Monday, April 06, 2015

About one year ago, my life changed forever...

Before I share the text of this blog, allow me to introduce "Monty Gillard."  Monty is one of Failsafe's Apprentices, rapidly on track to becoming a full-fledged Affiliate.  I hope you take time to read what Monty has to say.  It's more lengthy than our typical blog articles, but I think what he says will resonate within most of you.  Whatever you do, don't miss his final two paragraphs.

  Thanks for sharing this Monty!



About one year ago, my life changed forever.  As a Contract Field Safety Advisor,  I accepted a new contract with a company who is a client of Failsafe Network, Inc.  I had no prior exposure to Failsafe or Latent Cause Analysis and attended "Day One" of a 3-Day Class with preconceived notions.

This is going to be just another Root Cause Analysis class, with yet another chart to consult in order to get the same results we've always been getting:   it was operator error, or the supervision was insufficient, or the system was flawed, etc. etc. etc.

But to my surprise, this was DIFFERENT.  This was what I always thought learning from things going wrong COULD be.  I realized I had been muzzled by these other, restrictive forms of RCA.
I had become disenfranchised with the Health and Safety Profession as a whole.  I chose this profession because I wanted to make a difference.  However, after being contracted to some of the world’s largest energy companies, I began to realize it is impossible to make a difference when using the investigative techniques used by most of the industry.  Without realizing it, I was contributing to the problem -- especially the blame game. 

It is understandable that when a safety advisor first approaches a work group, their defences will go up.  They do not know whose “side” you are on.   After all, how many times have I heard,

“What does it matter.  If anything goes wrong they are just going to blame me/us anyway."

Safety Advisors are viewed as part of the "management team," i.e.,  “us against them."
This defensive reaction from the groups I was working with offended me at first, and I would try to explain that I was neutral;  that I worked for everybody.  However, as my career progressed, I realized that I did NOT work for everyone!  Most project managers view field safety advisors as their “eyes in the field” and would request audits about the work being done in their areas from a safety perspective.  More often than not, the only concern we would find would be a lack of documentation, or perhaps a small improvement which could be made in safeguarding, or personal protective equipment, etc.  A corrective action item would be created by ME, the safety advisor, and forwarded to the project manager, who then would forward it to the work team.
What is really being accomplished through this process?  It became a circus in many respects.  The safety advisor is viewed as someone who is doling out more jobs for the workers, more paperwork to fill out, or more equipment to buy.  In other words, from the perspective of the people in the field the end result is troublesome.  This perspective does not help with morale in any way.  It is simply someone else coming into an area, looking at a problem,  and deciding what the fix is.  The people who really need to CHANGE - the workers, are not engaged!  
How can this work?

Even more, when an incident occurred, most organizations I was involved with used one of the two most popular Root Cause Analysis templates used in the North American industry.  I found these checklists to be mere crutches, helping people to manipulate the chart until it worked to get you the result you desired.   If the incident was deemed to be a specific worker’s fault, he/she was removed from site or fired.  Problem solved right?  

Every time I heard this happening, and I reiterate EVERY SINGLE TIME, I felt awful, sometimes even sick to my stomach, because I had often known this person and had talked with them.  To make matters worse, I have had Project Managers or Construction Superintendents ask me if “this person should be allowed on site."   The person made a mistake!  They did not do this maliciously or with intent!  This person had almost always co-operated in the investigation and they were always told that “we simply want to learn from this."  Once they were “skidded” from site, what does that do for the morale of the rest of the workforce?  Does this breed trust within an organization?  Or is it another safety document they must review and sign.  Do we really think the workforce is retaining all this information? 

As you can see, my belief in what I was doing was waning, and it was not really the result of any one particular contract.  Often times I would spend long days in camps or hotels and without job satisfaction.  It was difficult to remain focused on my role under such circumstances.
Which brings me all the way back to the beginning.  One week in February 2014 I was exposed to something that would change my professional and personal life forever; the Latent Cause Experience.  How to REALLY learn from things that go wrong in our lives.  I have been fortunate to use LCA in an industrial setting, but I have been more fortunate to also apply its concepts in my home life.  Examining how thing go wrong whether professionally or personally can ONLY be solved by looking at yourself as part of the problem.  There simply is no other way.  

Relationships with people closest to me have actually improved immensely since I learned that you can only learn from the things that go wrong in your life by looking at yourself as part of the problem.

As my personal life changed with LCA, so did my professional life.  The founder of Failsafe Network, Bob Nelms, has given me the opportunity to enter the apprenticeship program towards becoming a Failsafe Affiliate.  This will provide me the avenue to truly make a difference.  Every class offering I have attended or helped present has changed me a little more, not only because I understand the concepts of LCA better, but because of the interactions with the class and how I see myself changing in relating to all of the people in my life.  It has reinvigorated me and I am truly excited about the journey that lies ahead with Latent Cause Analysis.