Tag Archives: adaptive safety

What if we got it wrong?

file1851274688166People don’t come to work to be safe. They come to work to work. Or as a project manager once told me: -I probably spend about 50% of my day thinking about behaviours and safety. You probably close to 100% of yours. But what about the guys doing the job? We remind them of safety messages and what we think is important during pre-start meetings and toolbox talks. But then what? Then they’re off, focusing on other things. … Continue Reading ››

Let’s talk about success

spanner2Look at the man in the picture to the right. He is fastening a bolt using a spanner. To get more torque he has done what is common practice in industry – he has taken a piece of pipe to extend the handle, this is often called a cheater bar. Put differently, he has adapted the standard that was provided to him. When everything is going well we’d like to believe that it is because organisations … Continue Reading ››

Sheep boosting

file0001889907229One morning in early June this year, a Swedish sheep farmer discovered that 21 of his sheep had been killed. The aggressor had taken only a small bite of each sheep before killing the next defenseless prey. Expertise identified the offender to be a wolf. Wolves in Sweden are frequently debated. Some suggest that wolves should be uncompromisingly hunted and 'eliminated'. This naturally upsets those advocating the necessity of biological diversity. In turn, these groups claim that the … Continue Reading ››

Sex and poetry

file000500940833None of us said anything for a while. At the other end of the table was a safety manager for a construction company. I had just described some ideas on how to do safety differently. -No. What we need is to find the right way to do it. Once we have that, we’ll put it into practice across every project. I had tried to explain why safety can never be achieved with a one size fits all solution. And I had described why … Continue Reading ››

From the road less travelled

file000555565239-Analysis showed that 82-94% of our accidents and incidents were caused by ‘unsafe acts’. So the question was ‘how can we get our workers more motivated to do the right thing?’ Phil Stephenson, the Vice president for Health, Safety, Loss prevention & Security at Newmont Mining Corporation, had just started describing their journey to improving safety. For a few years Newmont Mining had noted that they were unable to take their safety records to the next level. They … 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 ››

Two sides to every control

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been reading a thought-provoking book, Adapt (Why success always starts with failure) by Tim Harford.  While it isn't a book on safety there is much to learn from Tim.  He argues that today's challenges simply cannot be tackled with ready-made solutions and expert opinion.  The world has become far too unpredictable, and profoundly complex.  Tim argues that instead we must learn to adapt. He uses many real life events, strategies and organisations to illustrate his … Continue Reading ››

What happened to creativity?

file7491250647364The other day I was fortunate to come across a quote by Sir Ken Robinson. "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original". Even better, there was a link to his talk Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. His contention is that creativity is now as important in education of children as literacy and that it should be treated with the same status. Listening to his talk I was struck by how … 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 ››