Because we have always done it this way!

This week I encountered this problem. A new way to think and doing something and a reluctance, almost open defiance, to new ways. When asked why not, because we have always done it this way!

That’s a poor answer to a set of reasonable questions.

Why do we allow the contractor to deviate from their work method? Why do put experience ahead of innovation? Why do we allow this risk when we could have zero? Why is this our policy? Why do we let him decide these issues?

The real answer is, “Because if someone changes it, that someone will be responsible for what happens.”

Are you okay with that being the reason things are the way they are? I’m not!

Hierarchy of control and behavioural safety – how do these approaches fit?

A friend of mine asked me a question. How does behavioural safety fit with hierarchy of control? Hmmmm…..great question.

It took me some time to engage system 2 and think through this. My first thoughts were:

Hierarchy of control is primary focused on identification of the hazard and some form of interaction with that hazard. Notionally, there are five controls that are applied. They are:

  1. Elimination – removal of the hazard
  2. Substitution, – reducing the hazardous energy
  3. Engineering – designing a means to isolate the hazard from the person (e.g. guards)
  4. Administration – Creating procedures that put as much distance between the hazard and the person
  5. Personal Protective equipment – often referred to as the last line of defence, it involves placing some form of protective material on the person

So, the hierarchy of controls look at the hazard side of the equation.

Behavioural safety on the other hand looks at the person side of the equation. It doesn’t matter if it is a peer to peer program (involving observation and feedback from others) or a safe habits program (self understanding triggers routines and rewards). The focus is on target behaviours or safe routines. These human actions are independent of type of hazards. What is important is that the hazard exists and there is some human action that can avoid the line of fire at is most basic.

On the face of it they seem mutually exclusive. I’ve seen programs focused on the hazards only and programs focused on the behaviours only. Rarely are they integrated but in reality they are the sum of the whole. Without one or the other, the equation is incomplete therefore so is the program. Spending equal effort on hazards and behaviours balances the equation. This balance is very important.

So thanks good friend. I hope this helps.



How to get the best information after an incident

One thing I have observed over the years whenever I get to investigate an incident just after it has happened is I always seem to get a response from the person involved that attributes their own actions to the incident. The further away I get from the incident, in terms of time, the focus shifts to others, in particular the hazard or breakdown of the system. It seems like people start seeking where to attribute blame and that doesn’t mean themselves.

Also remember the further you get away from the incident, the less accurate our recall becomes. What is the real problem though is that our brains fill in bits that are missing with information it links to, not what you may have seen. As an example of this phenomena, the number of convictions that were based on eyewitness testimony (basically what we can recall from our fallible memory) that are being overturned based on DNA evidence continues to mount.

So, when an incident occurs and you want the best representation of what actually happened, ask your questions as soon as you can. What we store in our working memory is fallible and once the memory fades, the brain pretty much makes up the rest.