25 Ways to stuff up a Safety Management System

Today is probably the most important national occasion in Australia and NZ. ANZAC Day – 25 April – marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The day our combined forces landed on the beaches at Gallipoli in 1915 to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. Nearly 100 years on it has become a day to commemorate and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in all theaters of war.

I wanted to put something poignant on this blog. I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than the first ever article that the late Safety Battler, George Robotham, sent in to me on 11th March 2011. George was a true Safety Battler. He and I had both served in the military in our younger years and we shared some awesome liquid lunches at the Greenback RSL, talking about the good old days and spinning “war stories”. I attended a dawn service this morning and later reflected on what George would have done today were he still with us – he’d be drinking XXXX beers, telling lies and playing 2 UP with his mates. Here’s to you mate and the legacy you have left behind – Lest We Forget.

25 Ways to stuff up a Safety Management System

The first article by the  late George Robotham  – more of his work here

Download the Word Version Here:  [download id=”90″]


1 Lack of management commitment, leadership and drive from the top of the organisation.

2 Lack of understanding and implementation of sensible safety legislation.

3 Lack of understanding and implementation of common law principles.

4 Too much concentration on lag indicators such as the Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate at the expense of leading indicators. Thinking minor personal damage is a good predictor of life-altering personal damage.

5 Not using the continuous improvement philosophy and other facets of Quality Management in your safety approach.

6 Lack of succinct paperwork. There is not much point in having detailed paperwork that is too much like hard work to read.

7 Using theory instead of real world approaches-Whatever you do reality test it with the workforce first.

8 Ignoring “When implementing change-Remember, people support what they create”

9 Not using face to face communications whenever possible. Research by Harvard professor T.J. Larkin suggests when communicating change with the workforce use the supervisor not senior management, use face to face communications and frame communications relevant to the immediate work area and processes.

10 Not using a needs analysis to guide all your actions.

11 Ignoring the simplicity not complexity rule.

12 Not creating an expectation for people at all levels to perform in safety.

13 Not developing goals, objectives, targets etc. for the Safety Management System.

14 Not using Learning Needs Analysis to guide conduct of learning. Not using Adult Learning Principles & Process to guide facilitation. Using lecture style presentations and Death by Power-Point.

15 Not training formal and informal leaders in Safety Leadership.

16 Not having regular audits of the Safety Management System.

17 Not practicing Emergency Response Plans.

18 Not having simple, succinct Safe Working Procedures, aim for 2 pages at the most, use pictures, diagrams, flow-charts etc.

19 Not using team-building principles in your safety approach.

20 Taking yourself too seriously and not celebrating success.

21 Using enterprise “accident” experience to guide action rather than industry taxonomies of permanently life-altering personal damage.

22 Putting too much emphasis on the findings from risk assessments, the reality is that a lot of risk assessment is very subjective.

23 Not having formal approaches to follow up on investigations.

24 Not having formal approaches to follow up on audits.

25 Spending too much time in the office instead of the field where the action is happening.

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