Tag Archives: safety management

Why do things go right?

Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash
In his 2014 Safety I and Safety II: The past and future of safety management, Erik Hollnagel makes the argument that we should not (just) try to stop things from going wrong. Instead, we need to understand why most things go right, and then ensure that as much as possible indeed goes right. It seems so obvious. Yet it is light years away from how most organizations … Continue Reading ››

Oil and gas safety in a post-truth world

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 ››

7 Implications of Complexity for Safety

One of my favourite articles is The Complexity of Failure written by Sidney Dekker, Paul Cilliers, and Jan-Hendrik Hofmeyr.  In this posting I'd like to shed more light on the contributions of Paul Cillliers. Professor Cilliers was a pioneering thinker on complexity working across both the humanities and the sciences. In 1998 he published Complexity … Continue Reading ››

Personal protective equipment: Managing safety or exercising control?

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 ››

The Safety Profession can be like a Priesthood

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 Defense of the Mayor of Amity Island

Photo taken by and courtesy of Daniel Hummerdal
Jaws is 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 ››

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 ››

Light bulbs, red lines and rotten onions

switchesIn 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 ››

There’s no IP in safety – Yet…

14678529062951616575918For 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 ››

Speaking Truth to Power

  “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 ››