Safety Ideas That Work

Safety Ideas That Work

I originally started this blog to share some of the good stuff I had put together, collected or stolen over the years, with the good people out there on the ground, who work for a living, and are charged with actually making safety work! For whatever reason, the direction has changed a little but I would like to return to grass roots. At the suggestion of a reader, I’ve set up this “SAFETY IDEAS THAT WORK PAGE” and hope that all of you readers can prove that you really are as clever as you say you are and contribute to the cause. You can post them in the comments at the bottom or email them to me:


OHS Change Project – by George Robotham from

The ABC project was a major, multi-million dollar organisational change project designed to revolutionise management of OHS in XYZ. I was one of 12 OHS Managers appointed to run specific elements of the project, I had only little contact with the other OHS Project Managers and have no recollection of what they were working on. I think I was with XYZ for about 5 months.

My main task was to lead a team of electrical workers and OHS Professionals developing what were referred to as “Control plans” for 21 identified high risk activities. XYZ were pretty good with their electrical safety but not managing their non-core risks as well.

The identified high risks I can remember were-Electrical work, fatigue, driving, noise, access to premises, use of personal protective equipment, manual handling, office based ergonomics, animal control, power poles, traffic control, access to safety information, use of compressed gas equipment and so on.

Tasks were divided between myself and the team according to expertise with the aim of providing written information on how to manage particular risks. The electrical workers required some assistance from me in their tasks as it was different from their normal occupation.

Some of the things my team did were-

Look at what documentation already existed. In the electrical area a wealth of good information that had been developed was discovered that had been buried in the system and not routinely used.

Examine how the risks were currently managed

Liaise with Quality staff in incorporating our work into the Quality system

Research reliable sources of information such as standards, legislation, published guidelines

Tap into research by universities and other bodies

Speak to similar organisations about how they managed all their risks

Speak to non-electrical multi nationals about how they managed their non-electrical risks

Networking with personal contacts

Circulated initial drafts widely for comment and input

When finalised the control plans were incorporated in the company strategic and operational OHS plans

XYZ management were very pleased with the work of the team and hosted a celebration for us. When the team phase was over I worked with commercial trainers developing training programs to implement the control plans. I had to report on project progress to a senior Change Management Team on a regular basis.

I would have to say this was one of the most successful OHS projects I have been involved in.

General safety project issues

Form a project team and develop a Project Management Plan using appropriate software. The plan will include discussion of required activities, resources, deliverables, time frames and financials. The plan should be reviewed regularly.

Some thought needs to go into the makeup of the project team. It helps to have some people with technical knowledge of the area being investigated, people who are influencers, whether that be formal or informal and those receptive to change. Sometimes if you have someone who is not receptive to change it helps to put them on the team to be part of the change process. Having people with a sense of humour is always a good idea.

For the larger project guidance from those specifically trained in Project Management and / or Change Management may be beneficial.

Put a lot of work into defining the scope of the project.

Analysis of past personal damage occurrence (“accident”) experience may be appropriate. Frequency, severity and cost is likely to be relevant. It may be appropriate to develop a taxonomy for a major project. The aim being to identify the personal damage occurrences ( “accidents” )that are resulting in the most severe personal damage. Analysis of personal damage occurrences (“accidents”)in smaller organisations may not identify statistically significant experience.

COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE. Face to face communications is preferred, written communication must be succinct. Limit general correspondence to preferably 1 page, 2 pages at the max.

Ergonomic analysis of tasks may be appropriate with some projects. Simple ergonomic analysis can be carried out by most staff after a bit of coaching in the techniques.

A literature search may be appropriate including legislation, Australian Standards, best practice in other organisations etc.

Networking with OHS professionals in other organisations with similar risks may be appropriate

In many cases a Force-Field Analysis process will give needed insight.

Discussions must be held with stakeholders.

Implement the findings of your research if this is within the scope of the project.

It is highly likely learning using Action and Experiential Learning Models will be required.

Physical changes to the work environment may be necessary.

The development of Safe Working Procedures using the Job Safety Analysis technique may be required.

When developing controls use Haddon’s 10 countermeasures rather than the Hierarchy of Controls

End of project presentations to stakeholders are often a good idea.

The effectiveness of the project must be evaluated.

Methods that can be used include-

1Post implementation statistical analysis, frequency, severity, “cost of accidents”, reduction in workers compensation premiums, reductions in common law claims etc.

2 OHS audits

3 Discussion with stakeholders

4 Safety climate surveys

5 Task analysis

6 Examination of equipment

An end of project report with recommendations will be required, the report should be succinct and include a management summary.


Reduce the risk of manual handling injury – From Les

When stacking/unpacking palletised loads place 1 or 2 empty pallets under the working pallet – this reduces bending & lifting it cost almost nothing – assuming you have empty pallets around. A simple risk assessment before & after will show risk reduction.
i will try & take a photo.

Safety Vest – From Les

safety vestIan has been a Fitter for “a long time” and has always needed a vest to carry his tools around, he even tried using a fishing vest but it was too light to handle the wear & tear.
Wearing the Mascot/Proskill “Yorkton” vest, Ian has his basic tools & nuts and bolts with him when required with the weight shared on his shoulders not on his hips and lower back.
The vest has a Dupont coating to help keep it cleaner for longer, has lots of pockets, adjustable sides and strong belt and buckles.
The added bonus is the vest is a day/night safety vest as well.
Ian is now a happier & safer Fitter.

Available from PROSKILL







Personal Damage Occurrence Investigation Models

The author has found A.R.T.T. (Analysis Reference Tree Trunk) the most useful. This method was developed by Brisbane OHS consultant, Geoff McDonald.

Essentially the personal damage occurrence is represented by a tree-trunk lying on the ground, at the end of the tree-trunk you have Person elements, Machine elements and Environment elements, along the length of the tree-trunk you have 6 time zones and the annular or growth rings of the tree represent a number of Ergonomic elements. Instead of looking for “causes” you look for “essential factors” ( An essential factor is one without which the final personal damage could not have occurred) There are good reasons why the term “cause” is not used. The idea is to look for essential factors where the various categories of the model above intersect.

The model is very easy to use and usually at least 30 essential factors will be found in each personal damage occurrence. The author hears good reports on training in this technique conducted by Intersafe.


This is an incredibly simple technique that it is rare to find used. Essentially a taxonomy is a collection of like. The most well known taxonomy is the phylum of plants, their botanical names.

Awhile back I was associated with a taxonomy of the more significant personal damage occurrences in the Qld mining industry which I thought was particularly effective in setting priorities for the industry. It is important to do the taxonomy on an industry basis as it is unlikely even the big companies will have enough of the more serious events to be able to develop statistically significant determinations.

The Qld mining industry has a standard personal damage occurrence report form that is sent to the inspectorate. The hard copies of the forms were obtained and sorted into like, ie the spinal column damages caused by driving a haul truck were put together ,the spinal column damage caused by lifting gas cylinders were put together, the eye injuries caused by grinding were put together and so on. The personal damage occurrences were then examined for their frequency, severity and the essential factors (An essential factor is one without which the final damage could not have occurred) This process gives insight into where your principal problems are occurring and guides preventative action.

In these days of computerised data systems I still feel it is necessary to go back to the original hard copy or a scanned in copy.

Examination of personal damage occurrences on an industry basis can provide meaningful insight into your safety problems.

Access to earthmoving equipment

A highly practical safety project in the early 1990’s was the Access to Earthmoving Equipment project. Work required included:

§ Carrying out a literature review;

§ Thorough statistical analysis of company accident data

§ Developing a check-list to assess access systems;

§ Field assessment of access systems

§ Discussing access requirements with maintenance and operational personnel;

§ Designing and installing prototype access modifications;

§ Assessing the adequacy of the prototype modifications;

§ Developing access purchasing specifications and maintenance guidelines; and

§ Providing written guidance on desired characteristics of access systems.

§ Presenting to industry forums in Qld. W.A. & N.S.W.

Through the employer association we successfully applied for Federal Government funding to extend the original research work by further research by an ergonomist / mechanical engineer. Thorough statistical analysis of Qld mining industry accident data was the starting point. This work provided significant input into the writing of an Australian Standard for “Earthmoving Equipment Access” and subsequently much earthmoving equipment in open-cut Australian mines now have hydraulically operated access arrangements.

The focus of this work was the large earthmoving equipment used in open-cut mining but the lessons are equally applicable to smaller earthmoving equipment and the back of trucks.

This research developed an industry manufacturing and developing earthmoving equipment access systems. With the passage of time this work is not well known in the mining industry nowadays, whilst the work has significant application outside the mining industry few will be aware of it.

I can supply further information if necessary,

Critical Incident Recall

Many organisations will tell you they report near misses or critical incidents. My advice is unless you have organised processes in place to surface near misses or critical incidents you will only hear about a fraction of them.

Critical incident recall is an awesome technique particularly suited to high risk environments. The technique will not work unless there is a climate of trust created between management and workers. Communications must be open & honest and managers and supervisors must be prepared to put up with a lot of criticism and not react defensively. In the interests of getting to the truth there must be no disciplinary actions. The senior department manager must be prepared to put his reputation on the line. The potential for some to push industrial issues is high with this technique, open & honest communication and a determination to improve will defuse this.

Neither management or workers will be prepared to commit to the work required in this technique unless there is a general realisation that problems exist.

What was done

All department members attended a short learning session where the Person, Machine, Environment concepts were explained. If I was to do this again I would include a case study of a complex class 1 personal damage occurrence to bring out the principles. The process they would go through was explained.

Some department members were trained as critical incident participant observers and observed what was happening in the workplace, some department members were trained as critical incident interviewers and interviewed their workmates. It was essential that those chosen for these tasks were trusted by the workforce. The identified critical incidents were communicated to management.

It was planned to let the above process go for 6 months but after a short period of time the frequency and severity of the critical incidents set the alarm bells ringing.

Based on the identified critical incidents a questionnaire was developed and all department members were asked to complete it in a series of meetings.

Responses to the questionnaire were collated and displayed on histograms

In what was a very brave move considering the industrial climate the senior department manager led a series of meetings with the workforce where he displayed the histograms and asked for feedback on reasons why the responses were the way they were. The manager was advised that no matter how severe the criticism he was not to react defensively. In these circumstances if a senior person is criticised severely you will usually find someone in the work group will come to his rescue if he is being fair dinkum, if that does not happen the facilitator can come to his rescue.

Changes that occurred included upgrading of diagrams & plans, purchase of new high voltage testing equipment, better understanding of some test equipment, training, improved maintenance, improved procedures, changes to isolation procedures and improved practice. An environment of open and honest communication also developed.

(Refer to the paper Practical Application of the Critical Incident Recall Technique on Geoff was a driving force in this work


Alternatives to the hierarchy of controls

The traditional wisdom when developing hazard controls is to use the Hierarchy of Controls. The author’s experience is that a better result will be achieved by using either Haddon’s 10 Countermeasures or the A.C.I.R.L. 9 Box Model. The main advantage of these approaches is that it expands your options for control


Hazard Control Model

Various hazard control strategies and models have been developed by safety professionals over the years. One of the most effective but still easiest to apply is that devised by American researcher Bill Haddon

Haddon’s model for hazard control is as follows:

Countermeasure 1Prevent the marshalling of the form of energy in the first place.

eg. Ripping seams – instead of blasting, substitution of radiation bin level sources with ultra-sonic level detectors, using water based cleaners rather than flammable solvents.

Countermeasure 2Reduce the amount of energy marshalled.

eg. Radiation – gauge source strength, explosive store licence requirements, control number of gas cylinders in an area

Countermeasure 3Prevent the release of the energy.

eg. handrails on work stations, isolating procedures, most interlock systems

Countermeasure 4Modifying the rate or distribution of energy when it is released.

eg. slope of ramps, frangible plugs in gas bottles, seat belts.

Countermeasure 5Separate in space or time the energy being released from the susceptible person or structure.

eg. minimum heights for powerlines, divided roads, blasting fuse.

Countermeasure 6Interpose a material barrier to stop energy or to attentuate to acceptable levels.

eg. electrical insulation, personal protective equipment, machinery guards, crash barriers

Countermeasure 7Modify the contact surface by rounding or softening to minimise damage when energy contacts susceptible body.

eg. round edges on furniture, building bumper bars, padded dashboards in cars.

Countermeasure 8Strengthen the structure living or non-living that would otherwise be damaged by the energy exchange.

eg. earthquake and fire resistant buildings, weightlifting.

Countermeasure 9To move rapidly to detect and evaluate damage and to counter its continuation and extension.

eg. sprinkler systems, emergency medical care, alarm systems of many types.

Countermeasure 10Stabilisation of damage – long term rehabilitative and repair measure.

eg. clean-up procedures, spill disposal, physiotherapy


Generally the larger the amounts of energy involved in relation to the resistance of the structures at risk, the earlier in the countermeasure sequence must the strategy be selected. In many situations where preventative measures are being considered the application of more than one countermeasure may be appropriate.

Countermeasures may be ‘passive’ in that they require no action on the part of persons, or ‘active in the sense that they require some action or co-operation on the part of the persons, perhaps in association with a design related countermeasure (eg. seatbelts).

Passive’ countermeasures tend to be more reliable in the long term. A short term solution to an immediate problem may require the adoption of an ‘active’ countermeasure eg. toolbox sessions on replacing guards over a mechanical hazard, the long term or ‘passive’ countermeasure might be the fitting of interlocks to the guard so that power is off when the guard is off.

Further reading

Haddon, W ‘On the escape of tigers an ecologic note – strategy options in reducing losses in energy damaged people and property’ Technology Review Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 72;7, 44-53, 1970.

A.C.I.R.L. 9 Box Model


This model says that to have effective control one must have at least one control in each of the boxes. Experience in industry suggests many organizations have many Prevention controls and many Contingency controls (nice trucks with flashing red lights, first-aid kits, trained first-aiders etc) but that they are poor at Monitoring the effectiveness of these controls

Eqpt / Engineering

Safety benchmarking

Over a 14 month period in 1994 -5 BHP Minerals carried out an extensive international safety benchmarking exercise with “best in safety class” companies throughout the world which cost many millions.

25 locations throughout the world participated in the study. An approximate 100 page report on findings has been published.

The following were recurring themes in the world’s best safety performers.

  1. Executive management provides the impetus for safety performance. This means that senior management is not only committed to and supports safety, but that it insists on safety performance in a manner that is clearly understood and echoed at all levels.
  2. Management focus is a key to quality safety performance.

*1 & 2 above were seen as key factors

  1. Existence of a company-wide framework or systematic, standardised approach to safety. The approach has performance standards that receive regular internal and external audits.
  • Objectives are set and organisations work towards set targets for implementation of the objectives.

  • Safety personnel report in at the highest level in the organisations. They have mainly an advisory function. Management and supervision drives the safety program not the safety personnel.

  • Effective safety training targeted to identified needs at all levels. Induction training and detailed safety training for supervisors and managers was high on the priority list. Regular safety meetings were seen as important.

  • Active personal involvement of senior management personnel in the safety program.

  • Safety is considered in performance evaluations of all staff.

  • Regular, detailed audits of the safety management system.

  • Formal approaches to hazard identification and risk analysis, employees were fully involved in this.

  • Formal emergency response procedures that were practiced and audited.

  • The best in class addressed contractor safety before contractors were allowed on site, they pre-qualified them based on safety and made safety performance a contract condition. Contractors were expected to perform at the same safety level as permanent employees.

  • High on the list of the ways the best in class built safety awareness were management participation and leadership, dissemination of information, safety meetings and rewards or recognition of performance.

  • Safety is a condition of employment and dismissals occur for non-performance.

  • Well-managed rehabilitation programs are in place.

  • The best in class use medical examinations and testing to ensure fitness for duty.

  • There were E.A.P.s in place.

  • There were off the job safety programs.

  • There was an emphasis on vehicle / plant maintenance and driver / operator training programs.

  • There were extensive PPE training, maintenance and audit programs.

  • Lock-out procedures were used instead of tag-out.

  • Best in class managers and supervisors respond positively to safety issues that are raised.

  • Best in class supervisors are responsible for safety auditing, investigating personal damage occurrences (accidents), planned job observations and training.

  • All levels in the organisation make decisions that reflect the philosophy “Safety first-Production will follow”.

  • It is suggested Safety Management Systems be built around the above benchmarking findings.


    Job Safety Analysis

    Job safety analysis was introduced in a 200 personnel section of a major operation after an accident where a person was nearly killed. The government regulator said they would close the operation down unless there was a major improvement in safe working procedures.

    Job Safety Analysis (J.S.A.) is a simple yet highly effective technique that is under-utilised in industry.

    J.S.A. should be used with critical tasks-

    § High risk tasks

    § Tasks with an incident history

    § New tasks

    J.S.A. is based on the principle that any job or task can be separated into a set of relatively simple steps and that the hazards associated with each step can be identified. Solutions to control hazards at each step can then be developed and written into safe working procedures.

    The advantages of J.S.A. are

    1. S.W.P.’s can be developed for skills training and use on the job
  • Developing J.S.A.’s helps to raise the safety awareness of workers

  • Assists in making observations of safe behaviour

  • Involves workers in the safety programme in a relevant, meaningful manner

  • J.S.A. Technique-Summary

    1. Select the job or task to be analysed
  • Separate the job into its basic steps

  • Identify all the hazards / potential losses associated with each step

  • Evaluate your options for hazard / loss control action

  • Establish controls for each hazard or other potential loss area

  • Prepare a Safe Work Procedure

  • For further information see the Job Safety Analysis paper by this author under OHS articles on

    Internal standards of OHS excellence

    One of the best pieces of OHS work I have seen was when one organisation implemented 18 internal standards of OHS excellence.

    Standards were Visitor safety, contractor safety, compliance with statute law, use of personal protective equipment, management commitment, hazard identification/risk assessment, safe working procedures, loss prevention &control, employee involvement, emergency procedures, accident investigation, education/communication, inspections, health & fitness, injury management, etc and compliance with these standards must be audited.

    One company I was associated with introduced the above standards and it put a massive increase in the focus on safety. What excellence in implementation of the standards would look like was defined and people were trained in this. A detailed set of audit questions, based on the fore-going was developed as was a detailed set of auditing guidelines and roles of auditors defined. Sites to be audited were briefed on the auditing guidelines and auditors were trained on the audit questions and auditing guidelines. A series of annual Executive Safety Audits was introduced at the various sites with an audit team led by a senior manager to give the process significant management horsepower. The largest audit team I was involved in had 10 auditors and audited the site for 4 days. A quality assurance approach where NCR (Non-compliance reports) were issued was used and formal processes were introduced to follow-up on audit recommendations.

    The technical basis, training and preparation for the audits was sound but the key to success was the fact the audits were driven by senior management.

    Safety Leadership

    For about a year I worked with a General Manager Operations, John, who could best be described as a humble but focused leader who had an overriding commitment to safety. John would turn up at operating sites in the middle of the night to see how safety was being managed. He would jump on a haul truck and go with the operator while the truck was loaded, John would question the operators about safety and tell them that he expected safety to be their top priority. He would walk through the workshop and observe how work was being performed. He would then gather everybody together and give them feedback about safety and tell them what he expected.

    He used to give the workers his mobile number and tell them to call him anytime if a safety issue was not solved to their satisfaction. This did not happen often but there was some big action when it did. The approach by John was not always appreciated by the business unit supervisors and managers as he often knew more about how safety was managed at their site than they did, they were kept on their toes.

    John had a very simple approach to safety audits, he chose ten things his wide experience told him had been known to cause fatalities and the associated prevention methods. He audited to see if the required preventative actions were in place. At the audit closing meeting he reported on the status of the items and said he expected the required actions to be in place by the time he came back in six months. All this was said in a soft, slow, Southern drawl but the managers and supervisors knew their jobs were on the line.

    John let his subordinates know he expected nothing less than 100% commitment to safety, those who did not comply were not around long. Word quickly got around about his safety expectations, single handed he raised the profile of safety in the organisation. Unfortunately after John left there was no one to carry on his work at the same level.

    Safety learning

    Research into successful safety programs has proven the necessity and importance of properly structured safety learning for supervisors and managers. It is not unusual in private industry in Australia for newly-appointed supervisors and managers to receive up to 5 days of safety learning.

    Safety learning

    The following outlines one company’s approach to supervisor and manager learning that proved very successful.

    Hazard Identification / Risk Assessment / Hazard Control4 hoursFor all levels of personnel

    Types of hazards

    Practical exercise recognising hazards

    Risk assessment-practical and theory using probability, consequence and exposure

    Practical and theory of hazard control using the hierarchy of controls

    Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety1 dayFor leading hands, supervisors and managers (mandatory course to be promoted to a supervisor)

    Company safety policy and procedures

    Supervisors responsibility for safety

    Common law principles as they apply to safety management

    Workers compensation and rehabilitation

    Statutory obligations of supervisors

    Accident Investigation2 daysFor members of accident investigation teams, leading hands.

    Supervisors and managers (mandatory course to be promoted to a supervisor)

    Size of the accident problem

    Myths & misconceptions about safety

    Influence of design on accident causation

    Cause versus essential factors

    Theory and practical (including practical exercises) application of Geoff McDonald Accident

    Reference Tree-Trunk method of accident investigation

    Introduction to Occupational Health1 dayFor supervisors and managers (mandatory to be appointed as a senior supervisor)

    History of occupational health and industrial hygiene

    Occupational health principles

    Chemicals control

    Toxic hazards in industry

    Methods of control of occupational health problems (eg. audiometric testing, noise testing, dust testing and control, control of radiation hazards, RSI, back care )

    Supervisors role in occupational health

    Management developments in occupational health & safety1 dayFor the senior management team at an operating location)

    Latest Occupational Health and Safety developments-employer association, union, A.C.T.U., and legislative trends

    Significant Occupational Health and Safety issues in the company and emerging trends

    Advanced safety techniques (eg. auditing, fault-tree analysis, Hazop, safety communications, job safety analysis)

    Analysis of the effectiveness of the sites current safety approach

    Barry Spud

    Barry Spud

    Safety Crusader, Zero Harm Zealot, Compliance Controller and Global Pandemic Expert at Everything Safety
    Barry Spud
    What is a Safety Spud? Lets look at a few more spud head activities in risk and safety: 1. Coming on to site saying there is a safety issue when in fact there’s no such thing, it’s a political issue. 2. ‘Falling apart’ when people make choices that we think are stupid because they won’t do as we ‘tell’ them. Then we put on the angry face and think that overpowering others creates ownership. 3. Putting on the zero harm face, presenting statistics, knowing it has nothing to do with culture, risk or safety. 4. Putting on the superman (hazardman) suit and pretending to be the saviour of everything, this is good spud head cynic stuff. 5. Thinking that everyone else is a spud head except me. 6. Thinking there’s such a thing as ‘common’ sense and using such mythology to blame and label others. 7. Accepting safety policies and processes that dehumanize others. 8. Blaming, ego-seeking, grandstanding and territory protecting behind the mask of safety. 9. Thinking that risk and safety is simple when in fact it is a wicked problem. Denying complexity and putting your spud head in the sand. 10. Continually repeating the nonsense language and discourse of risk aversion that misdirect people about risk, safety, learning and imagination.

    2 Replies to “Safety Ideas That Work”

    1. Thanks very Informative Article easy to understand. Good content and thanks for sharing the post  

    Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below