THE GOLDEN TOOL

Welcome to our CEO, Tom Reeves, as he shares the last of his 4 blogs with ideas to consider. Add your reactions to the post below and use the the contact button above so we can continue the discussion!


Early in my career, I worked as a junior safety professional in a large manufacturing plant. This plant had over 1600 workers and these workers made large home appliances. One of the worker jobs on the production line was especially troubling. It was ergonomically difficult and after about three months, the typical worker would often be injured to the point of needing surgery. The company tried for years to fix the ergonomic issues associated with this job. The latest solution had been to add a helper to the job who would stage parts to reduce the ergonomic risk to the operator.  That solution resulted in delaying the injury but, sadly, did not prevent it.

The risk with the job was two-fold.  Both risks involved installing a rubber boot-shaped part that served as part of the water drainage system into the bottom of the appliance. First, the worker would put their hand through the boot in an awkward down-facing position. Then, the worker would seat the boot into a slot at the bottom off the appliance by extending their arm. The worker would then use both thumbs to press the edges of the rubber boot into a hard plastic ring at the bottom of the appliance.  It took a few weeks for the worker to develop thumb and wrist pain. If the worker remained in the job for three months, they often needed resulted surgery to repair either the thumbs, wrists or both. Something had to change.

The plant leadership and our corporate level EHS support was very focused on reducing and eliminating the injuries at this workstation.   As a newly minted safety professional who wanted to prove himself, I was also very determined to fix this job – perhaps too eager. Luckily, my boss introduced me to a toolmaker in the maintenance department and we began discussing approaches to creating a tool to get the worker’s hand out of the rubber boot. We both visited the workers doing the job on different shifts and asked for their input.  The workers were enthusiastic to give their ideas.  We drew up a prototype concept and the tool maker built it. The prototype involved a wooden block the size of the top oval ring of the boot.  The edges of the wooden block were rounded allowing the block to rock back and forth. Then, we mounted an angled handle to the top.  If the prototype worked, we’d eventually fabricate a version made of more durable materials and mount it to a zero-gravity connection to further remove stress.  But, first, the prototype needed to be tested.

The rubber boot had critical to quality requirements.  If the boot was not seated and secured properly, the appliance would leak water into someone’s nice kitchen.  Every appliance was leak tested at the end of the assembly line and a small percentage of the appliances consistently failed the leak test and required rework.  Our initial hope was that using this tool would result in a net-zero change in the results of the leak tests while reducing the ergonomic strain and risk of the job.  After a few initial tests with the prototype and after making a few tweaks to the design, we settled on a third version that seemed to work very well.

Using the new tool, the job changed. The worker still had to use their hand to seat the boot in place but now the worker needed to be less exact with their placement.  This resulted in less pronation of the wrist and far less force on the fingertips and thumb.  The tool did most of the work to secure the boot into the oval hard plastic ring.  The new method involved rocking the tool back and forth in with the wrist and hand in an ergonomically neutral position — it was determined three times was optimal for seating the boot ring. The tool made the job easier, faster, reduced ergonomic strain, and much to our surprise, it greatly improved the performance on the leak tests.

At the time, I could not imagine a bigger success. Workers, supervisors, a toolmaker, and a young safety professional had worked together to discover a viable solution to a job that reduced risk, made the job more efficient, and improved product quality. That is when the project crashed in ways we did not anticipate.

Once the worker began to use the tool, the task was completed faster. This triggered the industrial engineers to do a time-study. A time-study is where a job is assessed for the time the worker is utilized. If a job utilized the worker more than 80%, a helper was used. Prior to instituting the tool, the worker was utilized close to 90% of the time, so that was the reason for the helper. But, using the tool, the worker’s time was reduced to about 50% utilization. According to the work rules, the helper was no longer needed. In this case, the helper’s job was eliminated. That is when I received my first grievance. The representatives argued the tool was a significant change to the job and should not be allowed. Then, the tubs began to fail the leak tests at a greater rate – the tool was blamed, and the workers claimed the helper was still needed. That is when the operations manager and plant manager called me and my boss to their office and asked why I was causing trouble. I was baffled. I thought we made the jobs safer, increased quality, and efficiency. I had no idea I had hit a cultural landmine.

The tool was immediately abandoned, and the workers went back to the old way of doing the job. While working on this project, I had been recruited by a different company to take another role and decided to accept the job. Within a few weeks I was gone — but I was still shocked by what happened. After a few weeks in my new job, a package showed up with a note. It was from my old boss. The package contained two things: the prototype, which he painted gold, and a note that simply said, “You did the right thing.”

I do not believe I could have learned two greater lessons at this early point in my safety professional career. The first lesson was to be mindful of my eagerness to prove myself.  The second lesson, to paraphrase the great management consultant, Peter Drucker, is that culture eats everything for breakfast [Hyken: 2015] and while the tool maker and I had developed a technological solution for a problem, I failed to recognize and navigate all of the organizational factors this change would trigger due to a combination of my eagerness and my lack of understanding. The lesson is that there are organizational forces, which, if not addressed, can greatly resist change — even when the change is good. To this day, that gold-painted prototype sits on my desk as a reminder to think and act holistically in any change.

Understanding the Critical Risk Management Cycle is key to Converting Management Safety Efforts into Performance

Welcome to our CEO, Tom Reeves, as he shares the 3rd of 4 blogs with ideas to consider. Add your reactions to the post below and use the the contact button above so we can continue the discussion!


When faced with the implementation of an integrated management system – meaning a management system for health and safety, quality, and environmental – organizational must design the system with performance in mind.  It’s not enough to have the individual parts – the parts or processes must work together.

The critical risk management cycle helps organizations understand now aligning processes for risk identification and assessment flow into processes for risk controls and the verification of risk controls.

One of the most effective tools for risk identification is a Job Safety Analysis with a risk component – often called a Risk Assessment.   In the risk assessment, the basics of the job tasks, hazards, risk before controls, controls, and residual risk (remaining risk with controls) are detailed.

Risk Assessment is a great tool for assessing a single job.  But, withing a management system, the Risk Assessment kicks off a series of processes.  For instance, all of the risks can be compiled into a common Risk Registry.  This gives leadership a clear view of the organization’s most significant risks.

Once risks are assessed, controls can be implemented.   Many controls are implemented in the field, such as engineering controls like guarding or warnings such as signs and lights.   Other controsl are administrative in nature and exist in a Document Control process or Training or Learning Management System.   There should be a direct tie back of risk controls to risk assessment.

Controls must also be verified.   Verification, from proactive to reactive, can occur in inspection, preventive and predictive maintenance, audits, and, most reactively, in incident reports and lagging metrics.

When deficiencies are detected, root cause can be assessed, and corrective actions implemented.

Many organizations have implemented independent processes to the parts.  That’s necessary to pass audits.   But for those organizations that truly want to perform and relentlessly reduce risk, an integrated approach is necessary.

BUSINESS INTEGRATION IS KEY TO HEALTH & SAFETY PERFORMANCE

Welcome to our CEO, Tom Reeves, as he shares the 2nd of 4 blogs with ideas to consider. Add your reactions to the post below and use the the contact button above so we can continue the discussion!


Have you ever wondered what “Context of the Organization” in ISO 45001 actually means?   It means that health and safety doesn’t exist within a vacuum.  Rather, the health and safety business function exists within a broad context of the organization.

This begins with the organization’s strategy.   Strategy involves how the organization competes in the marketplace, the customers it serves, the competition, the investment community or doners, and how the organization addresses sustainability.

There are also organizational factor, such as the organizational values, the culture (or the way things are around here), people, and the leadership.

Operational factors must be integrated with health and safety.   This may include everything from logistics, R&D, manufacturing, and/or construction activities.

Finally, health and safety management systems exist with other systems.   There may be management systems for quality or environmental risk.  But there may also be financial systems – often called an ERP – or HR systems.

Health and safety leaders should seek to understand the context of their organization and frame a health and safety approach that works with the organization, not against it.

UNFREEZE BEFORE YOU CHANGE FOR GREATER SUCCESS

Welcome to our CEO, Tom Reeves, as he shares the 1st of 4 blogs with ideas to consider. Add your reactions to the post below and use the the contact button above so we can continue the discussion!


Early in my career, whenever I saw an opportunity for improvement, I would immediately try and implement a change.   Unfortunately, most of those efforts ran into tremendous resistance.   That is because I was violating Kurt Lewin’s Change Management Model.   Kurt Lewin was a German-American psychologist and is recognized as one of the pioneers of applied psychology and organizational development and change.  While Lewin conducted his research and work in the first half of the 20th Century, his impact is felt nearly a century later.

Lewin’s Change Management Model consists of three parts – Unfreeze à Change à Refreeze.

Lewin observed organizational leaders, seeing the need for change, would begin to immediately implement changes and would face tremendous resistance. In Lewin’s three-step model, he suggests that prior to changing, organizations must “unfreeze” their current state. This unfreezing process creates a dissatisfaction with the current state of the organization.

Source: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_94.htm

Let’s create a community career path!

Do your workers jump to another company when there is an opportunity for a higher salary and more responsibilities?  Is this drain a challenge for you to fill?  Or is this an opportunity to build a broader talent pipeline that can benefit you as well as others in your community.

In this short video, Let’s create a community career path!, I outline a method to connect organizations using a set of common role profiles with a focus on creating collaboration instead of competition for talent and leveraging the knowledge acquired by the person from each member business to strengthen their own talent pool.  This is based on a common agreement around key technical skills and behavioral competencies.  Build on the strength of the community and create ways to build on each other’s training and work practices to establish common values and accepted levels of defined proficiency.  This allows you to know that when a supervisor has mastered time management and staff scheduling at one place that they don’t have to be re-trained at another.  The key to this, based on the common agreement on role responsibilities, is to develop and use a shared microcredentialing model so everyone knows who can “do” the job in terms of performance capabilities.

Check out the video and see why this could help employers better qualify future employees and reduce recruiting time, employee turnover, and cost of retraining. I would enjoy talking more with you about how we can partner on identifying career paths that can develop your talent pipeline so let’s Zoom or send me an email, let’s keep learning together! Use the contact button above or visit our web site!

Design your time – Engage your team!

that matter even as we all work in this new lifespace. Being remote opens new possibilities to lead from a place of authenticity, accountability, and compassion so use the techniques to make a positive impact.

Remember that every opportunity you have to bring team mates together in a conversation you have an opening where you can align people to purpose and provide them time to collaborate, create solutions, and build a connected community. Design your time, engage your team  and create a compassionate community that works effectively.

If you want to talk about leading remotely and ways to engage with your team, let’s talk! Use the contact button above or visit our web site!