Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:53:40 -0400
Reply-To: List Moderator <esf**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: List Moderator <esf**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Re: Getting to Lab Employees

I thought that this was a very interesting response to a question
that appeared on another list as well as here...

- Ralph

From:       warren.pinches**At_Symbol_Here**GE.COM
Subject:     Re: [SAFETY] Getting to Lab Employees
Date:     July 19, 2005 5:00:02 PM EDT

An age-old problem, and indeed, one that I think has gotten worse
over time rather than better.  In the early days of modern
experimental science (only several generations ago) experimenters
were acutely aware of the hazards they faced, and indeed there was a
very real  tradition of scientific martyrdom -- the early
experimenters with x-rays, for example, or the early azo dye
chemists, had greatly shortened life-spans.  However, after the
Manhattan Project, the emergence of the modern synthetic organic
chemical industry that could synthesize practically anything, and the
moon landing, a certain arrogance or hubris set in -- "we have
mastered nature, and have nothing left to fear from it."  That so
much of science is conducted today using black-box instrumentation --
you put a sample in one end and a report spits out the other end --
increasingly insulates lab personnel from awareness of the forces and
materials with which they are dealing.  Industry tended to go in the
opposite direction: it started with a very fatalistic attitude
towards occupational illnesses and injuries, and a craft attitude
towards manufacturing that resisted systematization.  Today, perhaps
more as a result of quality management systems like ISO 9000 than the
efforts of the safety profession, most companies and industrial
workers take it for granted that there are written procedures for
everything, and they are (supposed to be) following them.  Even
construction workers are starting to work in a more systematic,
process-oriented way that can be exploited by safety professionals.

Another aspect of this issue is that research scientists, perversely
enough, don't necessarily see themselves as scientists.  Research is
certainly a creative process, and some researchers bridle at the
notion that anything they do can be systematized.  While Design of
Experiments and other systems have made something of an impression in
younger generations, and I have often been able to piggy-back safety
processes onto these, there is still a major element present of
"researcher-as-an-inspired-creative-artist", complete with prima
donna attitudes.  (Worse than R&D researchers in this regard are
medical doctors, if I may continue my binge of bigoted generalizations.)

Notwithstanding this, my first approach to researchers is that safety
is applied science.  (I'll admit to once pointing out to a researcher
that his Ph. D. didn't enable him to outrun an explosion.  Nature is
no respecter of diplomas.)  R&D will always resist safety
professionals if we are viewed as administrators or bureaucrats,
enforcing arbitrary rules.  Base your case on the rules being
directly derived from scientific principles -- flammability,
ventilation of airborne concentrations, mechanical forces, phase
changes, etc.  Be prepared to quantify everything.  Invite them to
help you quantify things.  Many scientists find Failure Mode and
Effects Analysis to be fun.

Science is a collegial pursuit, and is deeply rooted in consensus.
Doing safety with scientists is like doing business with the Japanese
-- if you run roughshod over their cultural traditions, you will find
yourself ignored (at best).  A direct assault rarely works.
Scientists are much more receptive to consensus standards such as
ANSI, ASME, NFPA, CGA, etc. than to "regulations" like OSHA.  Try
never to justify an action by saying "the regulations say so."
Rummage through your thesaurus for synonyms for "compliance."
Indeed, you can find many consensus standards among the various
standards organizations specifically designed for laboratories by
laboratory scientists.  My best results with lab personnel is to have
them take ownership of safety themselves -- a lab safety/chemical
hygiene committee, with a venerable chairperson, and me as their
technical consultant.

Key to this approach is to adopt what DuPont's safety system calls a
"questioning attitude".  Rather than saying "you're wrong -- you
moron", try "I notice you are doing ----.  What would happen if
-----?"  It's not inconceivable that they actually do know what they
are doing, and you might learn something from them (and save face if
you discover you are wrong).  If you do jointly identify a problem,
invite them to solve them problem with you -- your knowledge of
safety combined with their knowledge of the process.

To be a safety professional is to be a scientist yourself.  Work from
your common ground.

Warren C. Pinches, CSP, CHMM, CET
Purely personal, probably misguided, and possibly deranged opinions.

-----Original Message-----
From: SAFETY [mailto:SAFETY**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU]On Behalf Of Bernie Gable
Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2005 2:48 PM
To: SAFETY**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: [SAFETY] Getting to Lab Employees

Hello - Many of us know that sometimes getting Lab folks to follow
rules can be a challenge. I've heard "I'm a scientist - I know what
not to do"
and "Those rules don't apply to me". Other than disciplinary
procedures, does
anyone have any suggestions for talking to lab personnel in their own
to get them to comply? All advice welcome! - Bernie

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