Safety, mental health and the safety paradox

Currently, RUOK day and Mates in Construction dominate health and safety social media (and quite rightly and importantly so). This is part of broader conversation in health and safety about mental health and well-being, with increasing calls to address mental health and well-being more explicitly in health and safety legislation.
 
But as the health and safety industry turns its mind to the very important issue of mental health in the workplace, perhaps we need to take a step back and reconsider the role that health and safety has in mental health – not necessarily improving it but contributing to psychological harm at work.
You can read more of this article HERE.

The Prosecution Problem

There is concerning trajectory in the current conversation about regulating health and safety in Australia. The conversation is almost exclusively focused on the consequences of workplace accidents, specifically ongoing calls for increasing penalties and introducing a class of offence called “Industrial Manslaughter”.

At the risk of trying to close gates long after the horses have bolted, I would like to suggest some other conversations which do not simply involve more of the same.

Read more here:

The Prosecution Problem

 

Risky Conversations video series

In our recent book, Risk Conversations: The Law, Social Psychology and Risk, Dr Rob Long and I discussed a range of safety topics and our views on how things done in the name of safety had the effect of compromising safety. The discussion, which formed the basis of the book, also generated a 22 part video series that explores a wide range of topics in the area of risk.
All of the videos in the series are now available for free, and you can access then at the following link:

Wayland Legal

From 4 April 2018, Nexus Lawyers (WA) Pty Ltd will change its name to Wayland Legal Pty Ltd.

Wayland Legal is a boutique Western Australian based law firm specialising in workplace health & safety and employment law.

As part of the change, I will be moving my online articles and videos to my new website, which you can find HERE.

I will keep the My Safety Thoughts blog online so people can access past articles, and there will be a link to My Safety Thoughts on the new website.

Go to the website, www.waylandlegal.com.au to find out more.

Process or Outcome?

Today I was reading a LinkedIn post lamenting the state of health and safety management, evidenced by too many “safety stickers” on a piece of machinery.

A commenter noted that the situation was “absolute madness“, which doesn’t keep anyone safe. Much of the conversation from there was focused on whose “fault” it was and we ended up with all of the usual suspects in the firing line – insurers, lawyers, consultants and so on. Probably quite justified too.

To my mind, this issue illustrates the disconnect apparent in health and safety management between “process” and “outcome“. It seems to me that health and safety management is obsessed with process – the way that we “do” safety. This obsession means that every few years somebody reinvents the way we do safety, or the way we do parts of safety. As evidence of this you only need to think of the transition from safety culture, to safety 1, through to safety 2 and now safety differently – with god only knows what in between. On a micro level, just think how many iterations of the JHA you have seen during your working career.

What makes this more interesting is the process doesn’t really matter. How you “do” safety is not really an issue. What is important is whether you can show your process achieves the outcome it was designed for.

The table below lists a series of cases looking at the “outcome” of understanding hazards. The “processes” were all different: documented, undocumented, buddy systems, on-the-job training and so on. But even where the processes were the same this did not determine the decision – the decision was determined on whether the outcome, and understanding of hazards and risks, was achieved.

Process v outcome

So, the question is not how fancy, new or shiny your process is. The question is whether it achieves the outcome.