But We Have Safety Systems in Place
One of the most successful myths of Safety is that one is protected by having systems in place. What we learned from Greg Smith in Risky Conversations, The Law, Social Psychology and Risk (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/risky-conversations/) was that having a system in place means nothing in court unless one can demonstrate that the system is effective. Having a system in place is meaningless unless one can demonstrate that the system actually ‘works’. This means that the system must be proven to achieve what it says it does. What evidence could you provide that demonstrates that your systems actually work?
This is why risk matrices, Heinrich pyramids and Swiss cheese are all dismissed by the law as nonsense because none of this Mumbo Jumbo works. Indeed, much of the symbols and models that have emerged in risk management like the risk matrix are as effective in assessing and tackling risk as an Ouija Board. The risk matrix is at best an act of theatre and at worst a delusion that makes people think they have undertaken a risk assessment.
One of the reasons why people are comforted by the theatre of their system and moreso the size of their system, is the mythology that the courts requires ‘paper systems’ as evidence. Most often in court it is your testimony not the systems themselves that demonstrate Due Diligence. Having a system in place demonstrates that one is good at putting systems in place, it is not evidence that people know how to use the system nor that it ‘works’. But we feel so comfortable when a system is in place and this comfort is the greatest risk. Unless the organisation can demonstrate Due Diligence (or non-negligence) then pulling out a system or a set of folders in court means nothing.
It’s like producing a licence as evidence that I am a good driver or a white card to demonstrate I know something about safety. All the tickets I collect simply demonstrate I am good at collecting tickets or licences, they are not evidence of good driving or safety. Similarly, paper systems can be bought at Officeworks and put in place. And when the court discovers you have been using generic systems, watch out! Generic systems are a demonstration that you don’t know your systems or indeed that they work. The court is interested in action undertaken not reams of paper.
I know of one tier one organisation that has six layers of risk systems and none of them actually work. Indeed, the more the organisation multiplies its systems the easier it is to demonstrate that they can’t ‘work’. A culture that believes excessive systems demonstrates Due Diligence is fundamentally deluded and invites prosecution for incompetence. When human beings are faced with excessive systems they invent a new risk called ‘tick and flick’ a greater risk than having no system at all.
When I help organisations improve systems in Due Diligence i add no paperwork to what they do. Indeed, effective systems do not imply paper-based actions. The real way to Due Diligence is having actions that work in tackling risk not cosmetic colour changes on some obscure impulse on a coloured grid. Recording a change in colour by ‘being careful’ or by increasing ‘awareness’ is meaningless.
If you want to learn about Due Diligence and how to enact effective systems then you may wish to come to the two day workshop with Greg Smith and Dr Rob Long in Sydney on 1,2 February.
You can find out more and register here: https://cllr.com.au/product/due-diligence-workshop-unit-13/
You can see Rob and Greg discuss Due Diligence here: https://vimeo.com/162493843