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‘Safety doesn’t care about yesterday’: Brian Fielkow encourages forward-thinking, prevention mindset during Leadership Keynote

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Orlando, FL — Before launching into the heart of his message during the Leadership Keynote of the 2021 NSC Safety Congress & Expo on Oct. 13, Brian Fielkow told attendees, “There’s no upside in doing the same thing over and over again.”

With that in mind, Fielkow, CEO of Houston-based Jetco Delivery, said that although he hoped his 10 leadership principles to ignite safety performance would resonate with the crowd at the Orange County Convention Center, continual adjustment of ideas to fit specific organizations is vital.

“Safety doesn’t care about yesterday,” Fielkow said. “Safety cares about today. Safety cares about tomorrow.”

Fielkow discussed numerous barriers to safety, including complacency, shortcuts that disregard safety processes and an ongoing culture of blame.

“There’s a very big difference in a prevention mindset compared to a blame mindset,” Fielkow said. “In a safe company, we have to have a prevention mindset, because if we’ve got the blame mindset of, ‘Gotcha! OK, you’re the one who did it,’ … there’s not the trust that exists in the prevention mindset.”

Many of the 10 principles focused on looking forward, not backward, to foster improved safety outcomes:

  • Safety isn’t a priority or a sign on the wall; it’s a value. “Safety has to be the guardrail that guides every decision we make,” Fielkow said.
  • Know the difference between power and authority. Great leaders, Fielkow said, have both. Power can be harnessed by generating respect in interactions with peers and co-workers.
  • Take your front lines with you. Keep safety in the heart. “If I matter to someone in the organization, I’m going to engage,” Fielkow said.
  • Adopt a just culture. Mistake-based discipline systems can be harmful. We are humans, and humans make mistakes. Training and opportunity can help improve the safety system.
  • Examine organizational factors as well as individual behavior when completing root-cause analyses. Organizations can cause incidents through insufficient, unclear processes and mental complacency. “‘We’ve always done it this way,’” Fielkow said. “Famous last words.”
  • No shortcuts. Always adhere to safety processes. Treat people as you want them to be.
  • Dismiss severity. Whether an outcome is minor or major shouldn’t affect your process.
  • Focus on leading indicators. These predict outcome. Continue to emphasize lagging indicators, but remember, Fielkow said, “You can’t go back and undo what’s happened.”
  • Tear down silos. Organizational operations are responsible for safety. “Safety is not a department,” Fielkow said. “It’s a way of life.”
  • You can’t win ’em all; don’t try. Effective employees must fuse company values with technical excellence, Fielkow said. Continue to coach, but accept the reality that everyone may not be on board with organizational change, and leaders should adjust accordingly.

As he concluded his remarks, Fielkow expressed gratitude to the safety professionals in attendance, adding that he felt they receive too little recognition.

“Yours is not a job; it’s a calling. It’s a mission,” Fielkow said. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you do.”

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