• Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
    Andrew Hale and David Borys did, what I consider very valuable research into this very topic: ‘safety rules and procedures’. I attach their papers (two of them) and my own summary of it here. The crux of it is vested in the paradigm you subscribe to:
    1. Experts prescribing the way work must be performed to fallible humans; or
    2. Rules set the ‘safety envelope' boundaries within which the true experts – the experienced technicians – make the rules by assessing what is in front of them and making here-and-now rules how to perform the task safely.

    I subscribe to the latter!
    Two conflicting views on the role of safety rules and procedures (203K)
    Hale & Borys - Working to rule or working safely Part 1 (253K)
    Hale & Borys - Working to rule or working safely Part 2 (222K)
  • Emotions vs. objectivity in accident statistics
    I wholeheartedly agree with you Simon. It is in a sense the same as the myth-busting post Peter B started. We make up stuff to support our point-of-view … and call it ‘safety’

    I think it originates from the very old-fashioned belief that you can scare people into submission. If we are told our road toll is increasing, I won’t drive under the influence/speed, etc.

    This, in turn, is the legacy of the all-too-prevalent belief in classical conditioning. This theory originates from Pavlov (born in 1849 ... yes, NOT 1949!) and Skinner (born in 1904) and states that you can change behavior with reward and punishment.

    This is, sadly a very common misconception and we perpetuate this all too often. I cannot believe we still cling to a theory from the 1930’s that has so many times proven to be wrong. We are NOT Pavlov’s dogs, we are masters of manipulation. I don’t change my behaviour because the stats are good or bad. I drive under the influence/too fast because … fill in the blank … it has nothing to do with the stats!
  • Long read: Andrew Hopkins on "safety culture"
    I can’t say I was very impressed with this speech. I agree 'culture' is a grossly overused and completely undefined concept, but not sure the speech made it any clearer. For example, I am not sure anybody think culture is an individual characteristic; most people use it in the context of an organisation (group).

    Similarly, him using the trains running on time as an example of the "structure of the organisation" is a bit strange, if not nonsensical. What is he saying? Every industry, profession, task will have its imperatives and it will influence their culture, but so what? That trains should not run on time? That midwifes should not drop new-born babies?

    The same about his discussion on a national culture. I have a team in several different countries and the Americans, Chinese, Thais, even the Aussies! do things slightly differently. But it doesn’t mean we cannot have a company culture that transcends these boundaries. Nobody only belongs to one group; my language when I am sitting next to the Prime Minister (not that it happens all that often) will be markedly different to the language I will use when I am watching the game at my local! Especially when the English try is disallowed in the last minutes of the game!

    What did it teach me about culture? Not much, actually

    So, by and large I think Hopkins didn't add much to the discourse on culture. I personally think writers like Erik Hollnagel and Sydney Dekker make far more useful contributions, even though they may not use the word 'culture'. For example, Hillnagel's reference to "habituation" is a case in point.

    But that’s only my bias – never thought Andrew Hopkins made much of a difference. I think he is very much a “Safety 1” thinker and I believe there is another layer to this.
  • H&S is "strangling business": how best to respond?
    We do it to ourselves - business is not a benevolent society and we must work to achieve business' goals, not to achieve our ulterior motives. And we cannot keep on hiding behind what others - the Regulator, a Standard, a 'pre-qual' organisation - say we need to do.

    The heart of the 'problem' is that we define safety by its antithesis - what safety is not. Safety is NOT the "absence of injuries" ('go home uninjured at the end of each day'), safety is "ensuring that things go right". If we as professionals made this our motive, we will not be called 'stranglers'. We will be called 'contributors'.

    My elevator-speech proposal: "We will work harder to make sure we enable people to do things right and/or for things to go right, from every possible vantage point. We will use the full toolbox of methods, systems, and even tricks at our professional disposal to achieve this"[/i].

    If we can find, develop, discover, fabricate, design, steal, beg or borrow a better way of enabling people to do things right, we will do so. Not because some new-age 'regulator' wants us to sign our names each time we hold a toolbox meeting, but by removing all things that gets in the way of people doing things right. Things like over-the-top rules, procedures, documentation, instructions, interferences. Furthermore, we will be searching for solutions to problems that gets in the way of doing it right, providing guidance, resources, organisational climate, resolving conflicting goals. We will be managing change so that the new is not distracting us/hindering us from doing things right. We will do our best to ensure that the organisation gets the opportunity to learn.

    We can add to this list - as long as we keep our eye on the ball ... business is interested in getting things right. So should we be. Business should not understand/recognise better what we are doing, we must recognise what they want: doing things right!

    And deliver that.
  • Signing For Attendance At Toolbox Meetings
    To quote Hayes, Borys and Adams:

    "We conclude that, while the whole complex of detailed regulations does of itself impose a heavy burden of search and interpretation on companies, a potentially more serious problem is the strong forces pushing regulators to formulate their regulations at an action rule level. These forces lead to a proliferation of regulations and a jungle of exceptions and exemptions. To cope with such imposed action rules, companies focus on compliance rather than on managing risks. This turns compliance into a bureaucratic, legalistic paper game rather than a creative process of optimizing risk control and is likely to inhibit innovation"

    And now service providers ("Sitewise and Impac/Prequal") also join the fray ... the new class of 'regulators'. It is only a clipboard being passed around Jan, but how does this clipboard improve the management of risks?

    As I said, I fear for my vocation...
    Dekker - Bureaucratization of Safety (360K)
    Hale AR Borys D Adams M 2013 Safety regulation - the lessons of workplace (621K)
  • Signing For Attendance At Toolbox Meetings
    There are times that I worried about my vocation - when the question if people need to sign attendance of a meeting or not becomes the topic of discussion, we are in serious trouble.
  • What should we use this Forum for?
    Yes weekly digest is a good idea. Sharing is important. There was lots of good discussions going on on the old forum

    All for it!
  • Poll: which legislation works best for you?
    (I know you are trying out a functionality Peter B, but I am responding to the question, not the poll! I promise I will click a response on the poll as well ... it will be "no")

    It is a loaded question and in my opinion one of the issues with our 'profession'. Legislation cannot solve the problem (work better for us), it only sets a regime in place how to deal with the baddies. And, as is often the case with hard-and-fast rules in all (most) spheres of society, it sometimes catches the goodies as well.

    So, does it work better for me? Dunno - we do things because it is the right things to do and legal compliance is the outcome, not the input. We are not a baddie and I hope we won't be pinged (even though we are goodies)