One of the grand activities of keeping up with safety systems is keeping up appearances. The idea that paperwork obesity is a healthy thing is a strange cultural myth in the safety industry (https://vimeo.com/162034157 ). If in doubt, add more in. It is a strange belief in the industry that more is best and even more is better. It is even more strange that when organisations adopt ‘lean’ safety that systems multiply.
It is a truism in safety that whenever an organization shows up to court and displays their paper systems they rarely reflect reality (https://www.waylandlegal.com.au/paper-safe ).
One of the purposes of the Risky Conversation videos (https://vimeo.com/showcase/3938199 ) with Greg Smith and Dr Craig Ashhurst was to expose/discuss many of the myths of safety. A myth is something that is made symbolically true but is not true in reality. One prominent myth is the focus of Safety on safety cosmetics. Safety cosmetics is the perception that everything looks good when it isn’t. There is no doubt that the Court is interested in your paper systems, it always wants to know if your systems reflect your practices. Most often your safety systems will be used against you in court because most often they don’t reflect practice.
In the video series (https://vimeo.com/showcase/3938199 ) Greg recounts the story of the Deep Water Horizon disaster. The Deep Water disaster has been the focus of many investigations and even a movie (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1860357/ ). There is so much one can get from a study of this disaster (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/bp-oil-spill-still-dont-know-effects-decade-later ) and in some ways, these are overwhelming. However, Greg does an excellent little case study in our video series of one story that serves as a symbol/myth of the disaster (https://vimeo.com/163499152 ). What we learn from Greg’s retelling of evidence from the enquiry is that the Safety Manager was focused on petty risk and had no idea of the emergency management process! The paperwork was consumed with sharp objects like Stanley knives that don’t require paperwork whilst major risk was ignored. BP is a zero harm organisation and this is what zero ideology (https://vimeo.com/230093823 ) promotes – petty risk and safety cosmetics (https://vimeo.com/120019541 ).
In the recent fatality inquiry at a Canberra building site (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-14/multiplex-rar-cranes-facing-fines-over-worksite-death/100538912 ) we learned that practice on site (again with a tier 1 contractor) was not even close to what was represented on paper. When workers are busy on the go and the paperwork has been ticked, it’s full steam ahead.
One of the reasons we developed the iCue Engagement process (https://safetyrisk.net/icue-listening-engagement-manual/ ) is to rectify this.
The iCue process is quick, efficient, practical, social, motivational and reflects reality. It can be done anywhere and by using visual mapping (https://safetyrisk.net/visual-thinking-and-risk/ ) is easy to include the thinking of workers reflecting what they are about to do. iCue Listening just cuts to the chase, tackles the immediate risks and by-passes much of the ‘Guff’ (https://safetyrisk.net/the-myth-of-the-swms-manifesto/ ) that fills the preambles of SWMS and risk assessment documentation. The iCue process can be done anywhere: on a whiteboard, bit of card, in the dirt or any surface where a group can ‘map’ their thinking. A picture is taken of the process, that’s it. The iCue process is an in-time visual, practical and accurate representation of how a person or group engages in tackling a risk. This is the kind of evidence one needs should something go wrong.