Doing it Differently with Safety Differently

Doing it Differently with Safety Differently

07th March 2017

A little more than a year ago, the UK Health and Safety Executive Recruitment Network, in collaboration with SHP Magazine took part in a round table discussion to explore the “Safety Differently” strategy that was developed by John Green during his time with construction giant, Laing O’Rourke in Australia.  Starting with Green’s premise that “Safety is broken”, he revealed that there has been “no decrease in the fatality and serious injury rate over the last 15 years” in the construction sector.  This realisation is what Green claims led him away from the “Zero harm” battle cry of contemporary health and safety professionals which he postulates is a mantra that leads to the assumption  within safety circles that the absence of harm means the presence of non-harm.  This leads one to believe that good safety is an absence of accidents, an erroneous belief because we still see plenty of low level accidents within the construction industry.  In fact, a study of accident and fatality rates in Finland’s construction industry over a 15 year period seems to show that the fatality rate increases when the accident rate decreases!

Green has come up with “three paradigms of change” to promote a shift in safety management and change traditional the conceptions that:

·         People are the problem

·         Safety is the absence of negatives

·         Safety is a bureaucratic activity

The new way of thinking is that:

·         People are the solution

·         Safety is the presence of positives

·         Safety is an ethical responsibility

John Green believes that it’s time for change and his initiative is certainly giving the safety community some food for thought with his ideas which he hopes will encourage debate on the issue of safety.  As workplaces and systems become increasingly interactive and subject to rapid technological change people and organisations will need to adapt to keep up.  There are strong economic pressures to be innovative and traditional approaches to safety may no longer be suited to the way in which we work. 

Safety audits are vital to safety management but there are some safety professionals who believe that safety audits may prove problematic and they’ve raised the following concerns:

·         An audit may not deliver a true picture of what’s happening

·         Audits could damage cultures of trust

·         Some projects suffer from audit overload

While regular safety audits are a vital part of safety management, they do tend to focus on the programmatic elements of practice – what should happen, rather than what does happen.  It’s the programmatic level which is connected to legislative demands, international standards, best practice, etc.  The technological elements, on the other hand (what actually does happen) are only assessed to the degree that they support conclusions about the programmatic elements.  This may lead to audits being disconnected from the processes that most require them. 

We’ll be taking a closer look at safety audits next week so why not bookmark our website so that you can learn more about this subject.  Or, why not follow us on Twitter or Facebook so that you know immediately when our next article is published?