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The way we think about safety is changing – and we’re responsible for it

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The way we think about safety is changing – and we’re responsible for it Through education, transparency and ownership, we can raise awareness of safe behaviours.


Today, a lot of the conversation amongst safety professionals is centred around the topic of Safety II, or “Safety, Differently”. Traditionally, safety has been a centralised function focused on compliance, and success has been measured by the absence of incidents and injuries. In contrast, Safety II defines “safety as the ability to succeed under varying conditions”** and moves away from the traditional box-ticking culture towards one where responsibility for safe behaviours is placed on the individual and the safety function is that of facilitator and advisor rather than enforcer.

As the trend of decentralised teams, flexible hours and telecommuting continue to reshape today’s workforce, this approach becomes not only successful but essential.

Like many organisations today, PIP has a large number of teams based in many geographically diverse locations, and we have had to tailor our safety practices to work for the way we do business. It would be nearly impossible for us to have a dedicated health and safety advisor on every engagement – we must instead teach our people to be their own safety advisors. From senior management all the way down to the newest hire, we encourage every PIPer to take ownership of assessing and controlling the hazards they encounter, coaching others in safer behaviours and to always lead by example when it comes to their own safety and that of those around them – with our safety team always on hand to lend guidance and support when needed. It is a highly effective formula.

This approach to responsibility and accountability resonates with our clients also. A large metals smelting site was dissatisfied with its level of injuries and near misses. Far and away the highest number of incidents were due to people not adhering to correct safety protocols. Following an analysis of the safety records for the previous 12 months, PIP was asked to assist in turning this situation around. We initially assisted the client in identifying priority issues to achieve short-term improvements before building the sustainable practices needed to create a continuously improving safety culture.

We introduced senior management accountability by ensuring managers visibly reviewed all incident reports and investigations, improved the quality of the coaching and training given through the line and introduced root-cause analysis to ensure that "these types of incidents don’t happen again". We also increased behavioural safety activity on site, including the introduction of safety observation techniques with participation by all employees, training all staff extensively on basic safety tools to enable safety analysis and discussion and installing visual measurement and reviews of participation at each level of the business to drive change through behaviours.

Our client achieved a 20% reduction of incidents on site, an increased identification and close-out of hazards and a higher profile for safety within the organisation, championed by management and a focus in meetings at all levels of the business. As safety improved, so did production, with output increasing 34%, cost/tonne falling 28% and environmental emissions reduced by half.

Through education, transparency and ownership, we can raise awareness of safe behaviours and reduce apathy towards hazards and unsafe practices, resulting in a workforce who actively take responsibility for keeping themselves and their co-workers safe.

Think Safe, Stay Safe

**Dr. Erik Hollnagel. PhD

About the authors

Aoife Murphy