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Implementing Safety

My work place held a safety stand-down in response to the higher number of injuries (mostly slips, trips & falls) seen this year.

The manager who delivered the presentation put it to us that it was down to behavioural safety and that people are not taking as much care as they once did. This leads to lapses in concentration and judgement which in turn leads to incidents.

One example that was given was about a section of grass which everyone has to walk around to get from the carpark to the main gate. In the past people would diligently walk along the footway around the outside of the grass area. Over the years, people had started to take the shortcut directly across the grass to the point that a path had been worn out of the grass.

Rather than accept that these desire lines are suggesting a better route a sign has been put up saying 'please do not take shortcuts across the grass'. (it does beg the question, how many times have you tripped when walking across a flat piece of grass vs walking along a paved area).

My main issue with this approach is that it is going straight to the bottom of the hierarchy of control (mentioned in a previous blogpost) and relies on discipline - that everyone will do the right thing every time. Human nature is such that this will only work if the right thing to do is the easiest thing to do.

Case in point, two hour after giving the speech, the same manager opted to radio a plant technician to tell him he was going onto the unit rather than follow the correct procedure of walking all the way past the plant to sign in at the control building. The easiest thing to do (radio presence) was not the 'correct' thing (physically sign in). As such, the corner was cut.

It is easy to put up a sign and feel like you have done something. It is harder to change the system so the sign is not needed in the first place.

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