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Safety Tools, Checklists Aren't Enough to Save Lives

Jan 30, 2017
A webinar titled, Why Safety Tools and Checklists Aren’t Enough to Save Lives, discussed new research surrounding psychological safety’s role in workplace safety. According to the webinar, 65% of workers say they have been in a situation where they had the proper safety tools to avoid a situation, but nobody listened to them.


David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts, led the seminar. He says both formal and informal leaders are necessary to lead a change in safety culture. It's also important to identify opinion leaders, but  Maxfield cautions against asking workers to self-identify themselves as opinion leaders. “Everybody thinks they are an opinion leader,” he says. Another practice Maxfield says to avoid is to ask leaders to name subordinates as opinion leaders. “They end up naming people they wish were opinion leaders,” he says.

To save lives, Maxfield says, you need to influence cultural normals, which is deeply personal, full-contact, and soul-consuming.

“The crucial moment [when cultural norms are influenced] occurs when you are asking people to move to a place of extreme discomfort,” Maxfield says. “They won’t take this risk unless they trust you. They are going to look for evidence that you are insincere.”

An “inconvenient truth” opinion leaders must face, Maxfield says, is that in an environment of distrust, all ambiguous actions will be interpreted negatively. “All actions are ambiguous,” he says. Believable acts, he says, involve sacrifice. Opinion leaders are the social influence and they must generate regular, believable, confirming evidence, he says.

“Sacrifice breathes life into dead values,” Maxfield says, listing time, ego, money and previous priorities of examples for sacrifice. “When an opinion leaders hurt themselves for the sacrifice of others, that’s when it’s believable.”

Originally published Jan. 30, 2017.


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