I’ve been fishing for almost two hours at one of my favorite spots and haven't had a bite. But that’s OK because I have a book full of excuses I can use; "the fish just weren’t biting," "the water temperature was too warm," "the wind was blowing too hard" or "it was the wrong time of day." I suppose if I had prepared and found out where the fish were and what they were biting, I might have better luck.
Safety is like that. We implement plans, procedures and training programs. Then we pat ourselves on the back for a successful implementation and sit back and wait. When nothing happens over the course of a few weeks or maybe a couple of months, we assume our plan is working. Then seemingly out of nowhere, something happens and we gasp in disbelief. Our automatic reflex is to reach for our book of excuses; “it was a fluke” (I heard this one recently from a senior leader), “it was the employee's fault,” “he used the wrong tool,” “he was in the wrong place,” “he didn’t follow procedures” and two of my favorites “it was an act of God,” and this one from an operations manager “he did it to himself, it was a self-inflicted wound.”
If we are looking for an excuse, we can always find one. Excuses are our way of deflecting responsibility. Maybe if we better prepare by going to where the employees are and asking them what they need to run a safe operation we won’t need to rely on luck or our book of excuses.
Have you heard a classic excuse lately?