I am not a policy wonk

I coined the term ‘Safety Differently’ in 2012. It was the header of an email I sent to a motley group of company representatives—from Laing O’Rourke, Sunstate Cement, Queensland Rail, Origin Energy and others. I had newly arrived in Australia and had been approached by them to help critically examine the sense of safety ‘getting … Continue reading I am not a policy wonk

From the ‘how’ to the ‘what’ of Safety Differently — Mitchell Services Case Study

by Josh Bryant Mitchell Services, which performs drilling and other earthworks jobs for a range of different clients, has implemented ‘Safety Differently.’ At the bottom of the post is a film they submitted as part of a nomination for a safety award which introduces their approach. 1: What was the work health and safety performance issue? … Continue reading From the ‘how’ to the ‘what’ of Safety Differently — Mitchell Services Case Study

Turning Apples into Bananas: How Big Data undermines safety and what can be done about it?

An able seaman has been ‘reprimanded’ for leaving the gangway hanging out while the vessel was shifting berth. Root cause – ‘lack of awareness’; corrective action – ‘risk assessment’. A third officer has been served a warning letter for missing out on monthly checks on a fire extinguisher resulting in non-conformance during a safety audit. … Continue reading Turning Apples into Bananas: How Big Data undermines safety and what can be done about it?

Why do things go right?

In his 2014 Safety I and Safety II: The past and future of safety management, Erik Hollnagel makes the argument that we should not (just) try to stop things from going wrong. Instead, we need to understand why most things go right, and then ensure that as much as possible indeed goes right. It seems … Continue reading Why do things go right?

Oil and gas safety in a post-truth world

I spoke at the Oil and Gas Task Force Zero conference 2018 not long ago. Taking the motto of the conference, “Face the Facts,” to heart, I walked the audience through a bunch of recent data from a range of industries on the relationship between injuries/incidents and fatalities. As we have long known (and as … Continue reading Oil and gas safety in a post-truth world

Personal protective equipment: Managing safety or exercising control?

Sir’, he said in a pale voice. ‘It was 59 degrees in the engine room that afternoon and I took my helmet off. Not for too long, sir, just a few minutes. I was standing under the blower to cool my head. And then this safety officer comes to me and starts shouting. “Why are … Continue reading Personal protective equipment: Managing safety or exercising control?

The Safety Profession can be like a Priesthood

Lincoln Eldrige, who probably wouldn’t want to be called a ‘safety professional,’ suggested to me some years ago that the safety profession is like a priesthood. I have always considered this an intriguing assertion, and finally decided to dig into it a bit more. What I found was fascinating parallels between belief systems that manage … Continue reading The Safety Profession can be like a Priesthood

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 … Continue reading The varieties of human work