Frontline Fundamentals Blog:

A Professional Development for Today's Utility Safety Leader

Frontline Fundamentals is a column in Incident Prevention Magazine written by David McPeak, Director of Professional Development and based on the Incident Prevention Institute’s Frontline program – a highly interactive, enriching, and engaging training program designed around the concept that with the right tools, knowledge and insight, anybody—regardless of their position or experience—can be a safety leader. For each Frontline Fundamentals article, David writes on a key aspect from one of the three Frontline classroom training modules: Human Performance, Incident Prevention and Safety Leadership. In addition to the column, David hosts webinars to further discuss the key topics written about and to facilitate interaction among emerging safety leaders in the utility industry.

Frontline Fundamentals: Stop Telling and Start Communicating

My son once told me, “Daddy, I’m an excellent listener. You’re a bad talker.” I won’t get into the details of what started that conversation, but I will say this, he was right. He did exactly what I told him to do, which was nowhere near what I wanted him to do. I didn’t communicate effectively. Pause for a moment and think about how often undesired results happen because someone didn’t understand our expectations. Think about these questions, too: Have you ever agreed with someone just so they would shut up? Have you ever sent a text message to avoid a verbal conversation? Are you guilty of...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Developing a Complete Definition of Leadership

Our industry is under a lot of pressure. There is the ever-increasing pressure to keep the lights on and rates down by performing work efficiently and safely. To do more with less. Adding to the pressure is an aging workforce, high levels of turnover, and changes in workforce demographics – such as generational differences – that make it difficult to recruit and retain qualified employees. What that means is leadership is more challenging and more important than ever. As the industry evolves and changes, so must its leaders. For that reason, leadership will be the focus of our 2019 Frontline...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Human Performance Implementation

For all of 2018, this column and its associated webinars have focused on human performance (HP). I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from the guest speakers who participated in the webinars, as well as the readers and webinar participants (you) who have been engaged, shared their experiences, and asked intelligent and challenging questions. In this article, I will wrap up the HP series by reviewing key points, outlining proven strategies about HP implementation and inviting you to our next webinar – scheduled for January 16 – that I am really excited about because we will have a panel...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Five: “Why” Works

Frequently I am asked about the qualifications of a safety professional, what makes a good leader and what it takes to work safely. My answer to each question is the same – you must get really good at asking and understanding “why.” At a minimum, you must ask and understand why rules, procedures and work methods are in place; why performance, behavior and results are occurring; and why past events, incidents and errors happened. If you become really good at asking and understanding “why” in those areas, you will be able to employ human performance (HP) principle five, which states that events...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Four: People Influence Each Other

“That night in the city, when you thought I was the Special, and you said I was talented, and important … That was the first time anyone had ever really told me that, and it made me want do everything I could to be the guy that you were talking about.” -Emmet in “The LEGO Movie” When Emmet made this statement to Lord Business in 2014’s “The LEGO Movie,” he nailed human performance (HP) principle four – that people influence each other – and taught viewers of the movie some valuable lessons about how safety should be led. In this installment of “Frontline Fundamentals,” I’m going to present...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Three: You Cannot Outperform Your Organization

What happens to a saltwater fish if we put it in fresh water? No matter what that fish does, no matter how well it can swim, no matter how strong it is and no matter how hard it tries, it cannot survive because we put it in the wrong environment. When it comes to human performance, HP principle three states that individual behavior is influenced by organizational processes and values. It implies that incident causation goes deeper than individuals, and that to prevent incidents, organizational (systems) deficiencies must be identified and corrected. The challenge for an organization is to create...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Two: Your Crystal Ball

I have fond memories of G.I. Joe. When I was a kid, I played with the toys and watched the cartoons. I sang along with the theme song and was ready to say “knowing is half the battle” in unison with the hero at the end of each episode, after Cobra had been defeated. The Joes were smart to realize that knowledge is power, and knowledge is especially powerful when it comes to safety, and more specifically, incident prevention. Imagine for a moment what it would be like to know the future – think about how powerful it could make you. How much money could you make if you could predict winning lottery...

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Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle One: People Screw Up

The first principle of human performance (HP) is that people are fallible and even the best make mistakes, or in simpler terms, people screw up. How error-prone are we? Studies vary, but for our purposes, we will use an average of five mistakes per hour. That’s a lot of mistakes, and a scary thing to think about is we often are not aware of our mistakes. Let’s consider how this relates to safety, and more specifically, how HP Principle One needs to be incorporated into your safety and health management system. Safety programs tend to be based on the concept that if there is a rule and the rule...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Human Performance: What Is It and Why Should We Study It?

Please take a few moments to think about the following questions: Should a vice president tell his employees, “I only want new mistakes”? Is telling a 10-year-old baseball pitcher to throw strikes a good way to teach him how to pitch? When is the last time you provided positive reinforcement for safety behavior, or do you consider safe work a part of the job that shouldn’t be praised? How do your frontline workers feel when you say zero injuries is the goal and nothing else is acceptable? Do most of your post-incident corrective actions involve administrative controls such as retraining and...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Measure What You Want

Imagine this scenario: A worker seriously cuts his nose on the job. The laceration causes part of his nose, at the base of the nostril, to partially separate from his face. The worker glues his nose back together with super glue to prevent going to the doctor and having an OSHA-recordable injury. He then receives two rewards through the company’s safety incentive program. The first is an immediate reward when his supervisor recommends him for safety excellence because he prevented a recordable injury. This is followed by a financial incentive at the end of the year, when his work group is given...

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