Is your workforce ready? How well are you set up to succeed in this year's Shutdown?

Mark Walker - DEKRA
Mark Walker, Vice President, DEKRA Organisational Reliability

As we move into the time of year where many organizations will be conducting shutdowns, TAR's or outages for planned and essential maintenance work to be performed, the scopes of work to be delivered during that time mean that it is critical that both workforce and leaders are not just capable but also motivated to engage with the safe delivery of the project. A motivated workforce is more likely to care for one another, for the systems and processes as well as the plant and equipment, all of which are critical for the project to be delivered safely and on time.

From our experience collaborating with clients on shutdowns, it has shown us that delivering motivational and engaging workshops during the inductions process, followed by so called 'boots on the ground' project support in the form of behavioral coaches, can help to positively shape the mindset of the workforce whilst assisting them to understand;

  • What the rules are in this project?
  • Which behaviors are deemed acceptable or unacceptable?
  • What is expected of me by my line manager, the client, my co-workers and myself?
  • What part do I play in delivering this project safely, to plan and on time?

Running motivational workshops as part of the induction process on these types of projects can have a considerable positive impact to the safe delivery of the project, and to levels of engagement during the project. We found the type of content that has been the most effective is derived from sports psychology and gives delegates the opportunity to create their own vision of delivering a successful project. Athletes use it to visualize crossing the line first and break down their behaviors and the process the must go through to be successful in doing so.

Although it is vital to motivate a workforce, if the crucial behaviors that have been offered during the induction process (to be safe, follow the rules, intervene, stop the job, etc.) are not being embedded, then accidents are still likely to happen. By having a behavioral coach onsite who spends the majority of their time as ‘boots on the ground’ or the equivalent of around 80% of their day at worksites, those behaviors have a much greater chance to get embedded and lived by.

A behavioral coach onsite can assist the workforce to engage in the right conversations, make observations and interventions when unacceptable behavior is demonstrated, recognize excellence where exceptional behavior is exhibited, keep the workforce and leaders motivated as well as challenge them if they do not do what they all ‘signed up to’ at the induction. By taking this approach, workers begin to understand that they are part of the solution and not the problem and are then more likely to become engaged with the project. This can have a positive effect on safety as well as the quality and productivity of the overall project. An engaged workforce can lead to more creativity and discretionary effort by the whole workforce.

Another important aspect of being more successful in embedding safety on a project is to have agreed and planned time outs, similar to a time out in sport, where the workforce and leaders can be re-motivated to keep the focus on what is important and what leaders and the workforce have agreed to at the start. These can be anything from 20 minutes bite sized sessions, agreed at the beginning of the project, or bespoke sessions based on the performance of the project. Having planned meetings means leaders and the workforce can be proactive and share their experiences as to what has worked well so far, as well as the usual near misses, incidents etc. In some sports a time out is used to bring the team together and celebrate a touchdown or a goal that has just been scored. The sports coach will ask the team to consider their behaviors that have just led to this success, then to go back out and mimic these behaviors to score again. Many shutdown environments choose to use this approach as it will keep people focused on caring for themselves, each other and the systems and processes that are in place in order to achieve a successful shutdown.

With the ‘shutdown season’ starting soon, organizations will be busy planning to execute this work. Many organizations will have their health and safety approach planned out already or use a similar one to what has been done in the past. However, one has to ask oneself, have those approaches been really effective in the past? Are we really engaging our leaders and workforce to get the best out of them during this important time?

Share page