These days, many people think of behavior-based safety in connection with wage-roll centered initiatives for improving shop floor safety-related behaviors. Those behavior-based safety processes have been very successful in many organizations but they are not the only tools in the toolbox. Not realizing this, over the years other organizations have steered away from behavior-based safety in the belief that they were "not ready for it." Often this judgment is based on the perceived absence of management commitment to safety, and the recognition that a process based on worker involvement is more likely to succeed in an atmosphere of cooperation and trust about safety issues. Those organizations then struggle to find ways to address their management commitment, trust and cooperation issues. What they often fail to recognize is that the answer to their problem lies in working directly with the management practices of their supervisors and leaders. Those practices are also very effectively addressed with behavior-based tools and principles.

Savvy supervisors and leaders are leveraging their crew interactions to lead in safety the same way they do production and quality. The teams they lead consistently meet or beat production targets and deadlines, and they don't sacrifice safety to do it. In the short term, performance like that could be luck, just a roll of the dice. But the supervisors we have in mind are beating the odds year after year, working with crews that demonstrate excellence across the big-three areas of production, quality, and safety. According to those supervisors, the secret of how to be successful in all three areas at once is to manage them in the same way and at the same time, steering by measurement of leading indicators for each.

Using new leading indicators in safety

As the common saying has it, "What gets measured is what gets done." Sometimes the people who repeat this saying are safety professionals who are complaining that their important projects or initiatives are not getting done. But complaining won't help because the operational fact is that only what gets measured can be managed. Effective organizations know that if they want supervisors to take new initiatives in managing safety, the way to help them is to assure their success by providing them new leading indicators and measurements.

By most accounts, production management as we know it began with the industrial revolution in the early 1800s. For its part, quality management is only about 70 years old, dating from the 1930s when W. Edwards Deming and others discovered how to measure it. Before that time, production supervisors did not really manage quality because they couldn't. Scrap and rework were just part of the overhead of production. Into the 1950s, conventional wisdom said the same thing about safety, "Accidents and injuries are just part of the price of doing business." Important developments since the 1950s have revolutionized safety management, putting it on the same footing with production and quality.

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