Christine‘s musings from the 2014 NSW Mineral Council Health & Safety Conference. Theme: “Learning from the Past”

What have we learnt?

The sky won’t fall in so why are we wearing hard hats in an open field? Has safety gone too far and are we now missing the point? These questions posed by Sidney Dekker – an amazing speaker who gave a great presentation – made a few people think twice about what they have been doing in relation to their safety management. He commented that our safety success was going to be our downfall and that we are slowly drifting towards failure. He was also strong on the message that Murphy’s law doesn’t exist! As an outsider to the safety debate I found Sidney’s comments both alarming and optimistic because at least we are talking about it! The general message from Sidney Dekker’s presentation was echoed in the presentations by the speakers from Noetic Risk Solutions.

Without collecting data we can’t learn from our mistakes

(Thanks to Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director, Noetic Risk Solutions) It was a surprise to me to learn that Lost Time Injury (LTI) data may not reflect the real occurrence of incidents at a site. With LTI as key indicators of a site doing a good job and managers apparently going to extraordinary lengths to not have an LTI reported, how are we going to learn? BP were celebrating 7 years of zero incidents at their Deepwater Horizon oil rig when under their feet there was a major disaster waiting to happen. That did happen.

Stop putting more armor on an already well protected ship

(Thanks to John (JP) Smith, Principal Consultant – National Security and Defence, Noetic Risk Solutions for a very insightful presentation) What are the big risks? Just because a major incident hasn’t happened at your site doesn’t mean it’s not around the corner. Learn from other disasters, not only within your industry, but industry in general. Don’t look for how your site is different so it won’t happen to you, but how your site might be the same and what can you learn.

Message overload

Cat Dog Marketing agency were tasked with the question of how to get a safety message through to mine workers. Following a comprehensive survey, they found some very interesting results. The message is simply not getting through because there are too many messages! Sign fatigue and clutter means that putting up yet another sign does not mean the message is getting through. It was comforting to see that my own presentation “The Boy who cried ‘Wolf’” was along those same lines (and I don’t have a fancy marketing degree, nor did I undertake a massive survey!). If we are constantly reminded of something and nothing happens then we don’t take the threat seriously. Delivering a different and targeted message when there is a potential risk to a hazard will have greater impact and potentially save lives.

Ignoring heat stress in the workplace is a risk not worth taking

The general feeling that “heat stress is not an issue at my site”, and therefore, “I don’t need to worry about preparing a heat stress management plan“, is concerning. Heat stress can result in DEATH even when the temperature is only 27 degrees C (or less). Undertaking a basic thermal risk assessment for your site will help you understand your risk and determine what controls you may need to think about implementing to protect your workers. It may be as simple as getting all your workers to carry water on their bodies and ensuring they are consuming enough water to maintain their hydration levels. The recently released “A Guide to Managing Heat Stress: Developed for Use in the Australian Environment” published by AIOH provides guidance to those wishing to understand their risk. Alternatively, give us a call and we can work with you to undertake a basic thermal risk assessment and develop and site based heat stress management plan.