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Coach well, play smart (9/03)

By Mark Baker The advice of every over-achiever in the sports world and in the real world is ‘make it personal.’ When it comes to workplace safety, legislation and recent court rulings have given those two words a whole new meaning.

By Mark Baker 


The advice of every over-achiever in the sports world and in the real world is ‘make it personal.’ When it comes to workplace safety, legislation and recent court rulings have given those two words a whole new meaning. MRO personnel can and are being held personally accountable for workplace accidents, injuries and fatalities, so safety coaching and training information is a pre-requisite.


In a perfect world with no time and budget restraints, we like to think that all MRO personnel out there would make every possible effort to ensure the safety of the worker and the workplace. Reality and economics have however, made safety legislation and penalties a personal issue. Fines for individuals have a maximum of $25,000, or an imprisonment with a maximum of 12 months. If a corporation is convicted, the maximum fine is $500,000.


In any sport, all the players know that it is not necessarily the best ‘man’ who is the smartest...and for playing ‘smart’ they depend on a good coach. A good coach has more than one game plan, knows the rules of the game, and creates the right atmosphere for learning and winning. As supervisor you are the coach — responsible for the team and its success — or failure - on the job. Yes...your players have to be ‘on their game’ too, but you cannot hold them accountable if you have not done your part. With some 120 million occupational accidents, and more than 220,000 fatalities estimated annually in a global labour force of 2.6 billion people, you had better get in the game.


Step No.1 is to make training an imperative. There should be, at the very least, a written list of the points to be covered in the training for every piece of equipment and for every job function at your site, as well as a list of company and industry rules and regulations. If you need help, there is a lot available - IAPA and WSIB consultants, equipment manufacturers training programs and a host of consultants from the public and private sectors. Training points should include the famous five: What, Where, When, Why, and How — for the job, for the machinery involved and for the safety equipment required.


The temptation when initiating any type of instruction or training is to go right to the ‘how,” but the ‘why’ is arguably the most important and least covered area in worker training. Make sure your people know and understand the big picture and are very aware of what is going on around them. A recent statistic shows for instance, that 65 per cent of job site electrical shock fatalities are caused, not by improper electrical procedures, but by peripheral occurrences such as a crane coming in contact with overhead wire, putting workers on the ground in jeopardy. So it is not enough for the worker to just know his/her job and do it well. New team members in particular should know what the job is and why it must be done in a certain way before any instruction is given on how to do it. Tour the job site and sketch out the big picture. Discuss operating principles, clarify objectives and point out common pitfalls and hazards in the specific job function as well as the site as a whole. Do not forget to cover emergency procedures and the location of first aid and safely product stations.


Now you are ready to train the worker for the job at hand. The key steps here are: Explain; Show; Watch; Fix. The key strategy is to encourage questions and feedback. Asking, “do you understand” is not good enough. Explain and then demonstrate the job step-by-step. Then have the trainee talk you through it before you initiate a thorough step by step, hands-on training of each segment of the job function. Coach the trainee until he or she can perform the whole task from beginning to end correctly, without prompting. This may take hours or weeks, but the important thing is to ensure that the trainee is monitored closely until the various steps become a single task — smooth, efficient and ordered, and with all safety procedures and equipment in place. If you are delegating training, make very sure that the staff member you assign does not confuse “tricks of the trade” that will build skill in the long run, with shortcuts that put both the worker and the integrity of the job in jeopardy.


Good training, in the field or on-the -job, demands preparation, guidance, instruction and repetition. It must be ongoing and structured to include all team members and not just recent hires. It also demands total management commitment. Proper training takes time and costs money, but the cost of even one accident in terms of human life, not to mention worker morale, productivity considerations, fines and increased WSIB premiums, makes a well structured training program a valuable corporate asset.


The bottom line is planning and follow-through. Good training is structured and scheduled and it is never finished. Remember our sports analogy...and remind your workers often...the winners out there stick to the game plan and they play it smart. Your job is to get them in shape...keep them in shape...and make very sure that they know the score.


Article written by Mark Baker of North Safety Products.