• Peter Bateman
    270
    In the March/April edition of Safeguard we pose three questions based on stories in the magazine. One of them is this:

    Jop Havinga's research suggests the Take5 process, commonly used in construction, serves no useful H&S purpose. How might knowledge of this evidence change the advice you give to the construction sector?

    Feel free to respond here on the Forum, or privately here via a Survey Monkey form.

    An edited selection of responses will be published in the May/June edition, but with no names attached. One randomly selected person will receive a prize, namely a copy of the book Line in the Sand, by Dean Yates.
  • Matt Sadgrove
    27
    Research like all other sources of information is up for scrutiny and interpretation. I think Jop's research and indeed the article in safeguard is good and useful however its applicability to the industry as a whole is unclear. The use of take 5s in all their various forms is often a customer requirement which is hard to negotiate out of when you are a contractor trying to win work. The take 5 usefulness is subjective and like all tools requires some sort of expectation to be set out before use otherwise the process is likely to drift from what is expected. Knowledge of this and all the things that are wrong with the take five process is a reminder to "set you table before you eat" and lay out what is expected and why. Clutter reduction is easy to say but harder to do if the contractor customer relationship is fragile, rule bound, and cost driven rather than built on a trusting communicative relationship.
  • Chris Peace
    84
    Having become an academic I no longer work in a 'frontline' health and safety role so my comments are more general.
    In the 1980s, the domino theory of workplace injury causation was widely used. It was based on work by Heinrich in the 1940s and Bird & Loftus in the late 1960s but became discredited (although it is an interesting representation).
    The Bird pyramid (1 fatality = X serious harms .... = hundred property damages) is also discredited. Heinrich and Bird simply didn't have the computer power to do the analysis they claimed.
    So all good ideas need to be tested to see if the research supports them.
    Work by psychologists has shown we can hold 7 +/- 2 tasks in our working memory. Some research shows that's 5 +/- 2. In other words we can juggle about 7 things in our working memory but adding more tasks means we drop one or more of the original tasks. The number 7 might be OK with minimal distractions but as distractions in the workplace increase the number that can be held in working memory will drop to 5 or less. When we forget to do something is that due to overloaded working memory?
    So take 5 might fail if the workplace is full of distractions.
    Is Havinga's research correct? I need to read it first.
  • Candis Hawkins
    8
    Thank you for this perspective.
  • Peter Beaver
    6
    I cannot see any weaknesses in evidence or argument in the Havinga et al article. I wondered if the problem might be faulty implementation, but that objection seemed effectively countered.

    I was reminded of 'A Manifesto for a Reality-based Safety Science' (2020), which argued that safety theorists tend to generate theory without specifying practices, empiricists tinker with theory but don't test it, and practitioners act without using theory or evidence. Havinga stepped outside that and empirically tested a theory - which is great!

    There must be an alternative in the Safety 2 toolbox, but what precisely I don't know. Havinga suggest that reducing the need for staff to defend themselves against blame would help. A cultural shift, which is not easy of course.
  • Jop Havinga
    5
    It's certainly true many things can get in the way of decluttering efforts. We do hope that the study helps making an argument to push back against Take 5 requirements.

    The full study can be found here for free.

    When looking for an alternative, the first question would be an alternative to do what? As there are different ideas about what Take 5 ought to do, this is not a straight forward question.
  • Steve Schroder
    18
    Research like everything, should be read and considered alongside other evidence as well as practical experience and then considered within the environment you work in before change is implemented.
    For example, in this example, Take 5 serves no real purpose, i would argue that, this very much depends on where the company is in their safety journey. i.e. just starting out - if it get the team thinking about the risks of the job and results in a safety controls being implemented, then i would consider this very beneficial. However, a company that is further along the journey, that has more sophisticated processes in place, they may not see any real benefit from this process.
    In short there is no one size fits all to safety, including when it comes to research, that can be very narrow focused in its application.
  • Alan Boswell
    24
    We have seen pretty much all that Havinga et al has noted in the study case, but in real time. No set timelines, no baseline period just work work as usual. Their study, I would say, is pretty much spot on. But it is our work force that have led the desire to change. They told us that our version of Take 5 was pointless, that it had been simplified to the point of it being meaningless, and that they wanted a system that actually provided the opportunity to think about the work that was about to happen.
    Our response? Go for it, what do you want?
    This very much an in progress project but what we have so far is that there will be 3 groups, Low, Medium and High risk tasks - so far so good!
    Low risk (literally nothing could foreseeably could cause harm) - no need to formally assess
    Medium - tasks that would cause concern, but less so with experience and frequency
    High - tasks that contain one or more of 5 critical risks - these are to be assessed with a JSA style analysis.
    The finer details are yet to be hammered out, however, as the H&S manager, I am having very little to do with the project, it is led and run by our engineers, and that fact alone shows me that our culture is sufficiently mature to understand the value of considering the inherent risks within our industry beyond 'I need to cover my ass'.
    As I said, a project very much in its infancy, however it'll be fascinating to see what we come up with.
  • Peter Beaver
    6
    Something that maybe needs to be said here is workers do normally assess risk, and they have real skin in the game! Gherardi & Nicolini nicely documented this in 'The Organisational Learning of Safety in Communities of Practice', about how construction workers learn from one another, and assess and monitor risks. The process is very informal, with a lot of shouting, pointing, touching and hitting things. And some ridicule and abuse for those who get it wrong. All very different from formalised written assessments (although that would differ by industry) and maybe another reason bureaucratised processes can be performed as ritual. None of this is to say that workers cannot do better. Their ways are less than perfect. But implementing new ways of being safe needs to take account of the fact workers do attempt to do that already and are also making trade-offs with production pressures. So an alternative to Take5 might be something along the lines of generating discussion with workers in forums of some kind about successes and failures (talk about the former first so they can they can then acknowledge what isn't so good) and supporting them to design a process with as much of their input as possible on the basis that they are the (fallible) experts in things that can hurt them at work. Because while safety may be one of their priorities it's probably not their first, and it can be shifted up the hierarchy if the workplace does genuinely support that (as oppose to talk it up but the real priority is elsewhere).
  • Peter Beaver
    6
    ... there might also be some culture to address about some harms being minor/trivial and a sign of true dedication to the work and not to be made a fuss over. But is that really okay? And what is the connection between common minor harms and occasional major harms? Discuss those questions. You can't really make people change those sorts of beliefs because they are deep seated cultural-emotional, but some reflection might bring staff to decide collectively that another safer way is preferable and better.
  • Jop Havinga
    5
    It's certainly true that Take 5's and the like can take on different shapes and roles, which can make our study results less relevant. However, if the purpose is kept at making people look for or think about hazards, I do not think it makes much of a difference. Our data suggested that workers look for hazards equally, with or without Take5 policy. Considering that many workers were contractors, it's hard to link this to a kind of organisational maturity argument. What did you make of our argument against attempting to fix the Take 5?
  • Jop Havinga
    5
    It's always exciting to hear people are experimenting with Take 5's. Since we have published the article, people have reached out to us to discuss interesting versions, and some that definitely went beyond what we have studied. What is the main purpose of the new Take 5 version?
  • Jop Havinga
    5
    There's no doubt people discussion work challenges, hazards, or safety norms can make a big difference. Where I have some doubts is whether management should try and lead or take over the process all the time. It's quite natural for people to discuss hazards and challenges, just as people look for hazards regardless of whether there is a Take 5 policy. In that regard, providing shared crib rooms, break times, having project timelines or maps available, making it easier for workers to talk to each other, might do more to foster discussions than formalised forums.
  • Steve Schroder
    18
    "Our data suggested that workers look for hazards equally, with or without Take5 policy." if this is the case then i would be happy, however, my experiance practically is that, if there is no process like this (it dosent have to specifically be a take 5) then that company will not be as "safe" as other companies that do.
    My arugment was not to "fix" the take 5 process, but rather imbrace the fact that we need a process for workers to undertake a risk assessment, whatever this may look like.
    PS: i have not read your research, so i am also making these comments based off my experiance rather than from a position of crtitcally examining your work.
  • Jop Havinga
    5
    What experiences have taught you that a process is needed for workers to understand risk assessment and that such processes increase safety in an organisation?

    As 'safety' is an elusive target, I am always keen to learn about additional aspects to consider.
  • Alan Boswell
    24
    Hi Jop,
    It wouldn't be a Take 5 at all, merely a decision making process for what level of risk analysis is required. For instance, is it low risk, medium or high (involving a critical risk)? This would then determine the depth of risk analysis to be carried out. We have yet to work out how we link the decision tree to the subsequent analysis document enabling the engineers to follow a worthwhile process. At the moment the biggest criticism of the existing process is that they do it because they have to, not because they want to. This again, adds credence to your research.
  • Steve Schroder
    18
    Why dont you send me you paper, (), i will have a read and then will be in a better postion to answer your questions. i will also include my experiance from a practical point of view
  • Steve Schroder
    18
    Hi there Jop
    Thanks for sending me the article, it made for some insightful reading my comments are below:

    The article presents a compelling case against the effectiveness of "Take 5" as a safety practice, supported by empirical evidence and detailed analysis. However, the conclusions are not without contestation. The study highlights significant issues with the implementation and practical use of "Take 5," but there remains an argument that with better implementation, "Take 5" might still have potential benefits. I would also comment that the study has a very limited scope interms of people / orgainsations studied and thus to confrim your data, I would recomend a much wider scope to ensure you validate your findings.
    Your article's insights into the bureaucratic nature of safety practices and their social functions provide valuable contributions to the discussion on workplace safety management and i certinly enjoyed sparking the discussion with my team on Friday as a result of this.

    From a practical point of veiw, I agree with the point that a Take5 can be considered "safety clutter". As for the most part in my experiance, there is very little done with the outcomes of the Take5 forms, i.e who reads and acts upon the issues that are raised for a fix at a later date.

    In my view, however, the point of the Take5 is not as a risk mitigation tool for a buisness, the point of a Take5 is a dialog opener, to get people talking about what it is they are going to do and what are the risk and hazards of that task. When done well this works to facilite conversations about potenital risks and hazards at a site and provide a form to discuss potential way to mitiagte these. however if implemented poorly, then it is seen as a tickbox excersize and in this case I would agree with your findings being that they are infact a waste fo time.

    In short, as with all safety related thing, it is very diffuclt to say this thing works vs this thing dosen't as in reality what works for one buisness really well is seen as a wate of time by another.
  • Peter Beaver
    6
    I think the kinds of support you describe, so workers can better initiate and control processes, are great. But I think the role of management could be more than support from a distance and resource provision. Because how do you know that workers are not internalising some production pressures or values? In word and deed organisations often promote contradictory values (production and safety), and for the sake of career some workers will be very keen to respond most to edicts that suit short term company financial goals. Which means workers may accept some unsafe practices on behalf of other company values. And, workers may also seek to legitimise institutional norms that some harms are inevitable. In the case of medical/nursing work for example, professionals consign some patient risks to luck, and don't manage them. Possibly in a more supportive system they would, but some of the carelessness reflects occupational group norms. If you want to change those norms then management having some active (not dominant) role in the process may be essential, through facilitation, humble leadership, careful challenge, measurement and monitoring (if possible), etc.
  • Jop Havinga
    5
    Single study of course doesn't settle the debate on Take 5, and the idea of subsequent studies get us excited (academics can be a weird bunch), whether it is by us or others. Especially with something as ubiquitous and diverse as Take 5, there will always more to study and consider. If organisations want to do (and fund) subsequent studies, we are always keen. Since the study, people have reached out to us about Take 5(-like) practice that definitely went beyond the scope of our study. There will be functions that we have not considered, like the idea of it being a dialog opener. Do you have any observations around how Take 5-like practices change the way people talk about risks?
  • Jop Havinga
    5
    Fully agree that management has a responsibility to consider how they shape norms and goal priorities in staff. As organisations already tend do and formalise a lot in top-down space (e.g. toolbox talks, safety posters, performance reports, safety culture campaigns, etc), I think most organisations forget about supporting local or horizontal discussions.
  • Peter Beaver
    6
    This reminds me of the Surgical Safety Checklist. Effectiveness of the SSC is very much dependent upon both how much the hospital engages staff and provides resource support: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)61440-9/fulltext
    ... and the social dynamics in operating theatres: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/38032808_Uptake_of_a_team_briefing_in_the_operating_theatre_A_Burkean_dramatistic_analysis.
    From recollection I think your Take5 study reviewed a site with good implementation in terms of available tools, management support, and paperwork completion, but Take5 did not seem to be about generating conversation between staff - which is a significant element of how SSC works. Conversation matters because different people bring different information and perceptions. SSC without free and open discussion quickly becomes another tick-box ritual.
    Whether or not enhancing Take5 to make it a more involved process is realistic, I don't know. Not every task is as momentous as surgery.
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