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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Doing safety differently

Doing safety differently
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New Zealand

“Traditionally safety is very reactive, using fear and discomfort to jolt people into action. But the problem with this is, once you take away the discomfort, the driver for change goes too, so you have to create more emotional tension to drive things further.”

Keynote speaker Daniel Hummerdal, director of safety innovation at Australian consultancy Art of Work, didn’t mince his words when telling Safeguard conference delegates why, in his view, the H&S profession must develop better ways to engage with workers.

“I’ve been in organisations where work stops when the safety team shows up because workers know they’re going to be told what they’re doing wrong,” he said. “If you want safety in your organisation, don’t focus on the problems, but on the highlights – on encouraging high performance rather than chasing deficits.”

The key to achieving this change of focus is for health and safety professionals to learn more about the realities of day-to-day work.

“If you’re only focused on deficit you’re never going to find innovations and new ideas. But when you say: ‘How can we work together to make this a better site?’ then safety starts to align with the purpose of the business, and the drivers to improve things don’t go away when the emotional discomfort isn’t there.”

He recommended five strategies to change the nature of safety conversations and give workers a heightened sense of involvement.

First, focus on normal work rather than incidents. “Post-incident is the most difficult time to learn because people are defensive. Go and learn when nothing has gone wrong – the issues they struggle with will be the same.”

Second, examine work as it is actually conducted. “People will work with whatever is available to get the job done – and we’re usually happy for them to do so, until something goes wrong. So ask about the difficulties and discomforts they have to deal with, and find the imperfections and inefficiencies in the system.”

Third, invite workers to describe the difficult times. “Normally you never hear about the high pressure times unless something goes wrong, but this is where safety can be created, and undermined, in the moment.”

Fourth, try to learn from deviations. “The fact that someone is doing something you hadn’t expected them to do – not wearing gloves or using improvised equipment – means there is something you haven’t understood. If what they’re doing puts them at risk you have an ethical responsibility to intervene, but there is a trade-off between imposing your knowledge and learning from the situation.”

Fifth, do safety with workers rather than to them. “Give your workforce opportunities to contribute to safety solutions. People really care about what they’ve created.”



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Daniel Hummerdal
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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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