Cube Safety Metrics: A True Story About a Work Trip to JSC

written by David Mixson

During a work trip to another NASA center, I asked the group I was eating lunch with to describe their center’s safety culture.

The most senior manager at the table spoke up immediately—shaking his head in disgust.

“It’s ridiculous. We’re told to focus on slips, trips, and falls because very few of us do anything more dangerous.”

Another person at the table turned to Bob and said:

“Bob, tell David what happened to you.”

Bob finished what he was eating and then proceeded to tell me a story of an event that happened to him a couple of years ago when he worked for a contractor.

“On the way to a meeting one morning, I broke my ankle stepping off a curb.”

Bob looked down at his food and sighed in disbelief as he continued. 

“A senior manager for the company I worked for called me later that afternoon and told me that I needed to come into work the next day for at least one hour so it wouldn’t count against the company’s safety metrics. 

“From his tone, I didn’t feel like I had a choice—so I loaded up on pain meds and hobbled into work for one hour the next day.

“While I was at work, my boss thanked me and told me I could take off for as long as I needed to since I came in for one hour.”

I don’t blame companies for playing within the rules NASA has established. I blame NASA for making cube safety statistics an evaluation factor for winning million-dollar contracts.

Having served on two Source Evaluation Boards (SEBs), I can tell you this. If you want to punish the company you work for (for whatever reason), twist an ankle at work and be out for a couple of weeks. They’ll have a harder time winning future NASA contracts.

And that’s not right.

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About the Author

David Mixson writes about Old Space and New Space. He worked as an engineer at NASA for more than thirty years and is the author of three books.

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