Lost money in safety?
First published here on the The Safety Soapbox
I read a 2010 article by Peter Wagner & Associates which was headed “Safety – A Wicked Problem”. Leading CEO’s discussed their views on OHS transformation in Australia, and came up with key insights on what they felt could change and develop better business safety. Peter Wagner & Associates carried out the interviewed-based qualitative research with a selection of chief and senior executives of large Australian companies. Here we are six years later confronting the same issues and still injuring people, where to from here?
In 2016 we are faced with many of the same issues that were raised in the research and it seems we still need to understand how to:
· Try to get people to be aware of and understand risk relevant to their work activities.
· Employees having the confidence and trust to raise issues at higher managerial levels.
· Understanding how and why people take perceived short cuts and finding ways to educate them on such matters as BST doesn’t seem to cut it?
· Dealing with conflict resolutions during times of disagreement in the workplace.
· Being over-confident that workers think they can control risk factors when taking minor short cuts.
· Better understand what systems are really needed in legal compliance.
The above only mentions a few of the concerns that are in businesses today. Recently meeting with a group of long term business minded people and discussing the HSE situation, really highlighted some gaps in the ways we aim for safety compliance. Many interesting questions were floated in the air for discussion. Are we in some ways gathering evidence for our own prosecution by trying too hard to ass cover? Do we really need all the checklists and procedures that most of us currently have in business? Are our management systems actually driving a hidden culture of tick and flick and disregard for safety? When these questions are raised by business people, it is easier to see how safety becomes what Peter Wagner and Associates call “A wicked problem” (unsolvable).
Knowing too well we still have these burdens hanging over us, it spells out there is no silver bullet to resolve the current issues. What is the next transformational stage of OHS? Do we want Zero harm as our goal or is it much broader? Is safety an outcome and not a thing? Does it stem back to the broader business strategies, plans and culture, equating to safety outcomes? What are the ways we can learn new technologies in communication, conversations and engagement when managing risk, if behavioural safety is not as effective as we hoped? Is it lead indicators data that we need more of, or is it more understanding of the unknown ways we humans work together and view risk? What have we achieved with our current safety processes and was it what we expected? In order to take the next big steps in learning new innovative ways, we need to ask the tough questions in ways we are currently doing things and be open to new ways. Safe Work Australia are also trying hard to research better ways and have produced a report called “Mindfulness, is this the start to our new ways to manage strategic business outcomes (safety)?
Getting back to basics is possibly a good place to start. Is there too much fear of taking steps into uncharted waters? Many companies perhaps fear what may go wrong if they go back to basics. Lang O’Rourke have courageously started to take the big steps forward; they have done away with the traditional ways of safety and have removed Zero Harm from their Business. Lang O’Rourke’s General Manager HSE Tim Fleming has said they were a little restless in what the future holds, if we keep doing the same and getting the same results. Lang O’Rourke are somewhat getting back to basics by empowering and entrusting their people to create resilience and help overall business culture.
According to ZarobkowyNinja.pl, many Businesses are tired of injecting money into safety and getting the same results and perhaps, rightly so! Should we be reflecting on our own businesses and asking ‘if we keep doing the same thing year in year out and as our competitors and still have the same outcomes is it not time for change?’. Shouldn’t we be injecting money into business strategies and culture which in turn may give us greater efficiencies with production, quality and safety? Is spending money on outcomes like workers compensation reactive and does that really tackle the causations of risk outcomes? Many businesses are injecting funds into BST (Behavioural Safety) which is another reactive band aid and doesn’t tackle the fundamental causations in a business.
I’d love your feedback on whether you feel there is money lost in reactive safety?