At this year’s National Safety Council’s (NSC) Annual Congress and Expo, NSC President and CEO, Deborah Hersman talked about moonshots. She described a moonshot as looking at something that is really important and deciding that it’s not impossible, it just hasn’t been done yet.
NSC’s moonshot, she said, is eliminating preventable deaths in our lifetime. As I scanned the audience of 13,000 safety professionals, I could see that some people were considering the magnitude of this statement. Among the baby boomers, there seemed to be a mix of “well, maybe not in my lifetime – but that’s a great goal” and “yeah, that sure would be nice.” Gen X and Y attendees seemed to be at both ends of the spectrum, either agreeing wholeheartedly or disagreeing with the proclamation.
Hersman then broke down this moonshot. She asked audience members to stand if they thought this moonshot could become a reality. The reaction was mixed. She then went further: Could this be a reality for your company? Your location? Your department? Your team? Each time the large goal was broken down, the number of people standing increased.
She told the crowd, “You don’t have to solve the big number, you just have to solve your number…The solutions to your safety issues probably already exist.” She then encouraged everyone to network with each other, visit the vendors at the expo and look for creative ways to introduce the procedures, process changes and products that will get their facilities to zero deaths.
This brought to my mind the proverb that asks, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The message from this proverb was similar to Hersman’s: break the goal down into manageable chunks. It’s also important to get everyone involved. As in the proverb, the more people eating an elephant, the less elephant each individual person needs to eat, and the faster the elephant will be gone.
This message isn’t new, and we all seem to know how we can go about getting there. The bigger question is why haven’t we already accomplished this? The common reasons that come to mind are: it’s too expensive, I don’t have management support and I can’t get employee buy-in. “Limitations are illusions,” Hersman told the audience. I think we all can benefit from that reminder.
For each excuse we may list, there are solutions. We just need to look for them. NSC and ASSE have a wealth of tips and info on their websites. Local safety chapter meetings can also help you meet other people who have faced and solved the same problems you’re running into.
I’ve read case studies of companies who have turned their safety program around from multiple deaths and injuries every year to zero. I note the things that they did to change their safety culture and none of them are really unique ideas. The ideas or solutions exist: these companies just put them into place.
We can all be that case study. It is possible. Not just because Hersman believes it, but because we’ll all do our part to make it so. With all of the amazing technologies and scientific accomplishments of this new century, wouldn’t it be great to add this legacy for our children?
Look for safety hazards at your facility by conducting a safety audit. Finding and eliminating hazards will help you stop workplace injuries and deaths. Not sure what hazards to look for? Start with the 2016 Top 10 OSHA Violations.