Tag Archives: critical

The original hearts and minds campaign, and the dereliction of behavior-based safety

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 ››

Thinking differently about safety investigations

file000704919536Systems 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 ››

The safety-fication of everything

3431203874_d0ec158204_zSome 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 ››

A kitchen safety fable

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREOnce 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 ››

Tinker, Taylor…

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 ››

Can safety renew itself?

Immanuel_Kant_3Is 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 ››

History of Health and Safety

Reading booksDo we really understand where we are in health and safety? There is a not so famous Churchillian quote that “A nation that does not understand its history has no future”. Winston Churchill was first and foremost a consummate historian. He used his knowledge of the trend of events in the past to predict future events. He wasn’t perfect at it and he got some things wrong (Gallipoli, the independence of India and the UK’s National Health Service) but … Continue Reading ››

The blue pill or the red pill

matrixWhen the movie 'The Matrix' was released in 1999 I was blown away by not only the plot, but also the visual effects. I associated with the film, its story, and ultimately – that there is no spoon. I’m sure that I’m not the only one that associates their beliefs with other films. I’m sure there are plenty of people that love the Da Vinci Code for example – those films that seem to challenge … Continue Reading ››

What about idiots?

file0001612800212[1]In early 2013 a group of Australian miners choreographed and performed their rendition of the ‘Harlem Shake’, a music video that has stimulated 100s of similar dances to be uploaded to YouTube. Deep underground, the miners dressed down some of their PPE and free styled in front of the camera. When Barminco, the operator of the mine, learned about the dance venture, they sent a dismissal letter to 15 workers involved in the making of the video. … Continue Reading ››

Lessons from the UK’s Peak District

file000767648536Question – What have limestone quarries in the UK’s Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and Health & Safety got in common? Answer – Apart from silicosis (which has now been addressed by wet cutting techniques), they have absolutely nothing in common. One produces a range of tough resilient building materials generically referred to as ‘aggregates’; the other produces a bland compliant uniform and weak structure. But before reaching fingers to keyboard in protest at such an outlandish comparison, please take time … Continue Reading ››