All posts by Daniel Hummerdal

Don’t walk the talk

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASafety does not exist. At least not in itself. There are no ‘from above’ given signs that inform us what safety is, how it works, where the boundaries are or will be, or how safety should optimally be understood. Whatever ‘safety’ is, it must be a human construction - a social convention on how to see and talk about certain aspects of reality. This is not to deny the often tragic reality of ‘accidents’, … Continue Reading ››

Compliance paralysis

file000704919536Recently, a friend of mine visited a construction site. The site was in the middle of nowhere, in the Australian outback, and my friend was there for a one day boardroom meeting. After the 1 hour site induction in a building near the gate, a group of six visitors left the building with their host. Walking over to the meeting room, the group had to cross a road. The host took out a form and said: -I don’t see any … Continue Reading ››

Safety on the edge

In mid-2013, some insightful and very radical safety thought-leaders will visit three Australian cities. During a two day workshop, they will present their thoughts on how people and organisation can relate to safety in a novel and more functional way. They will provide you with alternative viewpoints, with new ways to intervene and improve safety, on topics such as: Human error, Zero Harm, Risk management, Safety Culture and Black swans.. If you are curious, or if you are serious, about doing safety differently, this is a … Continue Reading ››

Darwinian Safety

file0001003212816There is something absolute about accidents. The loss, the destruction, and the irreversibility of it all – it’s clearly not what was intended. This unwanted character of accidents allows, affords, or even encourages a binary understanding of safety. Either things are safe, or they are not. So when bad things happen, it makes sense to pull back, to constrain, to establish tighter control over what has failed. As if we only stay away from danger, if we use … Continue Reading ››

Happy New Year

file000670714310250 individuals, from 20 countries, across 6 continents visited safetydifferently.com during its first month online (December 2012). In the week leading up to Christmas the site had 70-80 visitors per day. While the site at first was intended as a blog to share my personal contemplations and frustrations from working with safety, it quickly found a more functional form as a website to exchange critical and innovative safety thinking from a range of authors. This is also the … Continue Reading ››

Instead of warnings

The kind and caring people of Starbucks don’t want me to scald myself with their coffee. So they have printed a warning on the lids of their take-away cups. CAUTION CONTENTS HOT. Apart from insulting their customers, this message is not very effective. It does not provide people with any clues about what is appropriate behaviour, apart from perhaps waiting, or to take the first sip cautiously. The warning probably protects Starbucks more than their clients. Traditional … Continue Reading ››

Cute but disempowering

Using cute animations and a catchy tune, Melbourne-based Metro Trains recently launched a public safety announcement. The video ‘Dumb ways to die’ immediately went viral on social media, breaking a long tradition of horrible safety videos showing people falling, heads cracked open, kids getting hit by cars, and so on. The fresh take aside, the message is not new. In fact, it conveys a very traditional message: that the system is safe, but sometimes gets … Continue Reading ››

From constraints to facilitation

 “Safety is boring. And it does my head in!” From the very start I could tell that my meeting with a top level manager of an Australian hospital was going to be interesting. “Don’t get me wrong! We have serious safety issues here. We occasionally do wrong side surgery. We chop off the wrong leg and we give out the wrong medicine. We have people falling out of bed at night, we mix up patients, there are depressed … Continue Reading ››

Misguided hazard hunts

Handstands, cartwheels, somersaults, and running on bitumen have recently been banned in a number of Australian schools. Obviously, this is done not because schools fear litigation should something go wrong, but because ‘they care about the kids’ safety’... Also, some schools now have risk registers for all their activities. Painting is apparently a “medium risk”, for which teachers should consider having the consent of primary caregivers. Reading about this made me think of when … Continue Reading ››

Instead of top down safety

Roads once belonged to pedestrians. The space was used for markets, cattle, horse wagons, dancing, or meetings. Perhaps modern days’ block parties, with their restricted traffic, give a taste of what roads once were in terms of a place for people. Then came the cars. At first they were slow, but nevertheless exciting and they quickly became fashionable. However, it was not long before the first collisions occurred between cars and pedestrians. The need for road safety … Continue Reading ››