“Running” a Safety Program

Dec 7, 2015 | Articles

I want to draw a few parallels or similarities between running a safety program and, well, running. I’ve been a runner for a significant part of my life – since high school days, in fact, and trust me, that was a while ago! That doesn’t mean that I’m in perfect shape or that I’m extremely thin. It also doesn’t mean that there have not been setbacks (injuries).

Specifically, I want to talk about training for and running a marathon. Yes, I’ve run them and, in fact, I’m training for one now that will go off on January 3rd of next year in Jacksonville, Florida. The distance, 26.2 miles, is a long way and requires some thought before you actually undertake the training and the race itself. Here is where the word commitment comes in. Add to that the backing of your loved ones, as it is going to take you out of the house to run several days each week for various amounts of time.

 Next, you are going to have to pay attention to the method(s) you are using to get your body in shape to accomplish such a task. What kind of shoes should I get? What kind of running shorts and tops are best? How about nutrition? Should I get a coach, or trainer to learn a little more? Each person is unique; it will never be “one size fits all”. Most of us are only competing against ourselves, seeking to improve on the last time out.

Lastly, you have to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint! The training usually takes from 10 to 20 weeks and that’s if you are already a runner. While you are actually running the race, you must also remember to pace yourself; you have a long way to go. When I am asked what my favorite part of a marathon is, I always say “the finish line”!

Now, what could all this possibly have to do with safety or a safety program? The short answer is plenty. Much has been said about CSA or the SMS scores, both good and bad. Yes, I will agree that if you are a very small carrier you may seem to be unfairly targeted. However, I’ve spent almost all of my working life in the trucking industry going from the loading docks, to driving, to training and finally into safety management. I find CSA to be a great resource for safety professionals, a tool to be used to improve upon the scores those insurance companies, shippers, and enforcement personnel all view.

Remember the first thing you must realize before undertaking a marathon? It’s going to take commitment and time. Let’s say you have a couple of BASIC scores in alert status, or maybe they are just a bit too high for your liking. The executives or owners of the company want the scores lowered — understandable. My first question would be, what kind of commitment exists here? Is the support “top down”? Is there backing from the very top to get this done? Does everyone realize that it’s going to take time? If the answer to all of this is in the affirmative, let’s look at the next step.

We need to look at what the violations are and who is committing them when they are driver based, and exactly what is causing them on the maintenance side. You have a fantastic asset available to you in your drivers. Most will always want to be able to improve. Show them where the problems are and what they can do to help improve the scores.

Also keep them abreast of the progress being made; trust me, they will be interested. Maybe additional driver training will be required. Maybe additional training will be required for the safety professional. NATMI has much to offer for the safety supervisor and safety director as well as similar training on the maintenance side.

I’ll end with this; remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint! Escalating scores are not going to go down in a couple of months. In fact, it may take up to 2 years to get some of the BASICs where you would like them. A good safety program is an endurance race against the past.

With proper support and time, with proper training and commitment, you will improve your safety performance! Nothing beats the feeling of success, whether it’s crossing the finish line in a road race or seeing your company’s safety scores show marked improvement!


Steven P Norbeck CDS, CDT (retired)

About the Author


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