Originally posted on October 23, 2021 @ 10:18 AM
I read a recent article by Alan Quilley (http://www.safetyresults.ca/) on measuring safety by injury rate and was fascinated by the logic. I enjoyed the video on regression to the mean (Prevention of Incidents VS Creating Safety) and the discussion on injury goals. But I thought Alan, you have all this stuff on tackling risk wrong. Of course it’s not measuring injury data that matters, it’s all about measuring weight and volume. I thought there’s nothing wrong with counting Alan, we have just been counting the wrong thing. The key to counting in safety is counting weight and volume, especially the weight of your Safety Management System (SMS). Safety is determined in kilograms not injury data, why didn’t I realize this earlier.
I was recently engaged by a group that wanted to meet me. I arrived and waited in the foyer and then was ushered into a large room perhaps 6 metres by 6 metres. When I first walked into the room I couldn’t help but notice that all walls of this room were bookshelves floor to ceiling, and every space between every door (four doors) were covered in shelving. Each bookshelf was filled with A4 folders and there was no space left in any shelf, there were also folders in boxes on the floor and folders on desks. I was proudly introduced to their SMS, everything I could see was a duplicate of everything on the computer, including records dating back to induction and hazard records for 10 years. I started to think to myself, I wonder how much all of this weighs? Maybe safety is determined by weight not injury data. Maybe safety is determined by volume and I was clearly looking at a couple of tonnes of safety.
You see, I’d been asked into this company because they had a spike in injuries and a very close miss that could have easily resulted in multiple fatalities. They kept asking me what I could do about ‘behaviours’ and I told them ‘I’m not a behaviourist’. They told me they had a problem with ‘tick and flick’ that is, workers were not listening during toolbox talks, signed off Safe Work Method Statements (they had thousands) and had signed tens of thousands of STOP, prestart, Step-Backs and Take-Two safety records but weren’t ‘switched on to safety’. So, I had a little chat about how they understood people and decision making and they referred me to their risk and hazard register and these records numbered in the thousands too. Indeed, rather than refer me to their folder, they referred me to their bookshelf or shelves of folders. Lots of what I saw was developed off purchased templates from businesses making a motza from fear and ignorance. The generic cut and paste is alive and well in dumb down safety world but precious little understanding about risk and even less understanding about human decision making.
I browsed through some folders just for fun and saw that everything was signed, but later when I had a few conversations with people, including the safety managers, no one was really that intelligent about risk. The biggest safety myths in this place were: ‘paperwork is there to cover our arse’ and ‘volume equals quality’. How shocked they were when I told them that none of this demonstrates due diligence and none of this will protect them in court were something to happen. I think they got upset when I told them that safety was not measured by volume or counting injury data but that they should be focusing on culture and the social psychology of risk. Indeed, I suggested that all of this, including their ‘World Class Golden Rules’ were probably going to hang them in court not save them. They were astounded. I have not been contacted by the organization since then.
It’s funny, when humans are obese we calculate ill-health by Body Mass Index (BMI) but safety calculates safety health by the reverse, the Safety Volume Mass Index (SVMI). So, do you have a 500 kgs SMS or a 750kgs SMS? I dare say you could calculate your level of ‘bounded rationality’ and ‘tick and flick’ as equal to the weight of your SVMI.
In addition, as I watch the world either behaving safely or not, the idea that what we DO is as important as what we THINK about the virus is absurd. The virus (a harmful energy) has features that are totally independent of how someone feels/thinks about a mask. Even their belief in the risk is inconsequential to the outcome. What matters and matters a lot is: wearing a mask, washing their hands, ensuring social distancing. All of those behaviours will positively influence the outcome of the pandemic. All the thinking in the world will do nothing to change an outcome. Thinking needs to be turned into doing.
We have overwhelming evidence that those who do those risk reducing behaviours get the virus less. I look forward to similar successful evidence about what they “think” about the virus mattered at all. The shopper at Walmart can hate the mask and think that there is ZERO risk to them about the virus but the ABCs of Walmart’s mandatory mask wearing policies will ensure shoppers comply and both the “positive risk thinkers” and the “negative risk thinkers” will be protected equally. 🙂 Think is important doing is what ultimately changes harmful energy outcomes.
You have misinterpreted what I wrote…to quote you “You’ve got it all wrong.” I assure you that I don’t have it “ALL Wrong.”
Energy doesn’t need to make a decision, it just is. It’s extremely arrogant of humans to believe we’re in change. Complex models of decision making and thinking cannot and will not change the features of gravity. It’s not unlike sitting at a slot machine in Vegas and believing that you do can change outcomes. The computer chip making random number calculations is operating without your influence. Energy has measurable (and immeasurable…we still have a lot to learn) features. What we do to expose ourselves to those features will not now nor ever will change the features of that energy. Physics matters! 😉
So Robert, making Risk Thinking so complex that it’s unusable in any practical way maybe intellectually stimulating for a group of “thinkers” sitting in a room pontificating about risk but does absolutely nothing for the poor fellow who isn’t wearing his fall protection today and a simple reminder would change the outcome of that risk behaviour. We need do nothing about energy but most certainly we need to do something about behaviour. 🙂
I’m wondering how the poor people of Beirut are thinking about risk and energy today. I assure you that the simple safety approach of “Keep the energy away from the people or the people away from the energy” would have changed outcomes in measurable ways. Safety #101 works! My thoughts are certainly with the poor people who were exposed to killer energy without them even knowing about it.
Rob Long says
Of course, that’s the nature of discussion. The perception of energy is not neutral just as the interpretation of risk is not self-evident. Energy in itself cannot ‘make’ a decision nor can it ‘care’ – if humans ‘decide’ to err, then what comprises decision making ought to be the focus. Happy to personify energy if that suits but it’s the ‘decision’ that makes the difference, if indeed there is one.
Robert – Sometimes we’ll agree but sometimes we won’t I’m good with that. Energy release doesn’t particularly care about what you nor I think at the time it strikes. As Dan Petersen says (another one I’m a fan of) “sometimes we decide to err.”
Rob Long says
Greetings Alan and nice to hear from you. Perhaps it is both energy, exposure and social-psychological disposition. We come to our decision making from nature, nurture and narrative. BTW, not a fan of Petersen but that is one of his better quotes. Blessings from down under in the time of Covid.
Robert – What both you and I describe often is “Humans doing safety TO humans and how it NEVER works out very well.” Rarely do we have to make “human movement through time and space” (let’s call it work or play) a mystery and perform an in-depth psychoanalysis of people’s childhood trauma. What we need to look at is the energy that people expose themselves to and the calculated risk that the energy is 1) large enough to be a concern and 2) how could it get to the exposed human. People will always count injuries but as the great Dan Petersen said so very well “Of course you can use frequency-severity figures to measure your firm’s safety program, as long as you realize that in almost all instances these figures are absolutely worthless.” I’m afraid your idea of measuring weight and volume may also be in error….(GREAT BIG and unnecessary to psychoanalyze SMILE)!