Major mistakes made in implementing OHS

Safety Reflections by the late George Robotham read more reflections HERE

Major mistakes I have seen made in implementing OHS

  1. The biggest mistake is management and supervision making decisions about safety without input from the workforce Bear in mind some are not interested in contributing, give them the opportunity but do not force them.
  2. Lack of management demonstrated commitment, leadership and drive from the top of the organisation.
  3. Too much concentration on lag indicators such as the Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate at the expense of leading indicators. Thinking minor personal damage is a good predictor of life-altering personal damage.
  4. Not using the continuous improvement philosophy and other facets of Quality Management in your safety approach.
  5. Lack of succinct paperwork. There is not much point in having detailed paperwork that is too much like hard work to read. Bear in mind however your paper work needs to be detailed enough to be defensible in court.
  6. Using theory instead of real world approaches-Whatever you do reality test it with the workforce first.
  7. Ignoring “When implementing change-Remember, people support what they create”
  8. Not using face to face communications whenever possible. communicating change with the workforce use the supervisor not senior management, use face to face communications and frame communications relevant to the immediate work area and processes.
  9. Not training formal and informal leaders in Safety Leadership.
  10. Using enterprise “accident” experience to guide action rather than industry taxonomies of permanently life-altering personal damage.
  11. Putting too much emphasis on the risk ratings from risk assessments, the reality is that a lot of risk assessment is very subjective.
  12. Spending too much time in the office instead of the field where the action is happening.


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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