Note - The below is based on a discussion I had with Andrew Barrett on the Safety on Tap podcast, which you can listen to here.
Dialogue is one of the most powerful, and abundant sources of learning available to us as humans (especially professionals).
Technology, in particular social media, helps us get more connected, and should enable … Continue Reading ››
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 stuck,’ of a pervasive compliance culture that no longer generated much progress.
In the email to invite them to a new round of … Continue Reading ››
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 has been confirmed by Macondo, Texas City and other disasters in the industry), there is of course no meaningful relationship between … Continue Reading ››
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 anxieties and hopes even a post-secular world, and the credentialism of a new priesthood that is (self-)ordained to assuage and inspire those … Continue Reading ››
In 1960, shortly after his election, President Kennedy asked Robert McNamara to become secretary of defense in his new cabinet. McNamara, known as a star and a whiz-kid, had been president of the Ford Motor Company for all of five weeks, so it took a bit of cajoling. But he eventually joined the administration in 1961, taking with him the modernism of Ford’s production lines. A few years into his tenure, with Vietnam taking up ever more resources and … Continue Reading ››
Systems exist and function within diverse societal environments reflecting numerous societal constructs that have evolved over time in all societies. Societal constructs about justice, personal rights, behavioral norms, education, economics, governance, and others influence safety program and investigation perceptions, constructs and practices. Those societal constructs and their influences need to be incorporated by academics and practitioners into a new and broader “societal” socio-technical vision horizon for both safety programs and safety investigations if existing concerns, issues and … Continue Reading ››
Some time ago, I noticed the safety-fication of everything. I noticed that otherwise fairly ordinary words have been co-opted to give a specific safety meaning. Once I noticed this, I couldn't stop noticing it. So a few months ago, I started to log two-word safety terms (and a few three-word terms) that I encountered when reading and communicating with others. The log literally led to an A-Z of terms, which I have included below.
The terms are very different in terms of … Continue Reading ››
Once upon a time researchers found that many injuries in the home were due to kettles being left to boil dry. Analysis of the accidents, that often lead to burns and fires, revealed that there were very small instances of malfunction of the kettles or the stoves and indeed the water usually behaved appropriately too. Investigators have found that an unsafe act (leaving the kettle unsupervised) was the cause of the injuries in 88% of the cases.
The success story … Continue Reading ››
The old English nursery rhyme "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor" was adapted as title for John LeCarre's 1974 spy novel. Its main character, George Smiley, first fired, then reinstated, is the Beggar Man of the rhyme. At some point, he is involved in an operation called "Witchcraft", forcing a Soviet mole to reveal his identity. Smiley, naturally, becomes the hero.
I have often written of a hero of our engineered world, Isaac Newton. He, after all, conceived of a world of laws and determinacy, a predictable world … Continue Reading ››
Is the safety profession uniquely incapable of renewing itself? For a profession that is organized around the elimination, reduction and control of risk, innovation can be a tall order.
Innovation means taking risk. It requires a critique and a questioning of assumptions that underly our practices. Such a critique, such questioning, can be unwelcome. These are assumptions and practices, after all, that (many believe) have got us to where we are today, that keep many of us in … Continue Reading ››