Improving safety performance through sports science


I was at my daughters first rowing team meeting at high school tonight. She was really excited about what lay ahead this year and the challenges she will face with being part of the rowing team. I must say, based on the aspiration and success of the team that has gone before, as a parent, my advice is to get your daughter into rowing! The discipline, motivation and how to overcome hard work, really stood out.

But I digress. What’s this got to do with improving safety? Well this team of year 8 girls, nearly 50 in total, had a team of 10 coaches! 1 coach per 5 girls or one per quad team and a single skull. Great to see my money being used on the kids.

They introduced each coach one by one. A mixture of semi-professionals and old girls from the school. As I said, all very impressive people. But what came next really surprised but also made me reflect. They introduced the performance coach! yes a performance coach. Their key guy who collects and analyses the data, feeds back the observations and develops individual programs for each rower to optimise performance and maximise chance of success. Wow. We need one of those at work!

That made me think. Hell yeah, we do need a performance coach at work. One who can collect and analyse individual safety performance, feed it back and develop an individual program. Hmmmm…..why don’t we have one of those and what would that look like if we did?

What information would we collect to improve safety performance. We see it in elite sports where it seems they are measuring every little thing. Looking for tiny improvements which give competitive advantage. Team players wear tracking and monitoring devices whilst on the field of play. They are analysed by the second. Often a time sync’d video is watched by the entire team, so you (and your team mates) can see your mistakes in full HD, frame by frame. This is a time tested approach and critical to improvement. Analysis, review and feedback. The breakfast of champions.

But what are we doing in safety, to improve performance? What are we measuring in terms of how we can be safer? Do we even know what to measure? Then reviewing and feedback in the workplace. Is this even possible? I can see a work force deeply suspicious of any video being taken, let alone playing it back for all to share lessons learned!

I feel we are a long way from this. We still haven’t progressed from safety is a compliance issue and any review of performance, especially if it is failure is normally met with penalty. Little wonder workforces are suspicious.

So the question in my head is how would we design a safety performance improvement plan based on the sports science/performance methods? Who would that performance coach be and what would be measured? My high school teenage daughter has one for rowing. Why don’t we?


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