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From Paul Golan: Accident Reporting

It has been a year since I came to SLAC as the Stanford Site Office manager and it has been an amazing year for the laboratory. I would like borrow Persis’s weekly column to provide feedback on what I have seen regarding safety at SLAC. First, congratulations to the Linac Coherent Light Source team; over the last 145 days, they have had only one reportable injury despite a massive amount of work completed—including the pouring of 5000 yards of concrete, energization of high voltage switch gear, and testing of many newly installed utility systems. My challenge to the LCLS team is to complete construction without another accident or injury.

At last October’s Safety and Security briefing, I challenged each of you to work the entire year without an injury. The good news is most of you met that challenge; with less than a month to go in the fiscal year, we have had twenty-one reportable injuries, which is one-third fewer than we saw at this time in FY07. That means more than 1400 of you had no injuries. I am seeing a greater awareness of hazards. I am seeing more managers in the field on a routine basis. I am seeing more people looking after their co-workers. In short I am seeing a lot of good, reinforcing behaviors. Thank you for making it a safer year and keep up the good work… we can continue to do better!

A recent focus of both the Site Office and lab management has been the reporting of injuries. It would be a dangerous trend at the lab to get into the habit of under-reporting or not reporting accidents, injuries or incidents.

I still remember the first time I had to report an injury. I had to tell my manager that one of my employees was hurt. I vividly remember how uncomfortable I felt; I wished that I was the one that got hurt, not my employee. While I knew I needed to call my manager, I felt I would be interrupting something very important with my call… that I would be asked more questions than I could possibly answer. And the thought came into my head, maybe I should just not make the call. Who would ever find out? My level of discomfort almost reached the level of being afraid to make the call. Does this sound familiar?

To make a long story short, I made that call and told my manager what happened. I can’t remember most of what happened in that call, but I do distinctly remember how the call ended; my manager told me in a very sincere voice, "Thank you, Paul, good work." I never again was afraid to make that call. When I started managing larger organizations, I would always lead a discussion on the importance and the expectation of reporting. I also make it a point—no matter how bad the news may be or what time of the night I receive a call—to always tell the person on the other end of the line "thank you, good work."

The moral of this story is: please report incidents, accidents, recommendations, etc., no matter how small or how embarrassing, to your manager. And managers, please make sure the people who work for you, those for whom you are responsible, feel that they have a safe work environment and are empowered to commit to an accident- and injury-free workplace. All employees must feel free to make suggestions or raise concerns without fear of retribution or attribution. If you are in doubt, please remember that over-reporting is better than under-reporting.

While accidents and incidents are not a good thing, understanding what caused them and taking preventive action is; it’s called learning from our mistakes. The only way that we as a lab can learn is by sharing a very powerful tool—knowledge. It’s only with shared knowledge that we can achieve our collective goal of an accident- and injury-free workplace

—Paul Golan
SLAC Today, September 5, 2008