The People Person Approach

 I set out to find ways to change behavior and to improve attitudes.

I set out to find ways to change behavior and to improve attitudes.

I have often heard instructors say that they learn a whole lot more by teaching a subject than the students learn. I gave a three hour presentation in Buffalo a decade ago and as I was speaking I suddenly discovered that I wasn’t in the safety field at all. In fact, I guess I never was in the safety field, I just thought I was. I have always been in the people business. For over six decades now I have been trying to figure out what makes people tick.

Disturbed by our railroads horrendous safety record I set out to find ways to change behavior and to improve attitudes. I also worked at helping people communicate with one another better. Does any of this sound like safety to you?

What I discovered again and again working with thousands of safety leaders, with major corporations nationwide and worldwide and with our military was that if you can help people improve their behavior, their attitudes and their communication skills then you will suddenly wake up one morning and discover that you have made breakthroughs when it comes to safety and in a lot of other areas too.

Now I discovered that about half way through a sentence as I was giving a speech. I had wandered quite a distance from what people generally consider a safety speech. I had nothing on the 5 or 6 or 7 E’s of safety. Education, Engineering, Equipment, Enforcement of rules, Ergonomics, Environment, E Gads, you know, the stuff that most folks work on in safety. I found myself talking about Mary Poppins and the fact that in any job that’s to be done has an element of fun, find it and Zap, the jobs a breeze… That is, finding enjoyment in our work. I worked a lot safer when I was enjoying what I was doing.

And I talked about Bloody Mary from the stage play South Pacific. She sang, “You’ve got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you going to make that dream come true?” And, of course, my dream was always was Zero Injuries. Nobody gets hurt on the job.

I didn’t talk about Processes and Audits and I didn’t even mention OSHA. So there, and when I shook hands with the audience as they were leaving the hall they all thanked me. They didn’t tell me what a great speaker I was or how much they had learned but they said “Thank you,” and I knew that they got the message…Work harder because it is required today. Take responsibility for your own safety and that of your fellow worker. You are somebody special.

Everybody but a few of the many engineers in the back row caught on. (Sorry about that.)

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