What “TEAM”?


In relation to safety, you, the safety practitioner, are the “team” coach. It is your job to handle the team,  What team?   “I usually work by myself”, you say. If you truly do happen to be a total one-person operation, then, you just change “hats” and work the approach on yourself.

When a safety challenge has been recognized, I have often applied the word “coach” to the effective planning needed to overcome the hazard. What the problem is, makes no difference. Actually, the industry makes no difference either.

The other day a bunch of us were discussing the safety netting surrounding flat-bed trailers. The secret lies in just, part of that statement: “a bunch of us”. That’s your team.  Loosely speaking, your “bunch” or team should include everybody involved from the initial order to the customer or end user.

So, in safety, this is how it goes (sort of). You discover a safety concern through somebody giving notice, something in your records, one or more person(s) getting injured by similar actions or, you notice repeating regular instances of impact or other physical damage.  You know you need to find causation so that the difficulty can be rectified. Yes, it’s your responsibility to solve it.

The first thing you may do is to investigate the circumstances surrounding the issue. Then, probably, an analysis of what you found should be made and broken down into small parts. Once you see some of the difficulties clearly, you may want to bring your team together and consult others on ways to avoid the danger. But, you are a long way from a final solution. We often hear of “band-aid” solutions but, they only stop the bleeding for a day.

If you plan to solve a serious problem by yourself, in all likelihood, you will fail. It might be something really simple like the changing of Nick-2015a schedule or route. Then again, it might not.  Think if your career happens to be the military in Afghanistan, your new route may be infested with IEDs, Improvised Explosive Devices. You need to find out before you begin testing it. Think of it this way; if you had all the answers, there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

This is where you begin steering your “team”.  These are the people involved with the operation. Whether you’ve done the job before or not, they are up-to-date. They do the job now. They know the faults. Each activity starts with a process that usually begins with one person’s first step.  Asking for, not demanding help is probably the best way to get cooperation. How you ask the question is often the key to success.

So, you may start with the buyer, clerks, labourers, or the drivers. You also must ask the right questions. As you ask for their input, make sure they are starting their thinking process at the real beginning of their part of the project and take it all the way to the end. There is no sense asking a driver about weight distribution if he/she can’t get a key for the vehicle, is there? The many questions include the repeated use of the (5wH formula); the who, what, when, where, why, and the how of each factor?

If it’s transportation we’re talking, other people are likely involved with the passengers or that load. How about the dispatcher or mechanic? Is the product already on the dock or how difficult is it to get it there and load it? Will the loaded vehicle sit there because it’s not safe to move? Consider, yard and load security, capacity, straps and chains, weigh scales, enforcement or construction along the route. Are there other factors that play a part? Heating, cooling, spoilage, theft, terrorism and so on? How about the interaction between the dispatcher or mechanic and the driver? Get the story from all sources and continue along with that same questioning all the way to the owner of the business.

If the owner is not making a profit then, all is for naught.  You don’t need a safety aspect if there IS no business. (Maybe we need to start there.)

Look for things that might have fallen through the cracks before you declare yourself ready. When you are satisfied that you are in possession of the complete picture, then, when you are about to propose changes, take those ideas back to your team again to see if your fixes will create new problems. Be sure to include a cost evaluation. Then, and only then do you begin to write policy. Make records of everything you do and know your sources.

Final solutions seldom look like the initial vision. One more thing, protect your knowledge from others while you are in the process as you’ll likely find many “naysayers” distracting you.  You will need everybody’s cooperation if you want to be successful.  Upon delivery, expect immediate “backlash” from your team and users. It helps if each of them can see their own part solved in the eventual process. They will “buy” in quicker and then, it’s on to the re-training and a “sign-off” record by each person.

Keep your people safe.

The beauty of life is in your hands.

About the Author

Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.

As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.

Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council.

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