Resolving Conflicts in the Workplace

Jim Emerson, Conflict Prevention & Resolution Consultant/Trainer  –  For Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

Resolving conflicts in the workplace is important for many reasons, and one of the primary reasons is to maintain a safe and secure work environment.  People in conflict are most likely upset emotionally and distracted from their job, which makes them more vulnerable to having an accident.  Most of us have been in this situation before and know how anger, frustration and conflict affect our ability to concentrate on anything other than our strong feelings about the conflict.

Many of us feel like resolving a conflict is a practical impossibility most of the time.  Even if it is possible, it feels so complicated that resolution is probably beyond our capabilities.

Successfully working through a conflict can be similar in principle to back packing safely through woods containing dangerous animals.  Knowing and understanding the territory is the key.  Some basic characteristics of the territory of conflict and several solutions for responding in a positive manner are:

  1. Fight or flight makes conflict worse.  Avoid escalating a situation or running from it.
  2. The initial act of anger is the tip of the iceberg.  It is the unsaid underlying causes that drive a person’s anger.  Identify these causes by asking questions to communicate your interest, a major step towards resolution.
  3. Angry people find it difficult or impossible to resolve a conflict.  As hard as it may be, make the decision not to become angry and instead focus on resolving the conflict.
  4. Increased tension is a valid sign of an approaching conflict.  Reduce the tension to help resolve the conflict.
  5. Lack of, incomplete or incorrect communication tends to create conflict.  Listen and clarify information to prevent misunderstandings.

 

Here are some things you can do when conflict starts to begin:

  • Avoid becoming angry,
  • Do not use the word you in discussion, and
  • Seek to lower tensions by gaining knowledge about the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

 

Use the following four-step active listening process (AVECS) to lower tensions and help resolve conflict: 

Step 1:     Acknowledge the other persons’ anger and frustration.  Ask them what is wrong and see if you can determine the reasons behind their anger.  If necessary, briefly write down their key thoughts.

Step 2:    Validate & Empathize (not necessarily agree) with their feelings.  Indicate to them that you understand how they could feel the way they do.

Step 3:    Clarify what they have said by asking questions about what they have said, what their interests are, how they feel about what is happening, and providing feedback about what you have heard.

Step 4:    Summarize by paraphrasing all that you believe you have heard, making sure you are open for any corrections they make.  Use your written notes (Step 1) to help this summary process.

These steps may be completed in a few minutes, a couple of hours, or planned encounters over time.  Having completed the steps, if possible, continue to determine what actions can be taken by both of you to resolve the conflict.   Taking actions that meet both of your best interests as much as possible is the goal.

Try using the above tools.  With a little practice, you can improve your conflict resolution skills.

 

For More Information:

Go to www.safetycenter.org for more information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Recipients of the CSMS receive a beautiful plaque and become part of an elite group of safety specialists who have achieved this recognition.  Once this certification is attained, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.

Jim Emerson Contact Information
Jim Emerson, Conflict Prevention & Resolution Consultant/Trainer
Emerson@4fast.net
(530) 209-1500

A Feeling of Family

Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

A feeling of family support provides employees with the sense they are cared for and they will be protected.  Such a sentiment is very common among small organizations with two to ten employees.  Yet, it can also occur in large establishments where the smaller offices, shops, and field crews create their own appreciation of family and closeness.

In the field of safety, especially within a well-managed organization striving for excellence and professionalism, a feeling of family can do much to create and maintain a safe work environment.  Others watch out for us.  Our organizational friends help us maintain our facilities and our personal protective equipment.  We act as a team, seeking to be successful in what we do.

The small-group family works hard to accomplish its goals and then recognizes its accomplishments.  Celebrations honoring success are an integral part of the work that is done.  People break bread together and enjoy camaraderie.

Success is realized not only in the work accomplished, but in how it is achieved.  Work is performed safely, efficiently, and correctly.

Accident prevention and compliance are managed.  Safety is integrated into how each task is accomplished, and all levels of the organization work together to prevent the preventable accident.  It is a total group effort.

Managers and supervisors encourage their employees to work cooperatively, helping one another.  Large, heavy or bulky objects are team lifted so no one person is exposed to a strain injury.  Driving is shared.  Hazards are noted and corrected by individuals and by the organization as a whole.

The Injury & Illness Prevention Program is created, implemented, and maintained by everyone, not just selected people.  Everyone is involved in safety communications, doing continuous inspections of the workplace so problems are identified and corrected prior to an injury being sustained.  Training is welcomed and when possible, each person helps in the training process in their own specialty areas.  Employees report possible safety problems and offer solutions.  The solutions are respected by management and the team seeks to work out the best corrective actions.

It is the group of people, working together, that makes the safety culture positive.  A feeling of family generates the desire to do what is right and make the work environment as safe as possible.

For More Information:

Go to www.safetycenter.org for more information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Recipients of the CSMS receive a beautiful plaque and become part of an elite group of safety specialists who have achieved this recognition.  Once this certification is attained, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.

A SAFETY MANAGEMENT APPROACH “Repetition – Good or Bad?”

Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

A very common complaint amongst employees is being given the same training over and over again, seeing the same videos, getting the same handouts, and hearing the same talk year after year or even more often.

Yet, safety people are taught that repetition enhances the learning process.  It is good to hear the same information so it will stay with our employees.  Otherwise, they forget.

Let’s draw a middle ground here, understanding that repetition helps us keep knowledge and skills up to speed so we don’t forget, we don’t slip, and we don’t let our guard down.  That’s good.

What is bad is when we receive the same knowledge in the same way recurrently.  The manner to make repetition good is to provide it in a variety of formats.

We regularly provide information on safety-related topics, maybe even the same information so our fellow employees do not lose the essence of how to work safely, but we change the training methods and approaches.  We use different training techniques, keeping the material current, but bringing it alive so the men and women in our training programs remain focused and eager to learn more.

Online training is fine on a given topic the first time and then again every once in a while, but not as an ongoing diet.  Repeated programmed learning wallows, not allowing the trainee’s mind to want to receive the information again and again.

We have learned that face to face training with the opportunity to ask questions and interact is a far better way to learn for most people.

Inserting a variety of training techniques into our training programs provides trainers with the opportunity to repeat important safety concerns, rules, regulations, and how to work safely, in a style that enhances the training experience.  Interactive methods include such activities as:

  • The opportunity to ask questions and receive answers
  • Inclusion of quizzes and tests – written and hands-on
  • Actual hands-on activities in class and in the work environment
  • New videos with interesting dialogue, music, graphics, and a good pace
  • Facility and field explorations to help employees identify unsafe conditions and practices
  • Role playing
  • Trainee problem solving and presentations

Repeating what we need to know ingrains the details into our minds and helps us to remember how to do our work in a safe manner.  Receiving the repeated material in different forms gives the trainee various means to learn and remember what is needed.

For More Information:

Go to www.safetycenter.org for more information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Recipients of the CSMS receive a beautiful plaque and become part of an elite group of safety specialists who have achieved this recognition.  Once this certification is attained, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.

Learn More About Safetyville USA. The Little Town That is Teaching Big Lessons

Ever wondered how and why Safetyville was founded? Capital Public Radio came for a visit to get the scoop. Take a look at the full article (and many more great stories!) at Capital Public Radio.

A SAFETY MANAGEMENT APPROACH “Healthy Employees Are Safer Employees”

Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

The title of this article is self-explanatory. Yet, most safety programs spend little or no effort on helping employees live well. Employees with low blood pressure, good lipids levels, and in good physical condition come to work a step ahead of those employees who do not maintain good health.

It is the rare safety program that includes a comprehensive wellness program, one that emphasizes safety and health on and off the job. Those organizations that have such programs see enhanced employee morale, people energized to come to work, and eager to participate in programs that encourage both their safety and health.

Programs that call attention to good health include ideas for such things as exercise, eye and hearing health, diet, getting annual physicals, reduction and elimination of addictive behaviors, reducing and/or coping with stress, and mental fitness.

Some organizations recommend that their employees exercise during their breaks. Wellness programs oftentimes include goal setting and rewards for exercise and activities based upon achieving various levels in health improvement.

Employers coordinate their wellness programs with local gyms, sometimes offering their employees discount memberships and opportunities to participate in special health-related activities.

You may want to contact local gyms and wellness clinics in your area to see if they have programs available for your organization. If there are no such facilities in your immediate area, consider searching the Internet for wellness programs you can implement for your employees.

Yes, healthy employees are safer employees. They are also more productive and have greater stamina to get their work accomplished. They have less illness and less occupational injuries. Such employees may even be happier because they have less pain and are enthusiastic about their daily lives.

For More Information:
To become part of discussions on topics like the one above, go to www.safetycenter.org to obtain information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Recipients of the CSMS receive a beautiful plaque and become part of an elite group of safety specialists who have achieved this recognition. Once this certification is attained, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.

A SAFETY MANAGEMENT APPROACH – Facing Reality

Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

Have you heard people say that there is no such thing as an acceptable risk and no such thing as an acceptable loss in the workplace?  I have.  Such comments are said with deep sincerity.

I think it is a wonderful theoretical proposition, and one that I would love to achieve, but in our complex world it is highly unlikely to exist except in the most simplistic of work environments.

My premise is based upon the following definitions:

Acceptable Risk (AR) = Your and your organization’s level of safety
Acceptable Loss (AL) = Minor
Unacceptable Loss (UL) = Major
Unacceptable Risk (UR) = Anything that may lead to an Unacceptable Loss
Probability = The odds that a loss will occur

Facing reality, I think that throughout our lives there is risk and loss and there are probabilities for such losses to occur depending upon the circumstances.

I think most of us can handle minor losses (in the workplace we call them first-aid injuries).  We all cut, and we all bruise, and that’s part of the human condition.  Minor injuries can most of the time be handled by first-aid treatment.  We wash off the cut, put on an antiseptic and a bandage, and go about our business.

When it comes to major losses, we need to take aggressive action to prevent them because pain and suffering escalates.  There are jobs in some workplaces that are just plain hazardous.  They pose a risk of severe or fatal injury.  In those situations, it is our duty first of all to take action to prevent injury and secondly to mitigate injury if the occurrence takes place.

My motto has become:

Make correct safety performance matter on a moment to moment basis.

I follow that up with a slogan that has been around for some time:

Mission First, Safety Always

Our goal needs to be to prevent unacceptable loss by preventing the taking of unacceptable risks.

For More Information:
To become part of discussions on topics like the one above, go to www.safetycenter.org to obtain information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Recipients of the CSMS receive a beautiful plaque and become part of an elite group of safety specialists who have achieved this recognition.  Once this certification is attained, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.

SMUD asks customers to take safety precautions before digging

SMUD asks customers to take safety precautions before digging

Whether planting a tree, building a deck, putting in a pool or putting up a new fence, be sure to include an important safety step prior to starting the job.

Call Underground Service Alert North 811 (USA) a minimum of two business days before beginning to dig to find out if there are any dangerous underground utilities such as power lines in the area. This is a free service.

Whether you are doing the job yourself or hiring a professional, smart and safe digging means calling 811 or 800-227-2600 or visiting usanorth811.org to request a utility-locate before each job. The notification is valid for 28 days, so if the excavation project goes beyond this timeframe, notify USA North 811 again.

SMUD and other area utilities such as gas, water, and cable television will be contacted to determine whether they have underground facilities, and if so, the locations will be marked at the excavation site. Underground utility lines are not always located in the street; some utilities may be located in backyard easements. Digging into an underground electrical line can cause power outages and personal injury or death.

Be aware, it is the law to notify USA North 811 before you dig. Besides the legal requirement, it’s the way to stay safe and avoid financial and legal responsibility for repairs and/or injuries.

For more information, visit the SMUD website.

OSHA’s Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

From the United States Department of Labor: Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

Rule requires engineering controls to keep workers from breathing silica dust

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime.

OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.

About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to respirable crystalline silica for years, using widely-available equipment that controls dust with water or a vacuum system.

Key Provisions

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, aaveraged over an 8-hour shift.
  • Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
  • Provides flexibility to help employers – especially small businesses – protect workers from silica exposure.

Compliance Schedule

Both standards contained in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016., after which industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:

Construction – June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.

General Industry and Maritime – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.

Hydraulic Fracturing – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.

Background

The U.S. Department of Labor first highlighted the hazards of respirable crystalline silica in the 1930s, after a wave fo worker deaths. The department set standards to limit worker exposure in 1971, when OSHA was created. However, the standards are outdated and do not adequately protect workers from silica-related diseases. Furthermore, workers are being exposed to silica in new industries such as stone or artificial stone countertop fabrication and hydraulic fracturing.

A full review of scientific evidence, industry consensus standards, and extensive stakeholder input provide the basis for the final rule, which was proposed in September 2013. The rule-making process allowed OSHA to solicit input in various forms for nearly a full year. The agency held 14 days of public hearings, during which more than 200 stakeholders presented testimony, and accepted over 2,000 comments, amounting to about 34,000 pages of material. In response to this extensive public engagement, OShA made substantial changes, including enhanced employer flexibility in choosing how to reduce levels of respirable crystalline silica, while maintaining or improving worker protection.

More Information and Assistance

OSHA looks forward to working with employers to ensure that all workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica realize the benefits of this final rule. Please check back from frequent updates on compliance assistance materials and events, and learn about OSHA’s on-site consulting services for small business.

OSHA approved State Plans have six months to adopt standards that are at least as effective as federal OShA standards. Establishments in states that operate their own safety and health plans should check with their State Plan for the implemetnation date of the new standards.

For more information visit the OSHA website.

Climbing the Ladder of Success (Preventing Injuries Involving Ladders)

SafetyManagementSpecialistCertificate-Article#57-Ladders-081516

The Art of Stalling

A Safety Management Approach

Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

Monday Morning, 8:00am
The main facility is due its weekly inspection. I have too much paperwork to do. I will skip this week’s inspection and do it next week.

Tuesday Afternoon, 2:00pm
I really need to talk to my boss about getting increased funding for training, but she seems never to have time for me. I will wait to see when I think she might be more open to my request.

Wednesday Noontime
The safety committee is supposed to meet. If only a few show up I will cancel the meeting. We all have so many other things to do and we rarely get anything finished at these meetings.

Thursday Morning, 10:00am
We need to review all our safety programs. I wonder if I can get by doing the review at the beginning of next year.

Friday Afternoon, 3:00pm
It’s personal protective equipment (PPE) check time, one of the most boring jobs that I have. I will postpone this task to see if someone else might be willing to do it.

Stalling to do what needs to be achieved is a human condition. There are activities we love to do while there are other activities that bore us to tears or include monstrous obstacles, mountains we would just rather not climb.

It is called procrastination, from the Latin words, pro (forward) and cras (tomorrow) meaning putting something off until another day (or sometimes another week, month, or even another year). Sometimes what we put off never happens.

In safety, putting something off could be disastrous. Truly, procrastination could be the reason a job is performed unsafely, or a piece of equipment is not maintained, or a safety policy or procedure is never written.

Some examples include:
1. The monthly fire extinguisher check is not carried out – in the event of a fire, a fire extinguisher is not fully charged and fails to provide an employee with sufficient fire extinguishing agent. The employee could then be vulnerable to engulfment in a fire.
2. A PPE assessment has never been accomplished resulting in employees not wearing safety protection, and leaving them open to sustaining an injury.
3. No policies and procedures are in writing. Nothing is documented on how to work correctly or what has been done to implement proactive programs.
4. How to do a job correctly is not taught so employees fail to know how to do their tasks in a safe manner, let alone efficiently, productively, and without error.

Stalling means procrastinating, postponing, delaying, dawdling, dragging one’s feet…putting off until another day that never comes. Very few things in life work out for the good that are left until another day. We need to prioritize what needs to be acted upon, and then move forward moment by moment to get things completed as soon as possible.

For More Information:
To become part of discussions on topics like the one above, go to www.safetycenter.org to obtain information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Recipients of the CSMS receive a beautiful plaque and become part of an elite group of safety specialists who have achieved this recognition. Once this certification is attained, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.