Real Winners

Real Winners

Real Risk Cover mediumDr Rob Long has announced the winners of our “Tell a Discerning Safety Story Competition”. There were lots of great entries and it is refreshing to know that there are lots of people out there who have a good appreciation of Real Risks. All winners receive a copy of Rob’s New Book: “Real Risk – Human Discerning and Risk” – you can download a free copy of Chapter 1 here

I have read the entries for the competition and can proudly announce the winners, in no particular order, as:

David Gettins, Dayton Cole, Lee Kibeiks, Karl Cameron and Michael Kent

The winning entries, again in random order:



The following is an actual letter I wrote several months ago to the xxxxx Co Safety Managers, as there is an inane requirement to wear gloves at all times,  where-ever on the project when outside of your vehicle.  They agreed with my comment but were reluctant to make any effort to change the rule.  It is hard as a sub-contractor’s safety manager to get these monolith’s of companies to make changes.  Easier for them to make dumb rules and dumb the site down.


This is written as a discussion paper only, from one Safety Professional to another. I have been encouraged to write this discussion paper by employees from xxxxxx, xxxx and xxxxx’s. There are others from further companies on this project who I know are sympathetic to my views.

It concerns me that the incidence of hand injuries on this project are so high, and I believe if the status quo remains that the incidents will continue to grow. It is my opinion that the failure to understand or exercise the psychology of risk is the main contributor to these events. I believe the outstanding causal factor is the xxxxx requirement to wear gloves at all times. I will explain in a moment.

It is apparent that this blanket rule of wearing gloves from when we alight from vehicles is a rule of ‘One size fits all’, but does not take into account individual risk assessments and the probability or likelihood of hand injuries.

The main faults with this rule are:

1. If you have to wear gloves all day, then you will select the lightest pair or the easiest pair to wear all day. Invariably they are the wrong pair for the task being performed. A review of the hand injuries on this project show that in the main gloves were being worn at the time of the injury, and probably because they weren’t the best sort for the job, they failed to safeguard the wearer.

2. We prime our workers to fail by enforcing and making a big deal of wearing gloves at all times. We send them out with PPE as the foremost safety control. What happens next in the mind of the worker is he fails to use the other controls in the hierarchy. Because they have the PPE they forget Elimination, Substitution, Isolation etc. Gloves and PPE must be re-enforced as the last line of defence, not the first.

3. Today the temperature will be 37C. The worker’s core temperature is 37.4C and we are requiring that they cover one of the sweatiest parts of their body, a part also instrumental in the cooling of their body. I now have a potential heat stress problem. Selective use of gloves would mitigate/alleviate this.

4. A one rule fits all has the consequence of ‘dumbing down the workplace’. We must allow workers to learn. If we take away the ability to think, then they won’t bother to think because of the anticipation that HSE has all the risks covered.

5. We are failing to use the As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) principle in our risk management. To have a person stand outside their vehicle talking to another person, well away from working equipment and forcing that person to wear gloves is not taking the ALARP principles seriously and insults an educated person in his ability to make a personal risk assessment.

I would commend to you Risk makes Sense (2012) by Dr Robert Long PhD., (UWS) BEd., (USA) BTh., (SCD) MEd., (Syd) MOH (La Trobe), Dip T., Dip Min., MACE, CFSIA. who is probably Australia’s foremost safety expert and a world leader in the psychology of risk. A hyperlink to some of his essays/blogs:

I believe that gloves are critical at times in our jobs, and we should be working to assist our workers in identifying those times. Those instances should be written into our SWMS and enforced. When doing any form of manual labour, they must be worn, at other times they are worn as the risk assessment dictates.

I believe should the existing rule be modified, you will have a happier and safer worksite.

Please do not be a Safety Fundamentalist and please open this important subject up for discussion. This topic requires more than binary thinking.


My story is,
I was working for a company in Brisbane as a safety advisor when this occurred.
The job was a office fit-out for xxxxxxx, it was a safe site with no major incidents but 3 forests had been cut down to facilitate the amount of paper work that was required.
So anyway this one day a worker tripped over something whilst walking/talking on his mobile and sprained his wrist. This was a one off, had never happened before.
Management looked at all of the material I had collected in my incident report and decided it happened because he was walking/talking on his phone.
So no longer was anyone allowed to answer/talk on the phone anywhere on site except for the newly established mobile phone zones at either end of the building, (management was sure this would stop any further occurrences) they were an excluded area with nothing in them.
The following month we had 3 injuries due to workers running to the mobile phone zones to answer their phones.
Management knows best, (So they think anyway)


Discerning Risks at Events

As a health and safety professional involved in entertainment we see a lot of crazy things. Crazy ideas are central to the success of many events and we strive to enable these creative concepts wherever possible and of course with the utmost in safety.

We follow every conceivable risk assessment method available – qualitative, brainstorming, bow tie – today we even had a crack at the Delphi Method… I am convinced that event producers and venues have become so risk averse and so fearful of being sued that they have lost any ability to discern where the real risk lies.

There are literally thousands of risks and micro risks on an event if you want to document them all and impress everyone; however recent events and comments have led me to believe that we have lost sight of risk and cannot distinguish the actual likelihood of these scenarios playing out at all.

Imagine event related risks as rain drops. Buried within these endless but tiny rain drops are gigantic hail stones with the potential to wreak havoc and kill. People are so busy trying to document and catch every micro risk possible that they can’t see the hail stones.

What actually happens if you miss one of these micro risks? Nothing the water hits the pavement and disappears …the hail stone however has a greater impact.

To me this risk averse, living in fear trend has led to a culture that actually makes the event more dangerous. People can’t discern where the real risk lies because at any moment there are a number of scenarios which might play out. They are lost in a sea of endless risks and consequences.

Recently I was absolutely baffled when we were advised by a prominent Sydney venue (and their engineer) that all deck chairs used outside must have a 50Kg ballast of concrete attached to each chair. I advised them that the person sitting on the chair was the ballast …but was quickly asked – “But what will happen when the person stands up?”… Let’s face it; the risk of injury from a runaway deck chair is not even quantifiable – however in this culture of fear we have to eliminate everything.

My response – “let’s ask the person to pack up their deck chair and put it back on the stack”. This is crazy talk I hear you say…

To add more frustration, crowd control barricade or bike rack as it’s commonly referred to require 60kg of ballast per 2.5m section. I’m sure everyone has seen kilometres of bike rack used for countless cycling races and triathlons. There is no way in the world that any of these races would ever dream of attaching 60kg of ballast to each panel. Why then is it a requirement at this venue?

I am all for careful analysis of real event related risk but somewhere along the way fear has led to a negative culture, one that cannot discern real risk. In my opinion this is one of our biggest risks.


“The Right thing”

Published here: 



Here is my story:

I spent some time during my career in an enforcement role with an OHS Regulatory agency. As part of our enforcement tasks, we had to follow-up on manual handling injuries that had led to claims to check that workplaces had fully investigated the incident and implemented suitable controls.

I attended a secondary school to investigate a musculoskeletal knee injury that was sustained by a teacher that had taken them out of work for over a month. I spoke to relevant staff, including a Health and Safety Representative about the factors that led to the injury occurring. To my surprise, the school had spent some time already reviewing the injury and had developed a safe work procedure that was provided to me at the time of my visit.

The knee injury occurred when the school teacher turned from facing the blackboard to address the class. During this turn, their leg positioned itself in such a manner to allow the knee to twist and subsequently cause a soft tissue injury.

The safe work procedure read as follows:

‘When turning from the blackboard to address your class:

– Rotate your entire body by lifting your feet and stepping into position. Do not turn your body without lifting your feet to align with your torso position. Do not twist during this movement.

– As you turn, lift your knee upwards, turn your torso to the desired position and ensure your foot is pointed at this same position.

– Place foot onto floor in desired position and repeat as necessary”

Interestingly, I issued the school a direction to replace the existing flooring (which was ripped carpet – most likely to have contributed to the knee injury).


Karl Cameron

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