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Safety ‘in the moment’

January 1, 2012

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“Be Present in the Moment. Be SAFE; no job is worth getting injured doing! Scan, Assess, Fix, and Execute.”

This tagline, designed to accompany posters promoting UTC Fire & Security’s “Safety First” initiative, was created by Mustafa Colak, regional general manager for Chubb Fire & Security, a business unit of UTC Fire & Security. Colak said the tagline was inspired by a managerial discussion on recent near misses in Chubb Fire & Security’s California operations, businesses that sell and service security and fire detection and prevention products for commercial buildings. “We often focus on the mechanics of a near miss or injury – was the floor wet, was the ladder placed correctly, things like that,” he said. “I think, overall, when you talk to the employees, they will tell you that they were either talking or thinking about their next task. Often, they take their minds off the task at hand.”

The tagline has now become part of the company’s daily vernacular.

Whenever Colak crosses paths with an employee, he makes sure not only to wish him or her a nice day – he also offers a reminder to stay safe and be careful. This advice is especially important for employees who perform installations in electrical and mechanical rooms in the buildings the company services. “[Electricity] does not forgive,” Colak said. “One millisecond of not paying attention and touching the wrong wire may cost their lives.”

The tagline and other company safety initiatives have made measurable improvements to the safety culture of the region of Chubb Fire & Security that he oversees, Colak said. Employee annual surveys for the region have shown significant increases in employee engagement with safety; understanding of safety communications; and increased focus on environmental, health and safety management. There also have been substantial decreases in workplace injuries and lost-day incident rates.

Colak has noticed decreases in risky behaviors among installers, such as no longer taking on tasks alone when they require more than one person to complete.

Effective safety cultures not only have strong, measurable metrics, but also will include employees who are engaged in safety and discussing it, Colak said. Discussions on safety are not reserved for front-line employees; safety is communicated at all levels of his business. At all meetings he participates in, Colak makes sure that safety is the first item on the agenda. Also, anytime an injury or near miss occurs, a branch’s general manager is required to make a presentation on what happened and what could have been done to prevent it.

The tagline not only concerns the safety of the company’s employees – it affects customers’ safety as well, considering the products the company installs, Colak said. The systems his employees install must work in critical situations, and being “present in the moment” helps to ensure this. “If employees are not present in the moment and not paying attention to what they are doing, it may cause someone else to be injured,” he said.

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