Humans – The strongest link

file000155942936The typical focus in safety is that the human being is our weakest link in safety. But they are indeed the strongest: naturally equipped to deal with risks dynamically, and with incredible risk skills... We just need to unleash that capability... The traditional focus on the human, in the context of safety, is that the human being is the weak link, the hazard, the ‘error maker’. A safety conference where the human being is not pointed out as the key … Continue Reading ››

Need(le) for change

file9851348465775In my spare time I like to make things.  I mostly sew clothes, bags and toys using secondhand fabrics.  I find inspiration from old tablecloths, vintage sheets, dresses no longer worn.  I also find inspiration from the work of others and I mostly do this through Facebook.  There is something that I have noticed about the craft community.  It is a community that consists of mostly generous people who are willing to support each other and willing to share.  It is also … Continue Reading ››

Step toward collaboration

DSC_0390_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFileLast year I attended a safety conference. The content was traditional: a heart wrenching accident story, a government representative showing statistics and explaining accident reduction goals, legal experts clarifying the latest regulatory advancements, and a corporate achiever informing about their program to get the workforce to comply. Celebrating this managerial top-down approach, there were moral undertones and an air of scientific precision. The problem was ‘out there’. Clearly. It was possible to measure it, and to manage it by … Continue Reading ››

You can have your cake and eat it

file0001645959371Safety is Our Number One Priority! Do they think we are stupid or what? Such a company slogan is one of the most illogical and naively transparent statements to make. If not hurting people in the workplace really was the number one priority the company would shut down and voluntarily go into liquidation – and then we would starve to death. As a former construction manager now turned academic my cynicism is founded on experience. What the … Continue Reading ››

Two sides to every control

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been reading a thought-provoking book, Adapt (Why success always starts with failure) by Tim Harford.  While it isn't a book on safety there is much to learn from Tim.  He argues that today's challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinion.  The world has become far too unpredictable, and profoundly complex.  Tim argues that instead we must learn to adapt. He uses many real life events, strategies and organisations to illustrate his … Continue Reading ››

Don’t walk the talk

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASafety does not exist. At least not in itself. There are no ‘from above’ given signs that inform us what safety is, how it works, where the boundaries are or will be, or how safety should optimally be understood. Whatever ‘safety’ is, it must be a human construction - a social convention on how to see and talk about certain aspects of reality. This is not to deny the often tragic reality of ‘accidents’, … Continue Reading ››

Safety without borders

file000926134998Communication has become a catch cry for both the safety profession and regulators, yet it seems that significant barriers exist from multiple stakeholders to prevent or discourage real communication. Professor Sidney Dekker challenged us with his writings on “Just Culture”, to build organisational practices that encourage and foster open communication both for success and failure, that foster broad and honest information exchanges. The computer industry has been a leader in building active participation in information sharing, most prominently … Continue Reading ››

Overcoming Cowered Dog Syndrome

file0001874622666We have all heard the old adage "spare the rod and spoil the child". Well here is a new one: "use the rod and cower the dog". You do not train or teach a dog new tricks by punishment, you do it with loads of affection and reward. Fear of punishment cowers a dog in the same way as fear of punishment creates covert OHS culture. A dog is reacting to a negative action from its owner … Continue Reading ››

What happened to creativity?

file7491250647364The other day I was fortunate to come across a quote by Sir Ken Robinson. "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original". Even better, there was a link to his talk Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. His contention is that creativity is now as important in education of children as literacy and that it should be treated with the same status. Listening to his talk I was struck by how … Continue Reading ››

Iron fist in velvet glove

file0001768912771Many companies and consultants selling Occupational Health and Safety systems and culture believe in what they call "the iron fist in the velvet glove" approach to safety. The "iron fist" is based on the premise of four strikes and you're out. Four safety indiscretions and the punishment is dismissal. After the first offence a commitment is gained from the employee not to digress again in the future. Catch the person again and a written warning is issued. … Continue Reading ››

Innovative and critical safety thinking