Follow the Road Map to World Class Safety

Kristi Pronovost The Merit Shop Spokesman Blog

By: Kevin Keith, Director of Safety, ABC Keystone
(Remarks from May 2019 Safety Awards Dinner)

I have a degree in Kinesiology. This is not a degree that creates a direct line to a career choice. I believe that we control our own destiny and can create our own path, and that is what free enterprise is all about. Free enterprise is what drives our businesses to work smarter, to be innovative and to raise the bar in our industry. It’s what challenges us all to become better and more competitive.

When we look at newly industrialized countries, we see a lot of unsafe work practices. In the U.S., we look at videos and photos that we find online that capture these types of behaviors, and we just shake our heads in amazement. But the only thing that separates the U.S. from the newly industrialized countries is time. We, also, did many unsafe acts in the early days: cranes lifting workers with no fall protection, children working in horrible conditions, workers that were locked into buildings that were fire death traps. We learned from our mistakes and became more sophisticated in how we perform our work and produce products more safely. Free enterprise is what drives this change.

A college professor of mine once gave me the most valuable advice. What he told me was to study people and observe what they do and think about why they do it that way. I have built a career on that advice. That advice has helped me to better understand behaviors and study how we collectively work and think.

I also had another great teacher in life, and his name was Tucker. Tucker was a labrador retriever, and being a lab, he was playful, smart and somewhat loyal. I say somewhat loyal, because many times his loyalty was overtaken by his playfulness and cunning.

In working with Tucker, we were able to teach him a lot of tricks, or I would like to think, behaviors. He could sit, he could come when called (occasionally), he could roll over, he could ring a bell to go outside, he could give high fives, he could resist a treat balanced on his paws, and so on. The only problem was that he quickly learned that these behaviors would get him treats. He became an expert at determining if there was a treat in our hand or pocket. If there was a treat, he performed the behavior. No treat, no behavior.

There’s more to the story of Tucker, but I will stop there. This type of behavior can be best described as the Locus of Control in psychological terms. There is External and Internal Locus of Control, and we all can subscribe to one or the other. Tucker demonstrates External Locus of Control, in that his behavior was molded by external forces, treats. People demonstrate the same when using external forces.

As I stated earlier, I am a believer in that we control our own destiny. This is Internal Locus of Control, and it is what drives my behavior and comes from within me. I don’t rely on external factors to mold my behavior. Internal Locus of Control doesn’t need treats or rewards for good behavior. When we can tap into that type of thinking with our employees, we can achieve greater milestones than we can with rewards.

A point that I talk a lot about in business is balancing productivity, safety and quality/communication to maximize profits. We start a business so that we can become profitable. If that is not the reason why we started our business, then we must be a nonprofit organization. As I look at our members, I don’t see any non-profits. So that must mean that profits are our top priority, no matter what the sides of your vehicles say about safety. Having a bumper sticker that reads, “Profits are #1” sends a bit of a different message than “Safety is #1.”

The STEP program to date has been a program that drives behavior based on External Locus of Control; the treat being a certificate with a certain level of achievement based on lagging indicators. In order to raise the bar on this program and help members to improve their safety, the program must change. STEP must move toward focusing on Leading Indicators and less on Lagging Indicators.

STEP, in its current form, is a benchmark; we must move it toward being more of a road map to world class safety. STEP is currently in transition. What separates people from pets is that people are much more vocal about venting their dislike for change. Believe me when I say that we at ABC Keystone have heard a lot about the dislike for STEP and the change in award level that some of you have experienced.

Remember, the goal of safety is to prevent injuries and illnesses from occurring in the workplace. The goal is to see that zero injuries and illnesses are reported each year. One injury or illness in the workplace is too many.

ABC has collected from STEP participants more than 1 billion man-hours of data. This is valuable information, and it can be used and shared with its members to guide us to do a better job in protecting our workforce. Our workforce is the most valuable asset that any company can have, and it is up to all of you in this room to protect that workforce and maximize your profits.

Over the next year, STEP will be undergoing some remodeling and will become more sophisticated in how it will be used to elevate the participants’ safety. Some will like it and see its value, and others will not and will choose not to participate. That’s okay. In the end, STEP will become a better product and a smarter tool to help members become more safety conscious. It will help to separate participants from others in the industry, and in the end, open new doors to becoming more profitable by being able to keep up with the demands being placed on our safety performance.

So, with that being said, let’s celebrate your achievements. Let’s fully embrace free enterprise and all that it represents. Let’s all continue to strive for improvement and work toward elevating our safety performance. Let’s promote ABC and its members as being leaders in safety, and in the end, be high performing businesses in our industry.

May 29, 2019