In his 2005 book Jump In, Mark Burnett wrote, “Nothing will ever be perfect, and nothing can be totally planned.”

Burnett became a pioneer in television by creating reality TV shows such as Survivor, The Apprentice, Shark Tank, and many others.

He broadcast a mixture of people, unique environments, and random situations which created an unpredictable reality. He stirred the pot just enough, and then let human nature take over. This resulted in some wild and unplanned situations, placing people in scenarios that caused tremendous friction and consequence. Burnett exploited the ‘reality bites’ idea, and the ratings skyrocketed.

Similarly, our workplaces can be a mixture of people, unique environments, and random situations. However, a safe and efficient work environment must have strategies and systems in place to manage unpredictable situations and unwanted consequences. These must be developed and managed by leadership, but require active participation from every worker, at every level of the organization.

It may be true that nothing will ever be perfect, and nothing can be totally planned. However, when everyone is properly prepared and engaged with the team, it becomes possible to protect each other and avoid unwanted and unplanned situations.

Let’s review a few of the best practice strategies and systems designed to proactively manage unpredictable situations and unwanted consequences.

6 ways to avoid a ‘reality bites” Culture

  1. Policies and procedures – When polices and procedures are determined, established, and communicated… it creates a game plan and a “how to” process for workers to properly complete a task.
  2. Hazard identification – Knowing what’s around you, and how it can be harmful to you or others, is key to a strong safety culture. Workers must be aware of hazards they encounter during the course of work, but also be continuously aware of hazards that may surface.
  3. Training curriculum – Knowledge and understanding is the life blood of a safety program. A training program should focus on the operational practices for quality and service, with equal importance given to the understanding of risks and safe work practices associated with the job. Training must happen before the work, and periodic refreshers are important to remain sharp.
  4. Reporting culture – A strong, proactive reporting culture has the ability to identify and fix issues before they become problems. Incident reporting is one way to measure performance, but when workers report near misses, unsafe acts, observations, and close calls, there is opportunity to make change without actual injury or damage occurring.
  5. Access to information – Whether it be access to a safety manual, the ability to refer to operating procedures, or confirming the details of a chemical SDS, workers need information when they need it. Provide copies, whether on paper or electronic versions, and make information accessible and available.
  6. Stop Work Authority – SWA is more than an opportunity to stop an unsafe act or condition, it is an obligation. Workers must be empowered, even encouraged, to stop a job to protect co-workers from unsafe situations.

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