Reach out and Find Ways to Flourish in Times of Crisis

Lisa Robinson

I was inspired listening to Brian Fielkow as he spoke about transportation safety during the COVID-19 era in a webinar that I had the pleasure to moderate. Fielkow, CEO of Houston-based Jetco Delivery and executive vice president of Montreal-based The GTI Group, emphasized safety is leader-driven and employee-owned, both in normal times and in times of crisis.

I took many notes. I want to share some of my key takeaways with you today in hopes that you will expand your own thoughts and horizons during these difficult times:

  • Safety does not care if the skies are blue or if we are in a time of crisis. This point will guide me going forward. I will make an increased effort to stress there are no “do-overs” and underscore the importance of planting the safety seed right out of the gate. This will provide you an opportunity to sit in the shade down the road.
  • Safety leaders should focus one eye on the crisis and the other on the future. Developing a forward-thinking plan is essential as you look to come out the other end of a crisis situation standing tall.
  • Safety is not a priority, it is a non-negotiable core value. Priorities change. Values do not. COVID-19 has altered our lives and shifted our priorities, not our values.
  • Safety leaders must be flexible and nimble in this environment, which is to say, they must be quick and light in movement so they can adjust to changing workplace dynamics and safety concerns.
  • Lead communications with a commitment to safety, a voice that rings from the heart and demonstrates qualities such as compassion and empathy. We are all now the CEO – Chief Empathy Officer.
  • You may be compliant, but are you safe? It may be legal in certain cases to exceed hours of service limits. That does not make it safe. Managing fatigue is more important now than ever because more than 40% of workers are sleep-deprived in normal times.
  • Fatigue doesn’t care what the circumstances are, and its effects can be far-reaching. Fatigue can have an adverse impact on all aspects of our lives. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to reach peak performance levels.
  • Put safety on a pedestal above compliance. Compliance is a great benchmark, but you can do better by working to ensure that safety and security top your list of priorities.
  • Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages. Listen to team members. Pause and repeat back what you have heard for understanding.
  • Include front-line employees in your decisions. Establishing a guiding coalition builds alignment and makes everyone part of the safety solution.
  • Adjust your style and adjust your plans according to developments. Some plans will have to be put on hold. Avoid “paralysis by analysis” and execute with the best available information.
  • Practice psychology when necessary. Approach employees as if they are distracted during times of crisis. Allow more frequent timeouts so they can check in with friends and loved ones at home. Allow employees to be in control, when possible, of decisions that impact their health and well-being.

Fielkow is an author, public speaker, leader and role model for all of us working in safety circles. I encourage you to watch the recording of our webinar: Transportation Safety: Your Playbook During the COVID-19 Era. I hope you pick up ideas to build on your safety culture.

– Lisa Robinson is a senior program manager with the National Safety Council