by | Safety |

End of Holiday Chaos – Check!

Start of New Year – Check!

After a busy holiday season and the year-end rush, I find I crave order and a clean slate with the New Year.  I find myself committed to organization, purging unnecessary items, and getting to that task that has been on my to-do list way too long.  I feel lighter and unburdened when I have a clean kitchen “junk drawer”, an organized briefcase, a tamed in-box, and tidy children’s closets.

The true obstacle lies in maintaining said drawer, briefcase, in-box and closets!  Not only does a person run out of steam when tackling tasks with the force of a bull, but when other people are responsible for the follow-up maintenance of such areas, it can lead to inconsistency, different ways of doing something, and different levels of commitment.  That, in turn, can lead to a poor outcome.  While we can all probably relate in our personal lives, this stretches into our work worlds as well.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • Your company has invested in upgraded machine guards, and everyone is buoyed by the new level of safety.  After a few months, various maintenance items have taken place and the guards have been bypassed, but not put back in place.  An employee unfortunately becomes injured thereafter.
  • Your Driver Qualification files for all Commercial Drivers are in good shape, with all appropriate paperwork and procedures followed.  The person responsible for the files and related activities must take a leave of absence.  Subsequently, several items become outdated or past due.  It’s Murphy’s Law:  The DOT chooses that moment to audit.
  • It’s been a snowy winter, and budgets are tight.  Your schedule of habitational properties relies on in-house maintenance for snow removal and general repair.  With the heavy snow loads and stretched resources, you’ve been trying to do your best.  Unfortunately, no one notices that lights have burned out near the communal dumpster, a resident does not see ice on the ground and takes a serious fall.

To help build consistent and sustainable safety efforts, something as simple as a checklist can help.

The Power of Checklists

Part of being a loss control consultant means that countless hours are spent driving so I’ve taken on to listening to audio books to pass the time.  With a busy life as employee, mother and wife, I find that I might listen to titles I might not take the time to read.  My efforts to avoid highway hypnosis have led me to some very interesting listens.  One title which was a pleasant surprise was The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.  He is a physician and was charged with reducing the infection rate at a major Boston hospital.  Spoiler Alert: He does so through the use of a checklist which is short, simple, and focused on the common roots of the problem.  Nurses or other operating room attendants had the authority to jump the pecking order and report or remind a surgeon or physician about procedure.  To many people’s surprise, it worked.  Very well.  He goes on to explore very complex situations, such as management of health epidemics, and how they boil down to use of checklists.  Believe it or not, the tone was absolutely gripping and I went on to read his other two books.

Apply Checklists To Help Keep Your Business Safe

Checklists have a multitude of applications where safety is concerned. The possibilities are endless, and the applications vary depending on your industry or specific need.  However, a few examples can include:

  • Self-inspection programs to verify that property loss hazards are minimized.
  • Pre Storm checklists to assure that a facility is as prepared as possible and critical systems are backed up.
  • Checklists to assure that Driver Qualification files are reviewed and up to date.
  • Checklists to assure that mandated safety training is on schedule and up to date.
  • Checklists to assure that certificates of insurance and/or hold harmless and indemnity agreements are maintained.

To be successful, a checklist must be manageable, meaningful, and its results must lead to corrective action.  Those responsible for the checklist must be accountable for taking it seriously and they must be empowered to bring about change.  The lists can be designed with various frequencies in mind – a daily production floor checklist vs. a monthly machine guarding checklist.

For example, I have seen commercial Vehicle Condition Reports used both abominably, and as intended.  When drivers draw a line though the checklist and sign their name day after day, you will probably note in their Carrier Safety Administration (CSA) results that they have mechanical inspection issues which were preventable.  When the driver takes his or her time, identifies problems, communicates, and the mechanic is aware of and able to attend to the problem, the CSA rates will likely be significantly better.

I encourage you to think about your business and your safety problems or vulnerabilities.  Is there a checklist system that can work for you?  You might be surprised.  Consider implementing a checklist and you may be able to not only metaphorically clean a closet, but to maintain it throughout the year!  At the very least, you may have picked up a tip for a surprisingly good read.   For additional information, please visit the Loss Control Tool Box or contact your insurance agent or Acadia Loss Control Representative.

P.S.  I know three elementary school kids who will receive customized checklists on January 2nd to try and curb the morning chaos and minimize the forgotten homework and sneakers!


Acadia is pleased to share this material with its customers.  Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services.  This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.  Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.

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