Don’t Tell me ‘Who’, Tell me ‘Why’

Throughout my career as a safety professional, I’ve seen a plethora of safety audit forms. These forms, while a useful tool, place a lot of focus on identifying unsafe conditions. However, most fail to place enough emphasis on unsafe behaviors. Example:

Ladders: Are ladders tied off?

Answer: No

Corrective action: Tie off ladder.

Most unsafe conditions are created by unsafe behaviors. Here, we identified an unsafe condition and based on the corrective action, we have to tie off the ladder or find someone with the tools to do so.

When we start seeking the “who failed to tie off the ladder?” people start to get defensive. (There is a cure for this as well, but a different post). When we start with “why did we not tie off the ladder?” then we are investigating and finding a more effective corrective action. My experiences have taught me that by starting with “Why” and emphasizing that “who” isn’t important, then people open up and the “who” tends to come forward voluntarily. At this point, thank them for their honesty.

*previously posted on LinkedIn

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