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The Zero Paradox

Posted by Beth Lay, Director of Safety and Human Performance on Oct 7, 2020 12:04:00 PM

There’s a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein that we’ve all seen, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That perfectly reflects how Lewis approached safety for many years. We made significant improvements in our safety results and then hit a plateau achieving only marginal gains every year.

Creating safety in utility line clearance

In 2018, just two years ago, Lewis Tree Service had a goal of zero lost-time injuries. We accompanied that goal with this statement, “We believe that there is no reason why anyone should ever get injured on the job.” We soon discovered that these zero-tolerance goals were unachievable and demotivating. We knew that true change was needed: a new view of safety and human performance that could radically shift the direction of our program and our safety culture.

Today, instead of focusing on what we don’t want, we’re focusing on what we want by becoming a culture of learning. We’re encouraging our craftworkers to share their close calls and report their incidents so we can learn from them. As a direct result, our reported incidents and close calls are rising—and we view that as a healthy outcome (i.e., the zero paradox). We’re paying close attention to those with serious injury potential (SIP) and digging deeper. And, while we still track OSHA rates and monitor trends, the health and safety of our organization is no longer measured by meeting KPIs but rather by the success of our worker-led learning teams. We’re creating safe spaces to have open dialog, minimizing blame and embracing a restorative, fair culture.

We believe learning is the key to keeping people safe. While it may take years to adopt fully, we know in our hearts it’s the right thing to do and we’re committed to the journey.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of the UAA Utility Arborist Newsline

Topics: OSHA recordables, culture of learning, close call, data mining, restorative culture, serious injury potential, fair culture

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