Instead of warnings

The kind and caring people of Starbucks don’t want me to scald myself with their coffee. So they have printed a warning on the lids of their take-away cups. CAUTION CONTENTS HOT. Apart from insulting their customers, this message is not very effective. It does not provide people with any clues about what is appropriate behaviour, apart from perhaps waiting, or to take the first sip cautiously. The warning probably protects Starbucks more than their clients. Traditional … Continue Reading ››

Cute but disempowering

Using cute animations and a catchy tune, Melbourne-based Metro Trains recently launched a public safety announcement. The video ‘Dumb ways to die’ immediately went viral on social media, breaking a long tradition of horrible safety videos showing people falling, heads cracked open, kids getting hit by cars, and so on. The fresh take aside, the message is not new. In fact, it conveys a very traditional message: that the system is safe, but sometimes gets … Continue Reading ››

From constraints to facilitation

 “Safety is boring. And it does my head in!” From the very start I could tell that my meeting with a top level manager of an Australian hospital was going to be interesting. “Don’t get me wrong! We have serious safety issues here. We occasionally do wrong side surgery. We chop off the wrong leg and we give out the wrong medicine. We have people falling out of bed at night, we mix up patients, there are depressed … Continue Reading ››

Misguided hazard hunts

Handstands, cartwheels, somersaults, and running on bitumen have recently been banned in a number of Australian schools. Obviously, this is done not because schools fear litigation should something go wrong, but because ‘they care about the kids’ safety’... Also, some schools now have risk registers for all their activities. Painting is apparently a “medium risk”, for which teachers should consider having the consent of primary caregivers. Reading about this made me think of when … Continue Reading ››

Instead of top down safety

Roads once belonged to pedestrians. The space was used for markets, cattle, horse wagons, dancing, or meetings. Perhaps modern days’ block parties, with their restricted traffic, give a taste of what roads once were in terms of a place for people. Then came the cars. At first they were slow, but nevertheless exciting and they quickly became fashionable. However, it was not long before the first collisions occurred between cars and pedestrians. The need for road safety … Continue Reading ››

Innovative and critical safety thinking