Performance Safety is Performance for Life

Nov. 24, 2003
Author and safety professional Randy DeVaul hopes his new book, Performance Safety: A Practical Approach, will help front-line supervisors and managers integrate safe performance into production processes, procedures and employee practices.

DeVaul, a contributor to, uses real-world illustrations and solutions to real-world safety challenges at work that not only help a company improve its bottom line, but to also help individuals protect their quality of life at work and at home.

"For too long, safety and production have traditionally been at odds," says DeVaul. "The safety guy wants it done a certain way because OSHA/MSHA says so. The production guy wants it done a certain way because that's the way they have always done it and what does the safety guy know about production, anyway?"

So what many employers end up with "is a conflict rather than a complement," he adds. "Safety becomes a priority that can be removed when the circumstances change, placing employees and production at risk."

What needs to happen, says DeVaul is for safety to become a corporate value. "It becomes an ingredient in the pie for company success rather than viewed as a removable piece. If you want an apple pie, you have to make an apple pie. You can't scrimp and you can't substitute or you don't have an apple pie. If you want a successful company, you need all the ingredients. We all know that safety has to be one of those ingredients."

To eliminate the production/safety conflict, safety professionals need to learn more about the production process so she or he can address real-world solutions to fix the root-cause problem, not the symptom. "This requires a look at the processes (what is going on), the procedures (how it is supposed to be done), and the employee practices (how it is actually being done) to ensure all hazards - upline and downline - are identified and able to be resolved," DeVaul says.

He cites this example from his own experience: an employee has exposure to excessive noise and dust while attempting to clear jams in a transfer box at the bottom of a surge tunnel. The employee uses a sledge hammer to beat the side of the box to break up the jam, so there is employee exposure as well as equipment exposure.

"Rather than fixing the symptom (give him dual hearing protection, dust mask, etc), I asked a couple questions," DeVaul remembers. "First, is not the transfer box designed/engineered for a certain size product? The answer was yes. Has the transfer box been jamming regularly? The answer was no, only over the last couple weeks. Has the product size changed to cause such a jam? The answer was yes; we opened up the crusher to run more tons through."

At that point, DeVaul realized he had a root cause. If the crusher was closed to produce the size of product designed for the transfer box, then optimum tonnage would be increased, the excessive downtime to clear the jams throughout the shift would be stopped, total tons produced at the end of the shift would be increased, and employee exposure would be eliminated entirely.

"Had we not discussed the production process, we would not have found a real solution," says DeVaul. "I was not telling an experienced manager how to do his job, but I was able to help illuminate the problem at the source by getting into the production process."

DeVaul cites another example: At a new construction area of a processing plant, the company for which he worked identified that there was still a significant fall risk to an employee having to change-out equipment once this area of the plant came on-line. Standing in the area, a "team" meeting was held with engineering, the plant/production manager, safety (DeVaul), the construction crew leader and the employee that would ultimately be performing the task.

"We started with a $15,000 engineering fix to the problem but realized it would not hold up due to the operating conditions. We ended up with a $200 solution that the employee could do unassisted which also eliminated the fall hazard entirely."

This all happened within a 20-minutes meeting with all the company departments affected at the problem location. "Had we not discussed the production process and the task requirements, we may not have fixed the problem at all or designed a very costly but temporary fix that would require additional maintenance and upkeep as well as the machines," DeVaul points out.

He recommends safety managers read Performance Safety: A Practical Approach if they:

  • Are responsible for employee performance
  • Need ideas to lower their injuries and workers' compensation costs
  • Are "raising the bar" of expectations for employees
  • Have seen increases in the number of injuries or have reached a plateau in safety
  • Need a simplified, easy-to-use process to enhance safe performance

Performance Safety: A Practical Approach, which is published by Publish America Publishers, can be ordered for $16.95 plus shipping and handling. The book is available at the publisher's Web site ( and DeVaul's Web site (

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