Safety Culture Excellence®

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Focus and Scan

November 13th, 2013

When you drive down the highway your eyes perform two distinct, but related functions.  You look at the entire roadway in front of you (scan) and you often glance at the stripes that line your position on the highway (focus).  Both of these functions are crucial to safe driving.  You need to know the entire path you are traveling, but also need to stay within your land to avoid other vehicles.

Most safety programs have a scan but lack a focus.  Workers are admonished to “be careful” and “think before you act” but are not focused on specific improvement targets.  Safety improvement is an elephant that must be eaten a bite at a time.  Scanning may maintain the status quo, but it will not lead to significant improvement.

The best-performing organizations in safety constantly target specific improvements while maintaining the emphasis on the big picture.  Workers are careful but also focused on specific improvement targets that can be transformational for the organization.  Safety cultures form around their ability to solve safety problems and move on to other targets.  They become a “can do” culture and thrive on conquering specific safety challenges.  Excellence is not one-dimensional.  It is a combination of scanning for all risks while focusing on overcoming specific risks.  The journey to safety excellence is taken a step at a time and these steps are the focus that complement the scanning of the road ahead.

-Terry L. Mathis

Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences. EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2010, 2011 and 2012-2013. He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence, 2013, WILEY.