Critical Conversations: Talking about Exposure

August 10, 2016 / Cooney, J. & Roark, R., Safety + Health

In a perfect world safety would be easy. Leaders would look at past incidents, identify how to avoid them and make sure everyone followed the rules. But real life is not so simple. The workplace is always changing - making it critical that employees be able to detect and respond to real-time changes in risk. Exposure response is a theme that shows up time and again in the story of catastrophic and other serious events. Still, this capability is seldom developed as a discipline in its own right. It’s not hard to understand why: Building fluency in exposure change is an iterative process. It takes field experience and time. Sustaining it also depends on a culture that supports exposure response. That’s why some organizations are turning to their leaders - especially those at the front line - to start building that competency using conversations.

Talking about exposures in any context is a good thing. But a conversation designed to build fluency takes a little more structure. One simple framework focuses discussions on what are called the “Four R’s: of exposure response:

Conversations will look different depending on your objectives and culture. Whatever your approach, your job as a leader is to help employees develop fluency in the language of exposures. Doing so, you enable them to be more proactive and effective at protecting themselves, others and the organization itself.