At a recent conference I attended, there was a paper describing an attempt to “manage” the risks involved in rock climbing. This highlighted the desire of climbers to push the boundaries to demonstrate mastery over evermore seemingly “unsafe” situations. (Solo unaided, unsupported climbs reliant only on the courage, skill and wit of the individual climber?). This was a somewhat paradoxical example of a person deliberately putting themselves “at risk” and … Continue Reading ››
Over the last decade, I have spent a lot of time listening to operational, technical, specialist, support and managerial staff in small groups around Europe. The conversations – aimed at learning about safety – have changed over the years. What started off as strongly facilitated workshops to interrogate safety culture questionnaire results, became only loosely based on questionnaire results, and more on what mattered to participants, but still with predetermined issues in mind. Finally, the conversations became much more open still. … Continue Reading ››
I coined the term ‘Safety Differently’ in 2012. It was the header of an email I sent to a motley group of company representatives—from Laing O’Rourke, Sunstate Cement, Queensland Rail, Origin Energy and others. I had newly arrived in Australia and had been approached by them to help critically examine the sense of safety ‘getting stuck,’ of a pervasive compliance culture that no longer generated much progress.
In the email to invite them to a new round of … Continue Reading ››
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 ››
Understanding and improving human work is relevant to most people in the world, and a number of professions are dedicated to improving human work (e.g. human factors/ergonomics, quality management, industrial/work/organizational psychology; management science). The trouble with many of these professions is that the language and methods mystify rather than demystify. Work becomes something incomprehensible and hard to think about and improve by those who actually design and do the work. Recently, some notions that help to demystify work have gained popular acceptance. One of these … Continue Reading ››
Picture the scene: The car carrier Hoegh Osaka has just departed from the port of Southampton, at which point the master calls up the mate and says that the ship did “not feel right”, to which the mate in charge at the loading computer replies “I am working on it”. Soon afterwards the vessel runs aground and eventually capsizes, leading to a catastrophic accident off the port approaches. The investigation into the case finds that the vessel was … Continue Reading ››
I was having a discussion the other day with a colleague about how Safety Differently fits in different organizations. Some organizations we’ve encountered are hungry for something new. They realize that the same-old safety approaches are not getting them the results they would like and are actively seeking a different approach. Obviously these organizations are ripe for a discussion about Safety Differently.
But what about others who, as some describe, are not as far along? For example, in … Continue Reading ››
In this case study I would like to show a practical application of the Functional Resonance Analysis Method (FRAM) to investigate the process of trains departing the station. The reason for analyzing this process, is that Signal Passed At Danger (SPAD) incidents have a specific category that deals with situations where this incident happens just after leaving the station. So in that case, the first signal seen from the station platform is passed while it shows … Continue Reading ››
Every now and then I meet people who claim that what is needed to improve safety is ‘strong and visible safety leadership’. I sort of get what they mean with ‘visible leadership’ (that leaders can be seen doing the right things), but the rest is confusing. Strong? How strong exactly? Strong in order to do what? What do you mean by ‘leadership’? And what do you mean by ‘safety’ anyway?
Further exploration of the idea … Continue Reading ››
During engineering school in the late 1960s I was taught to ignore friction as a force and use first order approximate linear models. When measuring distance, ignore the curvature of earth and treat as a straight line. Break things down into its parts, analyze each component, fix it, and then put it all back together. In the 1990s another paradigm coined Systems Thinking came about we … Continue Reading ››