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August 23, 2016

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Paradigm shifts and safety innovation breakfasts

John GreenAhead of the forthcoming Art of Work Safety Innovation Breakfasts, Acre’s Anna Keen, speaks to John Green, HSEQ Director for the European Hub of Laing O’Rourke, about why he’s part of the team advocating for a complete paradigm shift in safety.

Anna: Safety has improved considerably over the past few decades, can you tell me why you think safety needs a paradigm shift?

John: You’re right, safety has improved markedly over the last 30 plus years, but that performance has plateaued. We have more rules and regulations than ever, but it’s not proving effective at keeping people safer at work.

The traditional approach, which relies on compliance, control and constraints to ensure safety, has led to a culture and practice that’s mired in legalistic concerns and bureaucratic accountabilities, rather than enabling teams to resiliently manage safety critical tasks in complex work environments.

Anna:  If the traditional approach has worked for such a long time, why change it now?

John: The world has changed. It’s a lot more complex today then we could ever have imagined and the methods that were developed decades ago just aren’t adequate for today’s workplaces. Plus there’s a huge performance drag on business caused by the extra paperwork – this might be justified if safety was improving, but it isn’t. Doing more of the same isn’t the answer.

Anna: What is the answer?

John: We need a completely new approach and we need to begin by not seeing people as the problem. Contrary to popular belief, more compliant workers don’t make for a safer work place.

Next we need to think carefully about how we define safety.  As it stands, safety is about the absence of accidents, which when you think about it, is ridiculous.

Take one of the worst industrial accidents in recent history, BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform.  BP had 6 years without a single accident on that platform until the day 11 people died. There was no intelligence to help to predict this because they were measuring the lack of accidents, not safety.

Anna: What should we be focusing on instead?

John: We need to be seeing people as the solution and giving the credit for getting it right.  We need to be encouraging people to think and act in new ways. For example,  in construction there will always be deviations from the plan – it may be down to something as mundane as the weather conditions, but people are always having to adapt and manage the gap between what’s written on the plan and what needs to happen to get the job done. We need to credit them with that ability and use those same skills to assess risk for themselves.

Anna: Can you tell me a little more about the Innovation Breakfasts and who they’re aimed at?

John: They’re aimed at anyone who wants to explore safety through a different lens.  That might be someone just starting out in their career or a senior leader who wants to challenge their own patterns of thinking to improve safety performance and enhance their leadership.

One of the key topics we cover is why focusing solely on compliance and legal concern is counter-productive, and therefore a dangerous way to organise safety.

We’ve already run the breakfasts in Australia where they proved to be hugely successful, especially with professionals who want to take their careers to the next level or mark themselves out from the crowd as leaders and innovators.

Anna: So is it time to rip up the old rule book and start again?

John: Absolutely not. We’re not advocating throwing out the old, just adapting our thinking so that it’s fit for today’s business environment and can continue to drive safety performance.


Safety Innovation Breakfast – The compelling case for change

In partnership with Acre and with the support of NCRQ, Art of Work will be delivering a series of Safety Innovation Breakfasts this September that will help you see safety through a completely different lens.

Join like-minded professionals and thought leaders who are engaged in progressive change for safety and find out why focusing on success and taking an agile and adaptive approach can deliver step changes in safety performance.

The Art of Work Safety Innovation Breakfast brings together John Green, HSEQ Director for the European Hub of Laing O’Rourke, and Michael Tooma, the Asia Pacific lead partner of Clyde & Co’s Regulation and Investigation practice who will prosecute a compelling case for change.

Book your ticket now

  • Glasgow – 13/09/2016 – Blythswood Square Hotel – 8.30am – 10.30am
  • Manchester – 14/09/2016 – King Street Townhouse – 8.30am – 10.30am
  • Birmingham – 15/09/2016 – Villa Park – 8.30am – 10.30am
  • London – 16/09/2016 – Deck @ The National Theatre – 8.30am – 10.30am


John Green, is HSEQ Director for the European Hub of Laing O’Rourke. John has worked in the oil, gas, petrochemical, electronic and aviation sectors. He worked as a regulator before spending periods overseas with BP on Das Island, ADNOC in Abu Dhabi, CALTEX in Bahrain and Total where he was Head of Safety during the construction of the South Pars industrial complex.

 On returning to the UK John held senior positions with Motorola, British Airways and Board level positions with Severn Trent and Alfred McAlpine. He is currently Director of HSEQ and Corporate Responsibility for Laing O’Rourke’s European hub.

 John holds degrees in Occupational Health and Safety, Integrated Pollution Management, and Risk Management as well as qualifications in Psychology, Law and Change Management. He spends any spare time that he has climbing, scuba diving and in any other pursuit that requires risk management skills.

Anna Keen is founder and director of Acre Frameworks.  Having spent more than a decade recruiting Health and Safety professionals across the globe, Anna is working in partnership with Acre to add value to their clients and the wider Health and Safety profession through the assessment and development of behavioural competencies in the profession.

 Anna has worked with industry leaders to define the competencies critical for success in Health and Safety and creating the Acre Frameworks Competency Framework. The framework underpins a range of assessment and development offerings aimed at assisting individuals and teams to improve their performance and develop their careers.

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Roger Rees
Roger Rees
7 years ago

Totally agree we have become too involved in procedures (and there is a place for those) but need to get back to the more hands on approach, giving operatives the tools and knowledge needed to assess the risks and put /. revise the appropriate controls in place to manage that risk with Health & Safety professional providing the support and professional knowledge to monitor, assist, advise and where necessary get involved.

I am unfortunately away during the dates but would like to get a copy of the presentation if that is possible.

Mark Donnelly
Mark Donnelly
7 years ago

1) Safety has improved mostly due to better equipment and or robots taking many jobs away (safety as a program has done little) 2) “Traditional approach, which relies on compliance, control and constraints to ensure safety” (compliance, control and constraints is all safety has got thankfully..sadly its ignored and people die). 3) “We need a completely new approach” (‘completely’ b******t) 4) “more compliant workers don’t make for a safer work place” (this assumes that all compliance is unsafe!!!) 5) “As it stands, safety is about the absence of accidents” (safety will always be about absence of accidents and zero harm… Read more »