Major safety technical lessons learnt

Article by the late George Robotham. In his words: “I think this is the most potentially useful to other safety people paper that I have ever produced”

Major safety technical lessons learnt

In my 38 years in OHS I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 13 fatalities, one case of paraplegia, one major stress case and a very serious burns case. Speaking from personal experience the most devastating thing that can happen to a company and its workers is to have an employee killed or seriously injured. The financial and more importantly humanitarian costs are immense.OHS is a joint responsibility of management and employees. My focus is the prevention of permanently life altering personal damage.

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OHS problems

Major Lessons Learnt

Get your rear end out of the office and in the field


Emergency Response Plans

The Compliance with Common Law (in states where applicable)

Lock out

Zero Harm

Induction training

Tool-box meetings

Moura disaster

Behaviour-based safety

Accident ratio studies misdirect safety


Marketing of OHS


Coaching and mentoring

Commercial Safety Management Systems

Problems with 4801

Education for OHS personnel


Accident investigation

Critical incident recall process



Keep your feet on the ground

Project teams

Internal standards of OHS excellence

Job Safety Analysis

Hazard identification / risk assessment /hazard control training

Safety champion

Safety communications

Safety benchmarking

Safety Committee

Safety as part of performance appraisal

Safety management plans

Class 1 personal damage

Management of Organisational Change


Force-field analysis

Haddon’s 10 countermeasures


Management commitment

Risk assessment

Safety Management System

Displacement activities

Management focus

Set the example





The paper Lessons Learnt From My Safety Jobs talks about the OHS and OHS related things I have learnt from my safety jobs. In this paper I elaborate on the major safety technical lessons learnt.

OHS Problems

Some of the problems I currently see with Occupational Health and Safety in Australia include these-

  • There is only half-hearted leadership from government, unions and many companies with regard to safety. Admitting to being a cynic I suggest the rhetoric is not always accompanied by action. I suppose it is naive to think the tripartite partners can put aside their industrial and political agenda when discussing safety.
  • There is a poor understanding in the community of the reasons why accidents occur. We are quick to make the assumption that the worker was careless, when one examines accidents carefully one identifies a range of work system factors that contributed to the accident as well, most of these work system factors are the responsibility of the employer at both common and statute law. Blaming workers for their careless behaviour is an emotionally appealing approach that is usually not all that productive in the bigger picture of preventing personal damage at work.
  • It is often said about safety that it is just common sense, if this is the case why are we doing such a poor job of managing it in this country? I am reminded of an un-named Chinese philosopher who was reported to have said “The trouble with common sense is that it is never common and rarely sensible”
  • The media emphasises personal fault in news releases about incidents and does not consider design and system issues that contribute to incidents.
  • We do not have a centralised, consistent method of reporting and recording incident and disease statistics. How can we examine the beast and learn from it if we do not record and report it in a consistent manner?
  • In business vast amounts of money can be spent on safety without really defining desired outcomes (I am not doubting peoples motives however, just their effectiveness)
  • Government, unions and many companies treat safety as a second priority and industrial relations issues dominate.
  • The standard of Occupational Health and Safety practitioner may not be as high as it could be
  • The messages of past incidents are not utilised enough in safety decision making. For this to happen past incident information has to be collected,presented and organised in a useable manner.

Major Lessons Learnt

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