Why focus on conditions?

We have long struggled with trying to capture the facts associated with an accident in order to prevent the next one. This has been largely effective when applied to machines. In mechanical systems things are measurable, observable and more objective. The information we get from people is always subjective. There are always issues of memory, shame, fear and politics that influence the ever-changing stories we tell. If you think about it, you have probably altered a story to … Continue Reading ››

Making it Safe: The Importance of Psychological Safety

Editor’s Note – Following a post from Gary Wong’s post on Should We Do a Safety Audit or Do Safety Differently, Tim Austin commented in the Safety Differently LinkedIn group about the important role of psychological safety in making such a different auditing approach successful. So we asked Tim to share his thoughts on what psychological safety is and how to create it in an organization. Enjoy!

A worker in a high pressure manufacturing plant notices … Continue Reading ››

The varieties of human work

Understanding and improving human work is relevant to most people in the world, and a number of professions are dedicated to improving human work (e.g. human factors/ergonomics, quality management, industrial/work/organizational psychology; management science). The trouble with many of these professions is that the language and methods mystify rather than demystify. Work becomes something incomprehensible and hard to think about and improve by those who actually design and do the work.  Recently, some notions that help to demystify work have gained popular acceptance. One of these … Continue Reading ››

Stop doing, start being

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A little while ago, I participated in a workshop for CEOs discussing health and safety matters. We did the usual workshop thing of breaking into table discussions and feeding back to the group in time-honoured fashion. It is relatively rare to bring together such a large group of influencers, so I was looking forward to the output and the opportunity it could give to drive wholesale improvements across a number of businesses and … Continue Reading ››

Bad Seamanship: Is that so?

pexels-photo-largePicture the scene: The car carrier Hoegh Osaka has just departed from the port of Southampton, at which point the master calls up the mate and says that the ship did “not feel right”, to which the mate in charge at the loading computer replies “I am working on it”. Soon afterwards the vessel runs aground and eventually capsizes, leading to a catastrophic accident off the port approaches. The investigation into the case finds that the vessel was … Continue Reading ››

Should we do a safety audit or do safety differently?

This is a continuation of Daniel Hummerdal's 2016 April 06 "Safety Audits Differently" posting. Universe made of stories Imagine you work in a company with a good safety record. By "good",  you are in the upper quartile as per the benchmarking stats in your industry.  Things were rolling along nicely until this past year. There was a steep increase in failures which has led to concerns over the safety culture. Historically there have 2 safety-related events but last year there … Continue Reading ››

From deficits to possibilities

reflectionThere is something disturbingly negative about safety. And I believe there are three main reasons for this. The first reason is that safety is connected to unwanted outcomes. When most people think about safety they think about (the need to prevent) incidents, illnesses, injuries, disasters, breakdowns, losses, damage and other negatives. So, when we talk about safety, which is something we desire, we bring up the things that we don’t want to happen. Second, … Continue Reading ››

Light bulbs, red lines and rotten onions

switchesIn January 2015, the pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Hoegh Osaka developed a severe list on departing from Southampton, and was left stranded outside the port for more than 19 days. The official investigation revealed how decision making became the victim of production pressures. The vessel sailed from port without determining accurately the stability conditions upon completion of cargo. It was a routine practice to leave this task to be … Continue Reading ››

The case for small data

smallbigIt is reasonable for management to want evidence of a problem before they put resources into fixing it, and we would like to be evidence driven ourselves. All too often, though, we assume that having good data means having more data. We live in the time of Big data where the value of some companies is measured in terms of the size of the data set they hold. Our phones collect and report our habits, … Continue Reading ››

There’s no IP in safety – Yet…

14678529062951616575918For years the safety profession has espoused that there is no intellectual property in safety. This was seen a positive side-effect of the black and white ethical stance of the zero harm movement.  It has also been the most over-used excuse by safety professionals for adopting their previous employer’s methods in their next organisation, along with ‘why re-invent the wheel?’ and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.   As safety professionals move through our relatively small industry, … Continue Reading ››

Innovative and critical safety thinking

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