Welcome to the March 2017 edition of the National Safety Council Community Safety Division Newsletter! We're very excited to have you as a member of the Division and are looking forward to our Division initiatives and developments to come. Your involvement is very
important to us and we're looking forward to bringing you valuable information, updates and resources within Community Safety. With so many important issues in our communities and off-the-job lives, our Division has an important role in the safety community and an even more important part in the world at large.
Here at the Community Safety Division, we're preparing to begin our new round of strategic planning. This is a very exciting time for us as we're planning all of the great resources, tools and programs that will enable our members to enhance their community safety and off-the- job safety cultures within their teams.
In short, we're looking at a four part strategy:
- We provide the most highest-quality tools, resources and references to our members to create their own community safety programs within their organizations
- Our members develop and build their own community safety programs to benefit their employees and their families and friends on and off the job; in turn, our members can help others by sharing best practices, tools, resources and references
- With these outstanding programs now implemented and showing measurable results, organizations can apply for the new Community Advancement Award
- Those who are awarded the Community Advancement Award can benefit from it as a tangible mark of excellence in bettering their communities as well as an invaluable resources in recruiting and retention, promotions and more.
News from the Field
Troy Bonar, "The Safety Samurai," master trainer, author, professional speaker and NSC Rising Star Award Winner has helped his local community with texting and distracted driving campaign. Troy worked with city council members and local law enforcement on a
texting ban for the community of Abilene Texas. Unfortunately, the ban did not pass due to inconsistency in texting ordinances between nearby communities, but the main message relayed to the community was that this needs to be done on a national or state level to provide solid guidance to all communities and avoid confusion. Troy was featured in media interviews stating, "We may have smart phones, but until everyone has smarter vehicles, we need to be smart drivers." The local police chief was tasked with spearheading an awareness campaign. Troy provided the department and all city council members with current data and awareness campaign materials from the National Safety Council, National Transportation Safety Board and the Texas Department of Transportation.
In response to his efforts to increase safety in all areas, Troy was nominated by the American Society of Safety Engineers' Permian Basin Chapter for Safety Professional of the Year. The nomination was featured in regional media outlets and had the following statement from Troy: "I was honored by the nomination and want people to realize that there are thousands of unsung safety heroes in our communities including teachers, inspectors, peace officers, medical professionals, responders, safety professionals, supervisors, foreman and family members that help teach and remind us about the importance of safety as a personal value." Troy regulatory attends the NSC Congress and Expo and says he is looking forward to seeing more people participate in the Community Safety Division to help reach our local communities outside of the workplace.
The Open and Closed System of Safety
Cory Worden, M.S., CSHM, CSP, CHSP, ARM, REM, CESCO
Everything in safety is a system. Whether we're talking about workplace safety and the pursuit of safe behaviors and conditions within the context of employment or the safety of our communities, everything is a product of inputs and outputs. These inputs are what influence and educate us to be safe or unsafe and these outputs are what we actually do. This happens whether we're at work performing tasks or whether we're at home deciding whether to speed on the freeway or climb on the roof.
These inputs and outputs may be a closed system, a context contained by pre-determined participants and a pre-determined environment. Similarly, these inputs and outputs may be an open system, a context open and vulnerable to input from any and all in this big and somewhat – or entirely – scary world. Everything – work, health, situational awareness and more – depends on inputs and outputs as to outcomes. People, health, processes and safety alike. Even mental sanity and security. Everything depends on inputs and outputs. Everything is a system. With this, safety must be systematically and systemically treated as such. Workplace safety is a microcosm of community safety. Workplace safety can be controlled to a certain degree. Policies and procedures exist as terms of employment and employees can be held to standards at the risk of their employment.
Strategic metrics, targets and goals can be determined and met with operational and tactical objectives to place a framework around an abstract safety culture. Corporate – system – support can be placed around this culture to provide the tools and resources needed to develop the program and drive the behaviors and conditions that define the culture. These tools and resources can be segued into best practices that can be shared with the professional community at large to benefit the whole. At this point, the workplace closed system has begun to segue into the professional community's open system.
The Ultimate Open System
When these best practices segue into benefits to the community at large – when the information programs, indicator developments, educational programs and more are put to the community where there are no policies aside from laws that may or may not be followed – the ultimate open system exists. The community can be influenced by a number of variables; this number could be potentially infinite. These influences are met with the fact that – especially in the absence of local policies and expectations of safe behaviors and conditions as a workplace standard – humans are naturally drawn to risk. This is evident in everything in society from prescription drug abuse – or drug abuse in general – to the public's fascination with intrinsically violent football. If workplace safety is difficult to affect, this doesn't speak well for community safety when there is no proverbial collateral to influence safe behaviors aside from persuasion and an infinite amount of influences – inputs – to affect perceptions of safety. Ultimately, safety is the ultimate open and closed system and affecting safety cultures is difficult by nature. Workplace safety is a challenge and community safety is an enigma.
However, between the number of hazards present in society and the number of hazard being introduced on a daily basis – many of them being products of situational awareness and subject to minute-to-minute decisions to act or react – this enigma's solution may be difference between life and death. This is not something we can take lightly. The world is an ever-changing place and safety is an individual responsibility and decision. We must all make this decision with due diligence.
Welcome to the World
When I was in elementary school, the local police department gave a presentation to my class about drugs. This was a time in the 1980s when "ice" – a new form of methamphetamine or speed later to be known as "crystal meth" – had just hit the streets. The police warned us fifth-graders to be aware that drug dealers may seek to make these drugs attractive to kids and to be aware of this because the drugs were highly addictive. This was plenty of warning for me; I never touched a drug. A few years after this presentation and my subsequent decision to avoid drugs, my class transitioned to junior high school. At this point, the early 90s saw quite a bit of media coverage promoting the cessation of drug abuse. This was transitional from the glitzy profile of the 80s in which many celebrities were known for their wonton party lifestyles of the rich and famous. With this, I foolishly though the world had woken up and realized all that drug business was dangerous.
This is why I was foolishly surprised when the relatively new generation of celebrities – Kurt Cobain and his peers – walked down the same drug-laden path of their 80s peers – albeit without the spandex – and many of my classmates did the same. Regardless of warnings, regardless of facts about the imminent dangers of drug abuse, my classmates walked headfirst into marijuana, LSD and often cocaine abuse, many before they reached the ninth grade. It seemed as though nothing – information, education or indicators – could have prevented this because they either
wanted to get into intrinsically unsafe behaviors or were otherwise influenced by life events, the media, celebrities or other influences to do so. In either case, what could have prevented this turn of events?
This same phenomenon is still a conundrum. Not only are drugs still in the picture, but prescription drugs are now a major talking point and an epidemic – pandemic – to match. Active shooters are acting out more frequently than ever before and there is no clear solution despite pressure from the left for gun control and pressure from the right for 2nd Amendment protections. Unlike workplace safety, we have no ability to enforce a policy on these matters. Laws have already been passed and are highly ineffective. Attempting to influence personal behaviors is the ultimate attempt to affect change in community safety. With this said, how
do you convince someone to avoid unsafe behaviors when they
want to be unsafe?
It Only Gets More Confusing
Throughout high school, I cringed as more and more of my classmates experimented, used and often became addicted to drugs. Many went to rehab and a few died of various causes. In all cases, I continued to cringe as to why these otherwise preventable situations continued to manifest.
I eventually graduated from high school and went on to pursue punk rock as my chosen professional at the time. Naively, I thought I could choose my steps so wisely that I could play drums in a punk rock band while avoiding peer pressure regarding drugs and alcohol. This was not the case; from the moment I began playing punk rock shows and, more specifically, from the moment I began touring, every night – every show – was an Indiana Jones stone-jumping game as to avoiding negative influences. We were offered drugs repeatedly, a strange phenomenon when surrounded by people making no money at all and yet not only having drugs on their person but being willing to give them away.
Many of the venues would give us drink tickets. Few of the venues were responsible to monitor underage behavior and keep me away from the bar although I saved them the trouble and didn't drink or touch drugs. Aside from the social influences at the shows, we drove throughout the nights and risked crashing our van into guardrails over and over. I personally drove into a ditch one night in 1997 and came about twenty feet from a light pole before braking hard enough to save us after falling asleep at two in the morning. This held a great amount of gravity after receiving a message – while at Disneyland in 1998 on tour in California – that a friend had died by falling asleep at the wheel in the middle of the night.
We never had enough money for hotels, so we'd stay with strangers many nights. There I was one night when the inhabitants of the house we were staying in got into what we'll call a domestic altercation that turned into a fistfight that turned into a police call at 2 in the morning. These are a few of the nights we were out there but, interestingly, these stories pale in comparison to many people I know from that scene. In any of the cases, we all chose to be there. We chose risk, but we learned from it.
I've been told that the stories I ramble about are entertaining, so I thought I'd share some others, but I didn't know which. There are many to choose from. For instance, there's the one where my band didn't have a place to sleep in Phoenix, Arizona, so we were offered a chance to park our van in someone's driveway and sleep there. I slept on the gravel in the driveway and awoke to their dog licking my face.
Or, there's the story where my band played in San Antonio to one person and the bartender, and the one guy was a drunk trucker who insisted on buying beers for four underage kids, knowing good and well we wouldn't drink them.
Or, there's the story where my band played in Austin and stayed at a house where one of their friends got drunk and started a fight in the living room, so one of the other guys called the police, and they showed up to break up the fight, but the instigator ran away screaming down the street, and I SLEPT through the whole thing on the living room floor.
Or, there's the story where my band played in Bakersfield, California with a big band that sells lots of records and show tickets and their drummer told me that I was the best drummer he had seen in years, and then I excused myself, to the anger of my band-mates, because I didn't want to speak to him because he was a drug abuser (Yeah, I'm good at politics). I wound up sitting and falling asleep on the floor in the corner of the bar because I hadn't slept in two days, only to be awoken by some kid asking me if I needed to go to the hospital.
There was the time when I got angry at my band so I called a cab at 3 a.m. in Orange Country, California, with only instructions to the cabbie that I was in the parking lot of "some motel on Highway (whatever)" and "please take me to the airport." So, after an hour drive to LAX, I waited in the airport for seven hours with pink hair (I had tried to dye it red, but it turned pink) and too-big pants (that I borrowed from the singer in the band because it was cold outside during the night in California) until I could catch a flight back to Texas. Then, I paid for a replacement drummer's plane ticket out there to pick up the tour because I felt bad about it. Everything except one of those incidents happened before I was 19. The other one happened when I was 20.
Oh, or there was the time when I was on the way to USAF basic training, but the Air Force forgot that my group existed, leaving me and seven others in the San Antonio bus station for several hours before I called to "remind" them to pick us up. Then, there was the time when the USAF forgot I existed in a deployed air terminal somewhere in the desert (I still don't know where I was), so I stayed there for FOUR DAYS until they realized I was there and needed a lift to the war.
Regardless, I've got lots of stories. Take your pick.
Against the Grain?
When I was a teenager, I listened to punk rock music, the kind that touted rebellion against authority and challenges to social norms. In that generation, many of the bands were even led by erstwhile academics with several PhD's among them. Regardless, my parents didn't necessarily approve of my favorite bands, especially in their concerns that I'd ultimately internalize rebellion in a way that would prevent me from conforming just enough to make a living. They likely never thought all that punk rock music and its tones of challenges to authority would resonate in unexpected ways.
Now in my late-thirties, I often laugh when I listen to bands of this nature. Their generic rants against 'the man' sound short-sighted and often undirected now that I've been an adult for quite a while and have served in the military and been a safety professional for many years. After all, what does it even mean when they cry out against 'the man' and rant about 'when it all comes down?' When
what 'comes down?'
Who's 'the man?' However, the most interesting part of the façade is fact that these bands, despite their rhetoric and their outfits, may call for rebellion, but ultimately see their role in it as making records, going on tour, and being heralded by their legions of fans. The only rebellion they'll likely see is the 'parental advisory' sticker on their album's cover. Meanwhile, some of the people truly going against the grain and challenging norms are the ones they may not even know exist – safety professionals.
When I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, it scared my parents. They had visions of me being court-martialed for insubordination. Strangely, not only did I not get court-martialed (or even an Article 15), but I was awarded a few times. Never intending to be a career Airman, I decided that I'd spend my time in the service attempting to better each program I worked on instead of attempting to play politics. I may have angered a few people but I hope I also made a positive difference in the long-run. I used this same mentality outside the service. Working in safety, there is no room or time for politics. Safety leaders who attempt to benefit their careers by skirting truths about unsafe behaviors and conditions only lead to wasted time when these same unsafe behaviors and conditions persist and lead to accidents, injuries and possibly deaths. If safety leaders are scared to take on these unsafe behaviors and conditions, there's a fairly decent chance they shouldn't be in that position.
There's very little – if anything – comfortable about being a safety manager. The entire intention of the job is to stand up and push back on unsafe elements in the workplace even when they seem comfortable to other leaders by saving time or money or simply avoiding an argument. Safety managers must be willing and ready to go against the grain. College doesn't prepare us for this and, in many cases, the military doesn't, either. Individuals must actively choose to be willing to walk the thin line between being a productive team player and being mildly insubordinate in the best possible way. Leaders need to hear what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. If a safety manager isn't willing to do this – to go against the grain in the best possible way – they shouldn't be there.
Influences on Safety and Culture
Knowing that workplace safety is a microcosm of community safety, leadership facets and program developments in workplace safety can set the precedent for affecting community safety. This involves everything from hazard identification to hazard controls and indicator oversight but, more importantly, how to influence people to
Without this pursuit, not only do unsafe behaviors and conditions persist, but perceptions of negative leadership lead the way to continued unsafe behaviors out of spite. One thing is certain in the world – we know what hazards exist. The news media tells us on a nightly basis with every 'special news bulletin.' Every elementary school students receives the same briefings I did in those years. Very few can claim actual ignorance. However, the question still persists as to how we can convince people to be safe. One thing is for certain – the phrase 'be safe' means next to nothing. How do we train them – how do we condition them – to know, assess and avoid hazards?
On the reciprocal side of a negative safety culture and the residual turnover coming from it is the residual burnout from employees going too far with concepts like organizational citizenship. It's entirely possible for due diligence to become a liability. In these cases, we must remember that there's a fine line and a very tricky balance between doing our jobs well and taking care of ourselves. The world itself is difficult enough to navigate without burning out on the job. When navigating the difficult world becomes your job, this becomes even trickier. However, knowing what we know about safety, the workplace and the community, it's up to us to take care of ourselves to take care of others. It doesn't get any easier.