Handy Hints For Safety People

Handy Hints For Safety People

By George Robotham,


Practical tips for implementing a new or revising an existing Safety Management System (S.M.S.)


Quotable Quote

“A health & safety problem can be described by statistics but cannot be understood by statistics. It can only be understood by knowing and feeling the pain, anguish, and depression and shattered hopes of the victim and of wives, husbands, parents, children, grandparents and friends, and the hope, struggle and triumph of recovery and rehabilitation in a world often unsympathetic, ignorant, unfriendly and unsupportive, only those with close experience of life altering personal damage have this understanding”

Guiding principle



The following presents a variety of approaches the author has seen work successfully in other organisations, it is realised not all of it may be required in particular organisations or may work in some. This represents the start with some suggestions that will have to be modified according to the identified needs of particular organisations. Smaller, low risk organisations may not need all of the following initiatives or need them on a low key basis.

What you do and do not do in safety depends on an evaluation of the risk versus the benefit. If you decide to not implement a proven safety initiative you have to realise you may have to try to justify the decision in court if someone is seriously injured.


  • Whatever you do make it SIMPLE & EASY, if it is too much like hard work, it will not happen.
  • Use a quality management approach to safety, with a continuous improvement philosophy.
  • Define the scope of any project before you start it, you cannot meet needs if you do not identify them.
  • Do the things that give you the biggest bang for your buck.
  • Minimise the bureaucracy and bull s—t.
  • Give and expect regular feedback.
  • Visible leadership from the top of the organisation is the key to success.
  • Communicate your expectations and react when they are not met.
  • Benchmark against known high performers.
  • Tell your people “Bring me solutions, not problems”
  • When it comes to employing people remember “If you pay peanuts you get monkeys “
  • Whatever you decide to do, do it in bite sized chunks, trying to do too much at once may lead to unrecoverable failure.


  • If a recent audit to guide strategy has not been carried out carry one out. Need to establish what is in place, what is working and what is not working. Sometimes it is appropriate to recognise the efforts of the past, thank the people involved but be very upfront that there is the need for considerable change.
  • Carry out a force field analysis with the senior management group to help develop objectives, goals, strategy etc.
  • Carry out a series of force field analysis with a cross section of managers, supervisors and workers. Be aware the presence of some managers and supervisors may inhibit worker discussion.
  • Based on the force field analysis a draft OHS plan will be developed and circulated for comment. The pace of change can be quick, moderate or slow depending on need and the culture of the organisation. Sometimes safety change can be the vehicle for other needed management change. Too quick and too large change can be counter -productive at times. The OHS plan must have timelines for implementation.
  • Carry out a short Safety Leadership workshop with senior managers, managers and supervisors.
  • Carry out a short workshop on statute and common law responsibilities for senior managers, managers and supervisors.
  • Use leading safety indicators not lag ones.
  • Employee Assistance and Wellness programs can give good returns on investment with sensible application.
  • Drug and alcohol testing and awareness programs may be appropriate.
  • Note
  • Senior management must not underestimate the power of their demonstrated commitment, example and expectation of high performance in safety, they have to become forceful advocates for safety.
  • Operational
  • There may be the need to introduce fatigue management programs
  • Train workers in legislative safety responsibilities. Compliance with legislation must be the minimum standard.
  • Beware of displacement activities, a displacement activity is something we do, something we put a lot of energy into, but when we examine it closely there is no valid reason to do it. Some professions have many displacement activities.
  • Ensure safety communications are focussed, succinct and targeted at the workplace level of the receiver. Use face to face communications wherever possible. Do not be surprised if your e-mails are misunderstood.
  • Have a safety training needs analysis and train appropriately. All training should be short, sharp, interactive and based on need.
  • Regularly ensure those in prescribed occupations are maintaining their certificates of competency.
  • Form worker and supervisor teams to carry out risk assessment, give them a short training session and get them going carrying out risk assessments.
  • Form worker and supervisor teams to carry out Job Safety Analysis, give them a short training session and get them going carrying out Job Safety Analysis to prepare Safe Working Procedures / Work Method Statements. Concentrate on high risk tasks first. S.W.P. and W.M.S. should be short and simple and use photos, diagrams, illustrations etc.
  • Develop an appropriate short safety induction program for new employees.
  • Performance appraisals must place a high importance on safety. Job descriptions must have detailed safety responsibilities and these must be monitored.
  • Regular audits are required.
  • Emergency response plans are practised.
  • Procedures are in place to manage contractor safety.
  • Supervisors run regular, short, sharp safety meetings with workers.
  • Excellent safety performance is recognised.
  • Appropriate rehabilitation programs are in place after injury.
  • An Employee Assistance Program provider should be sourced and their availability communicated to all employees.
  • Wellness programs should be investigated.
  • A safety committee trained in its role & responsibilities should meet regularly. Giving committees substantive task to do will help stop minor issues being raised
  • Supervisors should be trained in appropriate accident investigation procedures.
  • Regular safety inspections should be undertaken.
  • Consider if fleet safety approaches are warranted.
  • Those in high risk occupations should have regular medicals.


Succinct paperwork is mandatory.

Nuts & bolts

  • Have high visibility clothing for day time use and fit reflective stripes for night time use.
  • Have sufficient trained first-aiders and appropriate first-aid kits.
  • Put the safety commitment and relevant information on the company web site.
  • Ramp up the safety component of all company communications.
  • Install fire extinguishers in vehicles / plant and train in their use.
  • Have reversing sirens, flashing lights and seat belts on forklifts, recognise it takes a bit of work to get forklift operators to wear their seat belts.
  • Insist the seat belts in vehicles and equipment are used.
  • Ensure appropriate personal protective equipment is used.
  • Ensure tractors / plant have R.O.P.S. and seat belts worn.
  • Ensure quad bikes have R.O.P.S.
  • Vehicles / plant / equipment receives excellent, documented maintenance.
  • Investigate fitting on road vehicles with H.I.D. replacement headlight bulbs, some 4 wheel drives are likely to have sub-standard lighting.
  • Light vehicles / 4wds should have side airbags as well as front ones where possible.
  • Consider lock out isolation as well as tag out.
  • Ensure mobile phones are not used while driving.
  • Promotion of off the job and family safety will reap benefits at work.
  • In our increasingly litigious society it is sad but true that every aspect of the safety management system must be thoroughly documented in case you end up in court. Saying you have done something can mean very little if you do not have documented proof. A supervisors diary can be admissible in court if details are thoroughly recorded.


A competent OHS professional should be able to achieve most of the above for relatively low cost except peoples time.

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