Sir’, he said in a pale voice. ‘It was 59 degrees in the engine room that afternoon and I took my helmet off. Not for too long, sir, just a few minutes. I was standing under the blower to cool my head. And then this safety officer comes to me and starts shouting. “Why are you not wearing your helmet? What if you get injured? Who will be responsible for your safety? Did I not … 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 ››
Jawsis the reason I have to give myself a pep talk before going in the ocean. The 1975 movie shows what happens when a huge, psychopathic shark with a taste for people meets a small tourist island off the coast of Massachusetts (Spoiler – it doesn’t turn out well for some unsuspecting swimmers). The movie is credited for making the fear … 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 ››
In January 2015, the pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Hoegh Osaka developed a severe list on departing from Southampton, and was left stranded outside the port for more than 19 days. The official investigation revealed how decision making became the victim of production pressures. The vessel sailed from port without determining accurately the stability conditions upon completion of cargo. It was a routine practice to leave this task to be … Continue Reading ››
For years the safety profession has espoused that there is no intellectual property in safety. This was seen a positive side-effect of the black and white ethical stance of the zero harm movement. It has also been the most over-used excuse by safety professionals for adopting their previous employer’s methods in their next organisation, along with ‘why re-invent the wheel?’ and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. As safety professionals move through our relatively small industry, … Continue Reading ››
“They tell us to do these things, but they don’t want to know how we get them done.” Others in the focus group nodded in agreement. Myself, I was taken a bit aback by the statement. I was facilitating the focus group with the intention of learning about the organization and how it manages safety. We had been speaking with many of the line employees who expressed varying degrees of frustration with different aspects of the work environment, … Continue Reading ››
A Safety Management System is supposed to be a systematic and proactive process for managing safety risks. Having a structured approach to safety management should complement and support good management, operational and human factors practices but the reality is usually very different.
What can we say about safety management systems in the real world?
Safety Management Systems are usually large, complex and difficult to access for the very people they are designed for.
As a safety professional the concepts of safety differently can be challenging at best. What if everything that you had built your career on was suddenly shaken to its very foundation? The task then becomes, how can I approach each day, each decision, differently? This is my challenge, and my opportunity.
What have you done to enable safety differently in your organisation?
In Laing O’Rourke we were very fortunate to have a leadership team that acknowledged our organisation’s health and safety performance had plateaued and were willing to explore and test new ways of working. This was against the current industry approach to health and safety which we recognised as high in bureaucracy and overly controlling and sceptical in its approach to building trust amongst all … Continue Reading ››