12 Nov Safety and Thinking Outside The Square
From the mouths of babes – a story about thinking laterally
While driving, John and his 10-year-old young son Philip came upon a traffic jam. Up ahead they could see a large semi-trailer with a high load wedged under a railway overpass. There were police and fire trucks everywhere, a big crane and even a train that was forced to stop at the approach to the bridge.
While John sat in the car fuming, his son Philip could no longer contain himself. He got out of the car, and he walked towards the incident scene that was surrounded by cones, flashing lights, people in suits, hi viz and wearing yellow hats. They were all trying to figure out what to do and trying to decide if they would have to destroy the load or dismantle the bridge.
“I know how to get the truck out!” cried Philip.
The men were more concerned for the boy’s safety and told him to go back to his father, but Philip persisted until he found someone who would listen.
“What do you think we should do?” asked the man.
“If you want to get the truck out, all you have to do is let the air out of the tires!”
The Stone Age didn’t end for the lack of stones
In 1961 at the age of 15, I started work as an apprentice carpenter.
I will always remember my first week (or test) on the job – it was to wheel the full barrow of concrete, as well as loading the one cement bag (90LB) mixer. The young ones today think they’ve got it tough! No wonder I have long arms and short legs and a problematic back.
The wheelbarrows of yesteryear were not exactly ergonomically designed, but what is now interesting and innovative is that there are now motorised wheelbarrows on the market. This only came about because someone had a need to make the job easier and thought there had to be an easier and better way.
When I spoke to Justin Annereau from New Zealand Wheelbarrows, he told me that he often hears from older carpenters of back-breaking labour and that their initial reaction to the electric barrow is “that’s what apprentices are for – this will just make them soft and lazy” and then they hobble off, stooped over on creaking knees. He also told me that he is hearing this less and less, as people realise not only the extra productivity they can achieve, but also the saving of bodily wear and tear.
Visionary or conformity?
When it comes to business development, the necessity for change is often the catalyst for business survival. Just think of the Swiss watch industry and Kodak – who?
Is the need for letter boxes heading the same way?
An issue that too often confronts business owners is that they are too busy working in their business, and not on it, and they get comfortable with the status quo and can’t see the woods for the trees. Too often it’s easier to take the middle road and not challenge the status quo – “is there a better and easier way”?
The problem with this approach is that one day, progress will come along and run them over – that happens too often. Change and reinvention of a business is inevitable and can’t be ignored if a business is to survive in this fast-paced world. As someone once said, it’s only babies with wet nappies that like change.
Another reason for not challenging the comfortable zone is that as we get older, we forget or lose the ability to play. This is mainly because we get too busy in our private and business lives, our thinking becomes blinkered and subconsciously confined and conditioned (by conformance to the responsibilities of bureaucracy), rules and laws that our businesses are required to adhere to. But is there a saving grace?
The Hidden Gems of knowledge
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 stipulates that an employer must involve their employees in the H&S affairs of the business.
Do you not think that it is an indictment on the ethos of NZ business that a law must be enacted that legislates this involvement?
My way of thinking on this matter is why not and why only confine this involvement to H&S? Why not use the collective knowledge base, the hidden gems of knowledge and inspiration of your employees for the development and growth of your business?
In many cases, employees are just waiting and wanting the chance to make things better. After all, who knows the general business and process functions better than they do. Do business owners or their managers have a mortgage on knowledge? They don’t. Why? All employees can bring to the table their collective knowledge base, that when unleashed can be extremely powerful for the strength and market position of the business.
You never see the All Blacks playing with only one man on the field, all the team contributes.
It’s called the Gestalt principle that states “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
Brainstorming and lateral thinking
We often hear the saying of “thinking outside the square”. To illustrate this, I have a client that buys, repairs and sells shipping containers. One of the quality and customer service issues is to repair any holes in the roof of the container – that roof platform is 2.9m above ground. This was identified as a working-at-heights safety issue that had a high-risk rating in its current situation and had to be addressed. To solve this, we used the collective brainpower of the company’s 7-man team to brainstorm the most effective solution and these were their ideas:
- Don’t buy containers with holes in the roof;
- Buy a mobile scaffold that can be shifted around the container;
- Develop a safety rail system that can be installed on each corner of the container in conjunction with 2;
- Dig a hole to put the container in, so it is at ground level to work on;
- Rig up a safety wire rope in the repair bay with a running pulley, lanyard and drop arrester unit, so a safety harness can be attached for the wielder; or
- To tip the container over onto its side to eliminate the need to get onto the roof.
After much discussion to identify the most practicable solution, option 6 was the 1st option but due to the potential damage to the containers and other safety factors, option 5 was selected.
What this illustrates is that regardless how crazy some of the ideas may have been, all the team were involved in finding the best safety solution – the Gestalt principle in practice.
A challenge for you and your team (with prizes)!
The first 5 correct answers for this challenge that are emailed in by 5pm on Friday the 15th of December will win for their business their choice of 5 of our 160 safe operating procedures (SOPs) with a value of $300. We will send the winners a list to choose from – some examples are here.
The answer to the following question will be published in your February email newsletter.
Five Americans were sailing a 30-metre luxury Keeler yacht in the Caribbean Islands and became becalmed. As they had a commitment to make land at a scheduled time, they decided to make progress under power. As they motored over the windless sea, they noticed on the horizon another yacht that was also obviously becalmed, so as they were going to motor past them, they decided to see if they were all ok.
As they approached the vessel, they sounded a horn and called out, but received no response, There was no sign of life. As they motored around to the other side of the yacht, they discovered, to their horror, six near naked male and female bodies floating in the water close to the yacht.
Question – how did they die?
Email Gordon with your answers by 5pm Friday 15th of December.
That is the challenge for you and your team to work out.
Please pass this on to your business associates to see if they can solve the mystery.