Interview with Safety Expert: Shawn Galloway

Shawn Galloway – ProAct Safety

Safety is a top priority among nearly all companies conducting business. If an employee is hurt while on the job the ramifications are hefty and far-reaching. In order to make sure every employee is safe while on the job, employers need to take safety seriously and treat it as top priority. One individual who is quite well-versed regarding workplace safety is Shawn Galloway. Galloway has co-authored two books and is currently the President and Chief Operating Officer of ProAct Safety.

“The National Safety Council calls him a “Global safety excellence expert” and a “Top-rated speaker”. EHS Today Magazine listed him in The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2012-13, ISHN Magazine listed him in the 2012 POWER 101 – Leaders of the EHS World and again in the recent, elite list of Up and Coming Thought Leaders, Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine refers to Shawn as a “Safety excellence coach” and IndustryWeek magazine writes “helps organizations achieve safety excellence”. Shawn has published over 250 podcasts, 100 articles and 30 videos on the subject of safety excellence in culture and performance.”

His long list of background experience and credentials speak for itself. Below you will be able to read through our four interview questions and Galloway’s answers regarding his expansive knowledge regarding workplace safety.

1. How does safety play a key role in a lean manufacturing work environment?

Shawn Galloway: “Safety plays a key role by focusing on what adds value and strategically determining both what to do and what not to do to improve safety. Too often, safety is known to focus more on activities, compliance behavior and reducing costs and risks than on adding strategic value to the organization. While these things are important, without a concise strategy that prioritizes what will add competitive value, safety results in activities that don’t improve the lives of the customers of safety. Lean is not about less, it is about adding value and reducing non-value added activities. Taking that simple definition, safety needs to ensure efforts meet this description. It is almost politically incorrect to say we shouldn’t do everything to improve safety, but the reality is too much safety prohibits business functions when it adds waste. Lastly, as lean progresses, so does the visibility of quality and productivity indicators of performance. Without an evolution from lagging, to leading, to transformational indicators that don’t appear to compete with quality and productivity, safety will be viewed as something else we need to do. The role safety plays should ensure that while the professionals are solidifying that safety-thinking becomes the way of safety, business-thinking also becomes the way of safety.”

2. In your opinion, what is the number one reason why people fail to sustain safety excellence within the workplace?

Shawn Galloway: “Organizations tend to rely more on luck and forget correlation doesn’t always mean causation. With an increase in activities, programs, support, etc. it is natural to expect improvement in results. However, without a clear and effective strategic framework to proactively prioritize safety improvement initiatives in the absence of injury/incident data, how will continuous improvement occur? Zero incidents is a good goal; it is just not the goal. Forgetting this will result in a slip in performance and a lack of understanding as to why. If an organization achieves great results but can’t clearly articulate why the results were achieved nor have a sense of confidence when forecasting the future, they are relying more on luck than indicators of desirable performance and culture. Executing improvement in the absence of strategic frameworks is the number one reason those who achieve great performance fail to sustain and continuously improve.”

3. What is your advice to a safety manager when it comes to employees who repeatedly overlook safety guidelines putting themselves and others at risk?

Shawn Galloway: “Safety managers must always remember that people do things for a reason. If they ignore the reason, they might be missing other factors than just the individual that will influence others when put in a similar situation. Employee behaviors are the result of organizational systems. Did the company not vet the prospective employee properly for their safety beliefs and behaviors? Did they not onboard them correctly? Was the employee not coached after orientation and periodically discussed with and/or observed? Blame shouldn’t be assumed when asking these questions if learning is the goal. We must realize that there are many things that influence people to do what they do. If we ignore this, we react ineffectively. That being said, unfortunately, there are individuals who just do not belong in a risky setting and not everyone is “coachable”. If the behavior is flagrant, repeated and the individual is not responding to coaching and counseling, they must be removed from the environment. However, even with this we need to look at the systems that contributed to them being hired in the first place.”

4. How has your experience helped ProAct Safety become one of the leaders in helping organizations achieve and sustain safety excellence?

Shawn Galloway: “When I was 16 years old, my father sat me down and said something that I’ve never forgotten: “Shawn, no one will ever owe you a job. You have to demonstrate new value every day.” This is a mantra that has stuck with me. I am insatiably curious about all things safety, business, culture and continuous improvement. What we know to be truths today should be obsolete in 10 years; otherwise we are breathing our own exhaust. I continue to seek new ideas outside the realm that I operate within. This helps me help the leaders I support to continue to challenge the status quo and the beliefs around what is and isn’t safety excellence. Realizing I don’t have all the answers, nor will any one person, I keep asking and redefining the right questions. I believe this most benefits those I advise and support.”

We are excited to have had this opportunity to interview Galloway, he is truly an influential leader when it comes to the topic of safety. It is important to remember that safety isn’t something that just “happens,” instead it is created and intentionally implemented. Furthermore, safety cannot simply be taught just once, employees should be trained regularly on the latest safety information and guidelines. In effect, true workplace safety is achieved most effectively when it is weaved through each and every business practice.

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