Tag Archives: disempowering

From deficits to possibilities

reflectionThere is something disturbingly negative about safety. And I believe there are three main reasons for this. The first reason is that safety is connected to unwanted outcomes. When most people think about safety they think about (the need to prevent) incidents, illnesses, injuries, disasters, breakdowns, losses, damage and other negatives. So, when we talk about safety, which is something we desire, we bring up the things that we don’t want to happen. Second, … Continue Reading ››

The Way We Think About Work Is Broken

broken-bridgeEvery day the bulk of the human population wakes up and spends a large portion of their waking hours going to work. Some of us are privileged to do work that we want to do, that provides meaning to us. As psychologist Barry Schwartz points out, not everyone is so lucky. In a fairly recent TED talk and subsequent book he offers a blistering critique of how we think about work, particularly in capitalistic societies. … Continue Reading ››

Resilience and the Pembroke refinery explosion

Chevron_pembroke_refPembroke Refinery is an oil processing facility on the Milford Haven Waterway, in Wales. It was the site of a multiple-fatality explosion in 2011, and the grounding of the Sea Empress in 1996, releasing a major oil spill into Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Prior to both of these events, Pembroke Refinery made national headlines with another explosion and fire, fortunately non-fatal. Early on the morning of 24th July, 1994, there was a dry electrical storm raging above the … Continue Reading ››

Causalism, and the will to power

file000601579788The discussion was about pre-start meetings. A couple of workers had spoken up about the meetings as ineffective and confusing: After the pre-starts people could spend considerable time trying to figure out what they were supposed to do, and where, that particular day. What could be done to improve the effectiveness of these gatherings? As I listened to a group of 5-6 employees, I learned about the limited time available, the quantity of information to be transmitted to … Continue Reading ››

Why my safety threatens the safety of wildlife

terry_reis2Last year I saw a photo of two blokes who were conducting a fauna survey in Queensland in 1978. One is wearing a shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of 'stubbies' (very short shorts for the more youthful and urbane among you). The other is also wearing stubbies, and nothing else other than (possibly) underwear. He is either bare-footed or in thongs. The grass makes this difficult to ascertain but he is certainly … Continue Reading ››

The cost of behavioural transactions

SONY DSCSome workplaces I have visited use so called ‘scratchies’ to encourage and reward ‘safe behaviours’. Managers typically hand out such lottery tickets to employees who report hazards, come up with improvement ideas, or have filled out a risk assessment card in an exemplary way. Some workplaces have been known to give out rewards to drive more generic performance, such as giving everyone a toaster when passing 500 days without a Lost Time Injury. Reward schemes like … 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 ››

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 ››

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 ››

Behaviour Based Safety

file000684519545For those who have been under a rock for the last near decade or so, Behavioural Based Safety (BBS) is an approach to safety that focuses on workers' behaviour as the cause of most work-related injuries and illnesses. I consider that people that swear by BBS programs are under a similar rock just a few metres away. Over the last quarter of a century we have learnt much about the roots of human failure. There are many of … Continue Reading ››