That Magic Five-Point Program, Part 1

By Art Fettig

In his novel, Alaska, James Michener credits the British naval explorer Captain James Cook as being not just a discoverer of new lands but of new health and safety practices. According to Michener, Captain Cook created a five-point safety program for sailors that revolutionized the state of medical care aboard ships of the Royal Navy. Cook's greatest accomplishment was the elimination of the dreaded scurvy contagion that caused the death of so many sailors. Wouldn't it be great if all safety programs were as effective as Cook's?

Captain Cook's Five-Point Safety Program

Captain James Cook: South Seas explorer who eliminated scurvy aboard his ships. When Captain Cook took command of a ship, he carefully explained to the crew of 400 that almost half of them could expect to die on a two-year voyage. If they had really rough weather, then the death toll estimate would rise to almost two-thirds.

Cook then offered a safety program consisting of five measures that sailors could take to improve hygiene and health and save lives. Cook ordered his sailors to:

Keep their quarters clean. Keep their clothing dry - despite the high waves and heavy rain. Get plenty of sleep and rest. Here, Cook introduced the 8-hour shift. Eight hours on and 16 hours off was an idea that was easy to sell to the crew. Take their daily portion of Wort, a blend of sauerkraut and yeast. Take their daily portion of Rob, a juice mixture of lime, lemon, orange and other citrus fruits.

Likely motivated by the dire statistics and knowing that fewer hands on deck meant more work for the survivors, Cook's crew followed this program faithfully. And, with a healthy crew of Rob-drinking British sailors (who became known as "Limeys" after the principal ingredient in the mixture), Captain Cook was able to explore far-off lands with minimal disease and loss of life to his crew.

Today's Five-Point Safety Programs

For years, safety professionals have worked to develop HS&E programs that might emulate the success of Captain Cook. Today's programs usually address:

Ergonomics (which worked its way into both Education and Equipment.)
But with all of the strides made in engineering and safety equipment, and with fantastic training programs and the often-rigid enforcement of safety rules, there are still injuries.

The Buddy System
What's missing from today's safety program is a unified commitment to safety. I've been observing on-the-job behavior for over five decades and I've found that often, following a serious injury, some witness will say, "I just knew he was going to do that." When asked why they didn't try to prevent the incident, the co-worker generally replies, "Oh, you just can't tell him anything."

As far back as the late 1970s we talked about becoming our Brothers' and Sisters' Keepers and looking out for one another's safety. This was nothing new, of course. GIs have been looking out for each other for a long time. In combat the buddy system is necessary just to stay alive. And it's just as necessary in the workplace. You can bet that Captain Cook's crewmates were encouraging each other to follow the five points.

To achieve the same results as Captain Cook, you need the entire workforce to commit to safety. Next week, I'll share with you my approach to doing that.

A Brief History of Coal Mining in West Virginia

The Monongah Coal Mine Disaster of 1907.
In 1742, when John Peter Salley first discovered coal in the area now known as West Virginia, he unearthed a love-hate relationship that would span centuries. For with the blessing of an abundance of coal came the curse of mining disasters.

Historically, a "mining disaster" refers to an incident that claims five or more lives. Since 1886, West Virginia has had approximately 100 mining disasters, including the explosion at Monongah, the worst mining disaster in American history. On December 6, 1907, 380 men and boys began their shift; 362 of them were killed in the underground explosion.

It was the Monongah disaster - which occurred in a year that saw 18 coal mine disasters - that led to the creation of the Bureau of Mines.

While improvements in mining safety have dramatically reduced the number of mining disasters, sadly - as evidenced by the recent incident in Tallmansville, West Virginia - they have not yet been relegated to the history books.

Number of Documented US Coal Mining Disasters (5 or more deaths)
Pre-1875 19
1880-1900 101
1901-1925 305
1926-1950 147
1951-1975 35
1976-present 13

Source: US Mine Rescue Association

Author Biography - Art Fettig

Motivational Humorist Art Fettig is known as America's #1 Safety Commitment Catalyst. He has produced signed personal commitments to safety and to positive interaction from tens of thousands of employees in major corporations throughout the U.S. and Canada. "I get everyone in your organization on your safety team." Fettig admits.

In 2002 the National Safety Council presented Art their highest award to an individual, The Distinguished Service to Safety Award, for his contribution to the Safety Field.

Born in Michigan, Art began working in the safety field with the Grand Trunk Western Railroad where he spent many years as a Claim Agent investigating tragic accidents and employee injuries. "We were the worst in the nation in safety." Following years of struggle, Art finally convinced a railroad president that together they could create a change in attitudes and behavior. In the ten years that Art worked directly with the company president, their railroad went from one of the worst to one of the safest railroads in America, three times winning the Harriman Award.

Fettig has taken his message of commitment worldwide keynoting conferences and working directly with employees with major clients in the power, petrol, natural gas, construction, railroad, telephone and many other fields, from Kalamazoo to Kuala Lumpur, from the Florida Keys on up north to Prudhoe Bay and from the islands of Hawaii to the jungles of Mexico.

Art is the veteran of over 4,000 live presentations worldwide and in 1980 was designated a Certified Speaking Professional by the National Speakers Association.

The founder and president of Growth Unlimited Inc. a 27-year-old corporation committed to improving employee attitudes and behaviour Art is also the author of over 50 books and booklets including Winning the Safety Commitment and his booklet titled You Do WHAT While You Drive?

Now residing in North Carolina, Art provides keynote safety presentations for associations and major corporations.

Art Fettig can be reached at 1.800.441.7676 or 919.732-6994, his e-mail address is artfettig@aol.com and he offers a free weekly newsletter and information at his website www.artfettig.com/.