runs into people on the road shoulder, or smashes into some fixed object with disastrous consequences. Then people stop to ask in utter disbelief: "What caused this accident?"

Want an honest answer? You, my friend the driver! Why? The driver was presented with several opportunities to prevent this accident by correcting the troublesome leak permanently but failed to do so and in effect postponing the evil day. Unsafe situations or conditions will not go away by themselves unless someone takes the necessary corrective or remedial action to bring it about.

It is important to note that there are no single causes when it comes to accidents. They’re usually as result of a combination of factors or unrelated events. That's why accidents repeat themselves from time to time, not because anyone desires to see them do so BUT because people simply repeat the same mistakes over time.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Drip, Drip, Drip of Your Safety Message

Lots of organizations preach safety all day long and all night long without hitting fruitful production notes because the message is forever static, repetitious, didactic, impersonal, with same old dull and yellow flavor. No variations, no freshness, and no linkage to reality on ground at the work face. Basically, its all drip, drip, drip about how important it is to be safety conscious, how it is the No. 1 Priority of Management and nothing more.

Remember that high sounding, high visibility schemes and gimmickry are aplenty so beware. For it is either 'Target No Accident or Incidents', 'Operation 20 Million Man-hours Without Lost Time Injury', or 'Operation Be Your Brother's Keeper, blah, blah, blah and all that, while the dashboard of the company's safety performance remains unchanged: glowing a steady tomato red in spite of all the massive efforts at 'selling' safety to the workforce. Why is that so and what could be responsible?

Are the people simply beyond comprehension or unable to assimilate simple messages, whereas the intention is crystal clear? What's the problem here, total lack of interest, ineffectiveness of language of communication, the medium of communication, or something much more than all of those combined?

Well, chances are that the answer lies hidden within this spectrum, for until you retool your message to reflect how standards, adequate training, job skills, quality of finished work, etc, are all linked to $$$ savings and therefore, safe operations with little or no losses; and ultimately, profits and a boost to the bottom line, your safety message will remain a flat irritation at best. Remember that to make it stick the message must be inviting, exciting, inclusive with a lot of inbuilt respect and recognition of the aggregate value of  individual inputs to the end product. Slam it at them and your success will be limited.

So stop the drip. Concentrate on linking the vital component tools and techniques of working differently, efficiently, skillfully and qualitatively to deliver on schedule and your safety message will be delivered in tow, intertwined and interwoven, seamlessly!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

How Much of Your Opex Do You Save Cutting Corners?

What % of your operating budget do you save when you look the other way while unauthorized changes and deviations are a norm in the workplace under your supervision? Would you 5, 10, 15 or maybe 30%? You are not too sure how much, if anything at all?

Well, it is highly unlikely that you will ever save on your Opex if employees are free to make up their own rules as they go along or can decide which step on the job comes next instead of what the approved procedures say. In fact working with scant regards for the Right Way of doing things condemns you to an ever spiraling  operating budget spend. Because you'll find that you are constantly grappling with 'digging a hole to fill a hole' throughout the life of  the project.

In the end, there are no prizes for guessing that your project will come in grossly over budget and way outside the delivery schedule because of all the issues of rework, unplanned stoppages, delayed logistics, repairs and replacements, backtracking, cleaning up after avoidable incidents, shift schedule dislocations, etc, you've had to contend with on the way. It is therefore a no brainer stressing that doing the right thing first time is the gateway to appreciable Opex savings and timely, qualitative work or project delivery.

Cutting corners leads you directly in the opposite direction with all the hassles, losses, poor quality work, frosty employee and client relations, thousands of dollars over budget spend, and a lot of red and angry faces in the boardroom. Not to mention thousands of disappointed Shareholders waiting patiently to scalp you at the next AGM.

Do you still think it's worth it cutting corners? I doubt it.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Safety? Whats The Big Idea!

The Big Idea is you don't value it till you lose it. That's why all the feverish activities once there has been a so-called accident just so you can salvage what can be salvaged while searching out ways and means to prevent a future recurrence. And hoping that everyone concerned shall remain 'sufficiently scared straight' for the immediate times ahead and that lessons arising will remain eternally fresh to make the difference between doing the right and the wrong. But does it always pan out as envisaged?

Well, not exactly. At least, not all the time. So you might then wonder why. You see, SAFETY is an intangible quantity (or shall I say, invisible quantity?) so most people hardly notice when routine operations are smooth sailing i.e. no unplanned stoppages, no product loss or damage, and no dicey close calls. That is how you can tell that everyone is doing what they're supposed to be doing the right way. No errors, forced or unforced; no short cuts, no superior-knowledge-induced-oversights like I-have-done-this-same-thing-over-and-over-for-years-and-I-have-never-had-an-accident-yet. Just the good old fashioned way of getting things done the right way, no frills no fancy and on schedule.

That is when the business is on easy street. And for once, management, supervision and the employees appear to be in an unassailable congruence, what with everything going according to plan. What more can anyone ask for?

But strangely enough, this is when you're most likely to encounter the question: 'Safety? What's The Big Idea?' simply because when things are flowing smoothly like a river no one remembers that it is because every little bit of the work component is being done or performed the right way, within  the set standards, and in accordance with the approved operating procedures; ultimately combining to yield what we commonly refer to as SAFE OPERATIONS or SAFE PRODUCTION.

That is the BIG IDEA of Safety in the work place.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Excessive and Inappropriate Speeds

First word: They say it is not speed that kills but change in speed. Confused? Don’t be because simply put, if a vehicle travelling at 100km/hr is suddenly forced to 0km/hr in a few seconds, the results can be devastating. The occupants could be in for a lot of trouble especially if they were unrestrained by seatbelts while the vehicle was still in motion. That then is the logic behind the saying that it is not speed that kills but CHANGE in SPEED!

Excessive speeds + Loss of control accounted for 35%+17% respectively i.e. 52% of crashes recorded in the country – Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Corps Marshal. – (Jan-Nov. 2012).

Speed Limits

World Health Organization (WHO) identified the issue of speed as a risk factor in road traffic injuries, influencing the risk of a crash as well as the severity of injuries resulting. In fact, WHO and the Global Road Safety Partnership, in a publication, Speed Management: a Road Safety Manual for Decision Makers and Practitioners recommended that speed limits be introduced in every country as a part of global strategy to cut down road fatalities.

National Road Traffic Regulations, 2004 specifies speed limits allowed on Nigerian roads.

What is Excessive, What is Inappropriate Speed?

What is excessive speed? It is defined as exceeding posted speed limits, while inappropriate speed is driving at speeds unsuitable for prevailing conditions. Excessive and inappropriate speeds are responsible for a high proportion of the mortality and morbidity that arise from road crashes.

It is said that in some low and middle income countries, speed is estimated to be the main contributory factor in 50% of all crashes. Excessive speeding decreases driver’s response or reaction time in an emergency and may increase the risk of a crash. It equally reduces the ability to safely maneuver on the road, increases stopping and breaking distances because the higher the speed the shorter the reaction time for the driver to try and avoid an imminent crash.

So whether excessive or inappropriate speeds, it simply doesn’t make sense to indulge in turning the highway into a racetrack because nothing good or safe comes of it for occupants and vehicle when a crash occurs. Vehicle crashes cost the victims much more than just dollars and cents, sometimes a whole lot more! The good thing though is most of them can be prevented if we are keen on doing just that. All it takes a little effort: thinking + discipline = control.