Handy Hints For Safety People

Handy Hints For Safety People

By George Robotham,


Practical tips for implementing a new or revising an existing Safety Management System (S.M.S.)


Quotable Quote

“A health & safety problem can be described by statistics but cannot be understood by statistics. It can only be understood by knowing and feeling the pain, anguish, and depression and shattered hopes of the victim and of wives, husbands, parents, children, grandparents and friends, and the hope, struggle and triumph of recovery and rehabilitation in a world often unsympathetic, ignorant, unfriendly and unsupportive, only those with close experience of life altering personal damage have this understanding”

Guiding principle



The following presents a variety of approaches the author has seen work successfully in other organisations, it is realised not all of it may be required in particular organisations or may work in some. This represents the start with some suggestions that will have to be modified according to the identified needs of particular organisations. Smaller, low risk organisations may not need all of the following initiatives or need them on a low key basis.

What you do and do not do in safety depends on an evaluation of the risk versus the benefit. If you decide to not implement a proven safety initiative you have to realise you may have to try to justify the decision in court if someone is seriously injured.


  • Whatever you do make it SIMPLE & EASY, if it is too much like hard work, it will not happen.
  • Use a quality management approach to safety, with a continuous improvement philosophy.
  • Define the scope of any project before you start it, you cannot meet needs if you do not identify them.
  • Do the things that give you the biggest bang for your buck.
  • Minimise the bureaucracy and bull s—t.
  • Give and expect regular feedback.
  • Visible leadership from the top of the organisation is the key to success.
  • Communicate your expectations and react when they are not met.
  • Benchmark against known high performers.
  • Tell your people “Bring me solutions, not problems”
  • When it comes to employing people remember “If you pay peanuts you get monkeys “
  • Whatever you decide to do, do it in bite sized chunks, trying to do too much at once may lead to unrecoverable failure.


  • If a recent audit to guide strategy has not been carried out carry one out. Need to establish what is in place, what is working and what is not working. Sometimes it is appropriate to recognise the efforts of the past, thank the people involved but be very upfront that there is the need for considerable change.
  • Carry out a force field analysis with the senior management group to help develop objectives, goals, strategy etc.
  • Carry out a series of force field analysis with a cross section of managers, supervisors and workers. Be aware the presence of some managers and supervisors may inhibit worker discussion.
  • Based on the force field analysis a draft OHS plan will be developed and circulated for comment. The pace of change can be quick, moderate or slow depending on need and the culture of the organisation. Sometimes safety change can be the vehicle for other needed management change. Too quick and too large change can be counter -productive at times. The OHS plan must have timelines for implementation.
  • Carry out a short Safety Leadership workshop with senior managers, managers and supervisors.
  • Carry out a short workshop on statute and common law responsibilities for senior managers, managers and supervisors.
  • Use leading safety indicators not lag ones.
  • Employee Assistance and Wellness programs can give good returns on investment with sensible application.
  • Drug and alcohol testing and awareness programs may be appropriate.
  • Note
  • Senior management must not underestimate the power of their demonstrated commitment, example and expectation of high performance in safety, they have to become forceful advocates for safety.
  • Operational
  • There may be the need to introduce fatigue management programs
  • Train workers in legislative safety responsibilities. Compliance with legislation must be the minimum standard.
  • Beware of displacement activities, a displacement activity is something we do, something we put a lot of energy into, but when we examine it closely there is no valid reason to do it. Some professions have many displacement activities.
  • Ensure safety communications are focussed, succinct and targeted at the workplace level of the receiver. Use face to face communications wherever possible. Do not be surprised if your e-mails are misunderstood.
  • Have a safety training needs analysis and train appropriately. All training should be short, sharp, interactive and based on need.
  • Regularly ensure those in prescribed occupations are maintaining their certificates of competency.
  • Form worker and supervisor teams to carry out risk assessment, give them a short training session and get them going carrying out risk assessments.
  • Form worker and supervisor teams to carry out Job Safety Analysis, give them a short training session and get them going carrying out Job Safety Analysis to prepare Safe Working Procedures / Work Method Statements. Concentrate on high risk tasks first. S.W.P. and W.M.S. should be short and simple and use photos, diagrams, illustrations etc.
  • Develop an appropriate short safety induction program for new employees.
  • Performance appraisals must place a high importance on safety. Job descriptions must have detailed safety responsibilities and these must be monitored.
  • Regular audits are required.
  • Emergency response plans are practised.
  • Procedures are in place to manage contractor safety.
  • Supervisors run regular, short, sharp safety meetings with workers.
  • Excellent safety performance is recognised.
  • Appropriate rehabilitation programs are in place after injury.
  • An Employee Assistance Program provider should be sourced and their availability communicated to all employees.
  • Wellness programs should be investigated.
  • A safety committee trained in its role & responsibilities should meet regularly. Giving committees substantive task to do will help stop minor issues being raised
  • Supervisors should be trained in appropriate accident investigation procedures.
  • Regular safety inspections should be undertaken.
  • Consider if fleet safety approaches are warranted.
  • Those in high risk occupations should have regular medicals.


Succinct paperwork is mandatory.

Nuts & bolts

  • Have high visibility clothing for day time use and fit reflective stripes for night time use.
  • Have sufficient trained first-aiders and appropriate first-aid kits.
  • Put the safety commitment and relevant information on the company web site.
  • Ramp up the safety component of all company communications.
  • Install fire extinguishers in vehicles / plant and train in their use.
  • Have reversing sirens, flashing lights and seat belts on forklifts, recognise it takes a bit of work to get forklift operators to wear their seat belts.
  • Insist the seat belts in vehicles and equipment are used.
  • Ensure appropriate personal protective equipment is used.
  • Ensure tractors / plant have R.O.P.S. and seat belts worn.
  • Ensure quad bikes have R.O.P.S.
  • Vehicles / plant / equipment receives excellent, documented maintenance.
  • Investigate fitting on road vehicles with H.I.D. replacement headlight bulbs, some 4 wheel drives are likely to have sub-standard lighting.
  • Light vehicles / 4wds should have side airbags as well as front ones where possible.
  • Consider lock out isolation as well as tag out.
  • Ensure mobile phones are not used while driving.
  • Promotion of off the job and family safety will reap benefits at work.
  • In our increasingly litigious society it is sad but true that every aspect of the safety management system must be thoroughly documented in case you end up in court. Saying you have done something can mean very little if you do not have documented proof. A supervisors diary can be admissible in court if details are thoroughly recorded.


A competent OHS professional should be able to achieve most of the above for relatively low cost except peoples time.

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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