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Notes from the Road

Archive for the ‘Research – What Works and What Doesn’t’ Category

Employee Engagement: Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry?

This article was published online by Occupational Health and Safety.

How do you get people to become committed to safety, to do the right thing in the moment of choice? Is it by increasing the number of safety cops?

“I’ll be honest with you Bill… we’ve got some serious cultural problems. It’s really weird when I walk through the manufacturing plant with our HSE Manager. You can see people scurrying to put their safety glasses and PPE on as they see us approach, only to remove it once we are safely “out of range,” Ann, a safety professional lamented to me. “I feel like a safety cop” she concluded.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? I’m sure it does.


Zero Injuries is Not Your Goal

This article was published in the January 2012 issue of Occupational Health and Safety magazine.

It was 1981, and I was in Danville, Virginia. I followed Tom, the safety director through the dark old textile mill, walking on heart of pine floors that had probably seen over a hundred years of workers come and go. The smell of machine oil mixed with the warm smell of cotton. The textile machines hummed away, spinning out yard after yard of fabric.

I watched the workers busily monitoring the machines to keep them running at peak efficiency, and I noted that many of them had T-Shirts emblazoned with a slogan… “Zero Injuries-Our Goal”

On the walls in every break room, the same “Zero Injuries” slogan was repeated on posters, coffee mugs, you name it.

I was impressed with the passion in this culture to reach zero injuries, so I asked Tom about his plant’s safety record.


Don’t Shock the Rat

I read an interesting article recently at, questioning the effectiveness of VPP. To say that it was controversial is an understatement.

The article maintains that companies are only joining VPPPA as a way to get off OSHA’s radar screen, to escape OSHA compliance visits and audits.

The writer concludes that the answer is bigger penalties and fines for companies who violate safety rules and questions whether VPP is effective at improving safety performance.  Perhaps the old saying to “walk softly and carry a big stick” should be applied to create a tougher, meaner OSHA.

What do you think?


The Narrow Minded CEO and The Smoking Gun


This article was published in the September 2011 issue of Occupational Health and Safety magazine.



I was thrilled! I had just heard OSHA’s Dr. David Michaels speak about the concerns around under-reporting of injuries caused by “old school” lagging indicator incentive programs.

Finally! For the longest time I’d been waiting for OSHA to shine a light on an age old problem. Back in 1981, I began talking with safety professionals about how rewarding people for working a month or a million hours without reporting an injury (the way everyone did it back then) would produce only one real behavior change: the hiding of injuries.

Here we are, thirty years later. Has anything changed? Have leaders begun to get the message and switch to a proactive, leading indicator approach? What do you think?


Big Bears and Scapegoats

It was right under your nose the whole time guys…

The smell of jet fuel was thick in the air as Delta hurtled me into the night sky. The last embers of the evening sunset graced the Georgia pine trees with a warm orange glow sparkling on their green needles… reminded me of a flickering campfire.

For this trip, I was sitting near the massive Rolls Royce engines, fascinated by how the exhaust distorted the pine trees and the ground slightly. If you looked thru it, things were soft and fuzzy, much like a Monet painting, and yet just outside the jet blast all was normal, sharp, and clear.

This flight wasn’t in business class…and there were no secret dudes going to the middle east here…this one was hard core…. I was slammed in the middle aisle seat of economy class between two guys who by their massive size had both missed a great career in the NFL…

Send oxygen please….


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