Phil La Duke's Blog

Fresh perspectives on safety and Performance Improvement

To Coach Or Not To Coach?


The debate over safety culture continues to rage largely among people who aren’t qualified to way  in one way or the other. But let’s suppose that we do achieve that Utopian safety culture, we reach El Dorado; then what? Organizations are dynamic and exist in a dynamic environment; to think that we can preserve this elusive state without taking active measures to preserve it is naive at best and reckless at worst. A simple, practical, fast way to sustain cultural improvements is through coaching.

Coaching is one of those skills that charlatans hawk as quick fixes—not quite training, not quite supervision coaching has become one of those non-skills that people shill without any real foundation. But there are also some terrific programs designed to teach and institutionalize coaching skills so I guess my message is simply to be careful in what you invest.

One of the greatest challenges to sustaining a culture change isn’t in the efficacy of the coaching it’s knowing when and how to coach.  This table is based on coaching an organization with a fairly robust safety process, but I think it will serve as an adequate model for less sophisticated environments as well.

Indicator What does it indicate Where do I get the information? How do I coach? How do I know if I’ve been successful
Inspections are not being done Less priority is being placed on safety by the supervisor 

The safety committee is not effectively ensuring that the inspections are being conducted

Safety Inspection Report from the Hazard Tracking Database Raise the issue at the safety meeting and coach the meeting owner prior to the meeting to have the supervisor report to the safety meeting the reason that his or her inspection has not been done  

A review of the Safety Inspection Report should indicate that the inspections are being done
Inspections do not find enough hazards No hazards are found on an inspection, or a small number of inspections are found in an area with a number of injuries 

The safety committee is not effectively ensuring that the inspections are being conducted properly

Safety Inspection Report from the  Hazard Tracking Database Raise the issue at the safety committee meeting and coach the meeting owner prior to the meeting to have the supervisor report to the HIT the reason that his or her inspection has not been done A review of the Safety Inspection Report should indicate that the inspections are being done
The risk of  a hazard is inappropriately assessed The inspector lacks the skills to properly assess risk 

~or~

The inspector has an ulterior motive for increasing or decreasing the risk level

Randomly reviewing hazards Speak to the inspector and find out why he or she is inappropriately assessing the risk of a hazard, if the inspector doesn’t know that he or she has assessed the risk inappropriately then review the process for assessing hazards.  If the inspector has an ulterior motive for this behavior, advise him or her to refrain from the behavior in the future.  If the problem persists raise it at the HIT meeting. A review of  hazards entered by the inspector should show improvement.
The containment action is inappropriate The inspector lacks the skills to specify an appropriate containment action Randomly reviewing hazards Speak to the inspector and provide feedback as to why the containment action is inappropriate and suggest ways on which the action could be improved A review of the hazards entered by the inspector should show improvement.
The hazard entered is not a safety issue The inspector lacks sufficient skills in hazard identification or is hoping entering an issue as a safety issue will get faster action An email from the database disputing the hazard Talk to the inspector and explain why the issue is not a safety issue.  Retrain the inspector in hazard investigation if necessary No further emails that dispute hazards
A hazard IS a safety issue but the person responsible for correcting it disputes it The person responsible for correcting it lacks sufficient skills in hazard identification or is hoping to avoid fixing an issue An email from the database disputing the hazard Talk to the person responsible for correcting the hazard and explain why the issue is not a safety issue.  Retrain the person responsible for correcting the  hazard
No further emails that dispute hazards

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