What Employers Should Learn From Tracy Morgan’s Crash

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Drowsy drivers are a major danger on the road. More than 100,000 motor vehicle crashes each year are a result of drowsy driving, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates. Additionally, studies from the National Sleep Foundation indicate that drowsiness has a number of physical side effects that can impair driving, including tunnel vision, shortened attention span and reduced reaction times. Drowsy drivers can't process information as quickly or accurately as an alert one. This makes it much more difficult for a drowsy driver to become aware of a potential accident and react to it. 

Unfortunately, Kevin Roper, Tracy Morgan, James McNair, their friends and families, among others learned (or were reminded of) this the hard way.

This horrible accident not only brought to light an important discussion about federal trucking guidelines – but should prompt every executive to ask "Could something like this have happened in my company?" Since no business is immune to safety-related incidents, employers should make every effort to prevent them. The best way to do so is empower employees to make the right decisions – especially when no one is looking.

Employers should learn from Tracy Morgan's crash that every business faces safety risks and one of managers' most important responsibilities is to create an environment and a culture that minimize them. Here are a few suggestions on how to effectively accomplish this:

Focus on individual and organizational accountability. In discussions about the Tracy Morgan accident, debate will rage over whether a negligent employee is at fault or if a defect existed in Walmart's processes or management.

It is really easy to blame a frontline employee or a supervisor for an accident. What happened? What malfunctioned? Who was associated with the failure? And yes – employees should (and need to be) held accountable for their actions.

But the organization as a whole should also be scrutinized. Was there a lack of communication or training about operating procedures? Was there faulty or non-existent auditing of systems? Was there a lack of sharing institutional knowledge (so that a mistake is repeated) or even worse - a devaluing of a preventative culture?

Safety should be a core value – not a priority. Priorities are managed daily and frequently change; values define an organization, drive decisions and should never change.

Leaders who truly want to prevent deadly disasters must actively engage in promoting a culture of prevention. Safety – and safe behaviors – must be non-negotiable values and managers must live, breathe, and communicate these values.
In a safety culture, a fatigued driver is empowered to stop the vehicle and rest – even if he had hours remaining in the workday.

Behavior before handbooks. The answer to safety questions can't always be found in a handbook. And let's be honest – how many of us have actually taken the time to read and absorb what is stated in our company's handbook?

Real training and development occurs when teams work together and hold one another accountable for individual actions. Encourage employees to lock their cellphones in the glove compartment so they are not tempted to text or email when driving. Desired behaviors should be promoted and enforced.

When talking to employees about a critical safety issue, managers must make the message very personal and hit people in the heart. If you are going to speak to your team about the Tracy Morgan accident, ask them "What if this had been one of us?" "Do any of you want to carry this burden?

It is important to not only promote a culture of safety in your company – you need to strongly encourage your employees to hold each other accountable and to empower them with the ability to make wise safety-related decisions.

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Guest May 24 2017
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